Psalm 51

Psalm 51  •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 7
This Psalm appears to come very expressively after the preceding one. It exhibits a soul giving heed to the doctrine and warning delivered there. It is a call on the Lord (Psa. 50:1515And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. (Psalm 50:15)) in the day of trouble—in the day of deepest trouble too—soul trouble. The poor sinner here flees to grace, flees with his burden to God alone. And this is what the rebuke on the legal religion of Israel in the last Psalm would warrant and lead to.
It is not alone the utterance of David, penitent for his sin touching Uriah and Bathsheba, but the utterance of the repentant remnant in the latter day. (See Psa. 38.) The confessor brings a broken heart to God—the only present acceptable offering. But when accepted and pardoned, then will his thanksgiving and burnt offering of praise be rendered and received.
And it is in God alone, as I have said, that the afflicted soul here seeks its relief. He repudiates other confidences. Even ordinances are not his refuge. Sacrifices and offerings which he might bring he renounces as the remedy for his guilt; but it is God’s washing, God’s salvation and righteousness alone he pleads for and looks to.
And this is blessed. For ordinances are resorted to by a convicted soul ofttimes, as a good heart or a good life would be trusted in by a mere moralist. But it is only another, though more subtle, form of self-righteousness.
And further we may observe this Psalm tells us that as God was all David’s relief and repose, so was He all David’s object: “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned.” As he says to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” This was the thought in the heart of the true penitent then, and must be still. And from the history we know that the Lord did become David’s object. All his behavior after his conviction showed this; for he would let the Lord do with him just as He pleased—bring him back to gladness as and when He pleased (2 Sam. 15:2525And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it, and his habitation: (2 Samuel 15:25)), and plead for him Himself with his reviler and persecutor (2 Sam. 16:1212It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day. (2 Samuel 16:12)).
How does all this tell us to cultivate the habit of walking with God. “Little to be judged of man’s judgment,” says the Apostle. May we be so minded! May we desire to prove our own work in God’s presence, so that we may have rejoicing in ourselves alone, and not in another! May we give the Lord His place in us! He had no place in Judas’s heart, he had in Peter’s; He had none in the heart of Saul, He had in David’s. And so will He have in the affections of His Israel by and by, when they learn to own their sin against Him, as in the language of this Psalm, while the nation, with apostate heart, will be saying, “It is vain to serve God” (Mal. 3).