My major project was on Psalm 51:1-17. David wrote this Psalm after the prophet Nathan rebuked him for committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering Bathsheba’s husband Uriah the Hittite. This Penitential Psalm (Psalm of Confession) was David’s prayer for forgiveness. In Psalm 51 David expresses his desperate need for God’s forgiveness. He was seeking to restore a right relationship with the Lord. Psalm 51 is a good representation of what real repentance looks like.
I read 2 Samuel 11 to get the background of David’s sin. David wasn’t taking care of his responsibilities as King and stayed in Jerusalem while his army was in battle. One evening King David got up from his bed and wandered to the roof of the palace most likely aware of what happened at night on the rooftops. While David was on the roof he saw a beautiful woman bathing. Instead of calling one of his wives to satisfy his needs, David immediately sent someone to find out about this woman. The woman’s name was Bathsheba and she was married to Uriah the Hittite who was a soldier in his army. David sent someone to the woman again but this time to retrieve her.
After David committed adultery with Bathsheba, she became pregnant with his child. Instead of coming clean about the whole situation David tried to cover up his sin. David sent orders for Uriah the Hittite to return home. David hoped Uriah would take this opportunity to go home, rest and lay with his wife. When Uriah returned from battle he refused to go home much less, rest while the Ark and the rest of the army was still out fighting for Israel. Upon Uriah’s return to battle David ordered the commander of his army put Uriah on the frontlines to be killed. After Uriah’s death in 2 Samuel 12, the Prophet Nathan went to David to rebuke him for all the sins he committed. That is when David wrote Psalm 51.
David was need of God’s forgiveness and could not do anything but cast himself on God’s mercy. When one is separated from God because of sin, the sinner has no right to God’s blessing and deprives himself of joy. Forgiveness is an act of God’s grace and the sinner is cleansed by the washing away of sins and this is where fellowship with the Lord is renewed. The Psalmist knows himself and sees how he has rebelled and doesn’t argue with the Lord’s verdict. The Psalmist doesn’t use the fact that he was sinful from the time of conception as an excuse. God is holy and just and we are sinful through and through.
The Psalmist prays that the Lord (like a priest) will use hyssop and cleanse him from his defilement. When God is displeased with someone it brings judgement. In Psalm 51:8 sin is described using the metaphor of “broken bones”. God see’s and knows everything about us but can choose to remember our sins no more. Asking God to blot out iniquity is asking him to take it entirely away. Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” When David uses the word “create”, he is asking God for something that wasn’t there before. When David uses the work renew, it means make new. David doesn’t want God to fix what was there before but he wants a radical change of heart and spirit. David wants a spirit that is not moved by temptation.
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Old Testament times was selective and temporary. David saw Saul stripped of God presence and favor and didn’t want the same thing to happen to himself. He wanted his joy and confidence in God to return to him. He asked God to keep him from falling away by granting him a spirit that is ready to obey God’s commands. At this point, David’s prayer switches to a promise. If God will restore David to right standing with himself David will do all he can for God.