Summary: An analysis of Psalm 51 and what it truly means to ask God for forgiveness of sin.
There’s a modern-day proverb that says: “To err is human. And so is denying responsibility and avoiding an admission of guilt.” Why is it so tough to own up to our mistakes? There’s nothing new or modern about sin and the need for repentance. Tonight, we will look at perhaps the most classic expression of repentance in all of Scripture in Psalm 51. PRAYER
There was once a family consisting of a father, mother, and a preschool son and daughter. This young family decided to take a vacation somewhere off the beaten path. They reserved a cabin several miles off the paved road. They were to stay a week. By the end of the 2nd day, the small garbage container was filled and overflowing. So, the father drove 20 miles to the nearest hardware store and bought a larger trash can.
All was well until the 5th day when the new can was running over. The family put the trash can in the closet, out of sight, but the smell came through the door. Clearly, they couldn’t leave the garbage where it was. It would make the family sick.
What to do? They could leave it behind but their lease didn’t permit that. They couldn’t take it with them either. There was no room in the car. Besides, the smell was terrible. The mother looked called a disposal company and someone came and removed the garbage and took it off their hands.
Guilt is a lot like the garbage in this story. If left, it will overflow our containers. It can only be hidden so long before it makes itself known. TO get rid of it we need to go outside ourselves and get help from Someone who specializes in forgiveness. This isn’t something we can take care of by ourselves. The Lord is that Someone who is in the forgiveness business.
For God to come in and remove our sin, our garbage, we have to come to the place of (1) recognizing we have a garbage problem, (2) acknowledge that we can’t handle our problem ourselves, and (3) turning the garbage of our life over to God, asking Him to remove it.
Psalm 51 is a cry to God for forgiveness, a cry to remove the garbage. That is, the event that led to David writing this Psalm is his guilt over his sin with Bathsheba.
Most of you know the story of David and how he committed adultery with Bathsheba. You might remember that while Bathsheba’s husband was fighting a battle for King David, David looked out from his balcony one evening and saw beautiful Bathsheba bathing. And he desired her. In the end, David committed adultery with her. Sometime afterwards, the prophet Nathan was sent by God to cause David to realize his sin. READ 2 Samuel 12:1-14. It was in the midst of all this that David wrote the 51st Psalm.
Psalm 32 is the companion Psalm that expresses joy over the answer to that cry for forgiveness. Ps. 32:1 says, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”
The Book of Psalms was the hymnal of the community in the Old Testament, and it was the hymnal of the early church following the death and resurrection of Jesus. Many of the Psalms have superscriptions. Explain. These were notes to the musicians. The superscriptions were written later than the psalms themselves and reflect Jewish traditions about them. The term, “Of David,” in the superscription to Ps. 51 can mean more than one things. “Belonging to David,” “Dedicated to David,” “Authored by David,” or “With respect to David.” The superscription attached to Psalm 51 reflects a Jewish tradition that acclaimed it as a psalm that is related to David’s sense of guilt over his sin of adultery with Bathsheba.
There’s more than one way to say things. Let’s look at a couple of them in verses 1 & 2. READ. David uses the terms transgression, iniquity, and sin to say basically the same thing. Transgression is rebellion or willful disobedience. An example of this would be the private slapping the general in the face. Iniquity is crookedness that comes from a creature who has been warped by the fall. Sin is missing the mark that God set for us. IT may be that the psalmist is using the three terms for poetic reasons and intentionally is using them as synonyms. But it may also be that the writer is using all three words to describe his sin from different points of view.
David’s sin of adultery was a slap in the face of God, a willful disobedience, crookedness that came out of David’s warped character, and a missing of the mark set by God.
In the same Way in these 2 verses, forgiveness is also described by three different terms. “Blot out,” “wash,” and “cleanse.” Blot out refers to removal from a record of some kind. Wash calls to mind the washing of clothes by treading. Cleanse is to render guiltless, to acquit, or to go unpunished.