PSALM 51:1-3

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

What a beautiful opening to this Psalm. David opens it with a petition: “Have mercy upon me, O Lord.” But the mercy is not according to anything that David did but strictly according to the Lords lovingkindness which there is nothing above and beyond that. As the Publican whom Jesus refers to in the book of Luke says, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” And Jesus tells His disciples that “this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” He then requests that his transgressions be blotted out according to the multitude of the Lord’s tender mercies. David knew His Lord! He knew that there was NOTHING that he could DO to achieve either of these, that it was strictly and completely a work of the Lord! He then goes on to ask that the Lord wash him throughly of his iniquity and cleanse him from his sin. Please notice the difference between this verse and the previous one. In this verse what he is referring to is singular. Notice the words “iniquity” and “sin”. And in the previous verse the word “transgressions” is in the plural. So, is David talking about a specific sin and a specific iniquity in the second verse while referring to general transgressions in the first verse? I don’t believe so. In the first verse, David is referring to the acts that he commits, while in the second verse he is referring to who he is. For in the next verse, he again makes that distinction. He acknowledges the acts that he commits (i.e., possibly Bathsheba in this case) but then he proclaims that his sin (singular), that which causes the transgressions to happen, is always before him. Can we escape this flesh of ours? Isn’t it always before us? This flesh of ours is so weak that at almost every glance we take, we lust after this or after that. There are doubts that constantly rummage through us and take our thoughts and meditations away from heavenly things. It seems like if it isn’t one thing it is another that manifests to us the weakness of this flesh. How many times have you started to pray only to have your mind wander into areas that you are flabbergasted that you are thinking about, let alone while you are trying to pray. This flesh of ours will always be the same until the Lord changes it and He gives us a new body in glory.

Not only does David make a distinction between the acts of sin or transgressions and sin or our Adamic nature, but he also makes a distinction between the work that the Lord does with reference to them. Notice that David’s request is that his transgressions be blotted out while he asks that his sin be cleansed. In another one of David’s Psalms he writes by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) When the Lord blots out the transgressions of His people, He removes them as far as the east is from the west and remembers them no more. These two verses are pointing to the cross with the sacrificial lamb upon it. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul shows the fulfillment of these verses. He says: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.” (2:14) That is why and how the Lord blots out and remembers no more the transgressions of His people, Christ fulfilled the law and because of that His people are no longer under the law. Therefore, since His people are no longer under the law than there is no longer any transgressions of the law.

David then continues on with his plea before the Lord. He says: “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” David calls out to the Lord to wash him through and through from his iniquity and to cleanse him from his sin. In this verse, David shows the need for cleansing that can only come from the Lord and only to His people. This cleansing came once and only once and it was at the cross of Calvary. David was looking forward to it when he penned this psalm by the inspiration of the Spirit. But John the apostle was looking backwards at the completion of it when he penned these next words. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have the fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) I don’t want to get into a detour here, but I do want to mention that this verse above sets no conditions on man to meet, but is saying to the effect that if the Lord has enabled us to walk in the light, then because of that we will have fellowship with one another and that is only because the blood of Christ has been applied already. The application of the blood of Christ was a one time event and was applied to all of His children who were IN Him at the time.

Then in this next sentence or verse, David re-distinguishes the differences between the acts of his nature and the sinfulness of his nature. He says: “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” The child of grace is the only one that can truly acknowledge his or her transgressions before the Lord. The world in general could care less. We do not have the law hovering over us anymore as David did, but the true child of grace has the law of Christ written on his or her heart. They know by the inner working of the Spirit of God when they have sinned and done wrong and they will acknowledge it or as John the apostle puts it: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) What does David mean by his sin is ever before him? What else can it mean other than the sinfulness of his flesh? As I stated above, this flesh of ours will remain flesh and sinful until that time when our hope is fulfilled and we are in glory. Until then, our sin is always before us. We see the wretchedness of this flesh with every step we take, with every glance we look and with everything we do in this world.

The next verse is a continuation of the thought process of David from the previous verses. He says: “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight:” I think that the translators did an injustice here with adding the word “this”. But that is just my thoughts; you can disagree with me if you wish. Without the word “this” in the verse it reads; “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done evil in thy sight:” This psalm is assumed to be in reference to when David sinned with Bathsheba and I can understand their reasoning. But, as we have gone over these last verses, there is nothing specific pointing to the incident with Bathsheba. In this verse, David by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit recognizes that the sin or transgression that he committed was only against his God. Even though it might have included some other person or persons, it was solely AGAINST the almighty God. This is an understanding that only a child of grace can have and believe. When one sins, it means that he or she was unable to keep God’s law. Therefore when we sin, it is not against another fleshly being, but against the Righteous God who made the law. Paul says in his letter to the Roman brethren; “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I hand not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” (7:7-9) Paul then writes a little later in the same letter, “Moreover the law entered that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:” (8:20)

Did David’s sin and transgressions that he is referring to in this psalm take God by surprise? Is David confessing anything new to God? Proverbs 16:1 says, “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.” The Lord has put in man all he should do, crave, speak, act, etc. So, no, nothing here was a surprise to God and nothing new. When Jesus shed His blood on the cross, he paid the price for all of the sins of His children. This covers past, present and future sins. In time, when Jesus was here on this earth, we saw the fulfillment of the act of Jesus’ death on the cross, but Scripture is very clear that He was the sacrificial lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. And the price that Jesus paid was for the specific sins of His children. His children therefore will not go beyond and sin further than what was paid and also on the flip side of that they will not sin less than what was paid for on the cross. Even though it doesn’t feel like it in our flesh, because we know the vileness and filthiness of this flesh, but we as children of grace are restricted and restrained by the Lord from certain sins in this flesh of ours. And no the Lord did not look down some tunnel or spiritual telescope and see what sins his elect would commit and therefore resolve to pay the price just for them. As is clearly stated in the verse quoted above, “The preparations of the heart in man ... is from the LORD.”

In the gospel according to Matthew, he makes an interesting connection to this psalm and the occurrence that possibly prompted it. Matthew chapter 1 verse 6 says: “And Jesse begat David the king: and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;” When we look at the incident of David and Bathsheba we see that she was the wife of Urias. (If you are so inclined, you can read all about it in the II Samuel chapters 11-12) Through this incident in David’s life, he knew and felt that he had sinned against God. And yet, we see that it was all according to the plan and purpose of God. It was through this genealogy line of David and Bathsheba that the Christ was to come from, humanly speaking. Here was an incident that was predestined from before the foundation of the world to come to pass by the Lord, and yet it was still sin on David’s part in how it came to fruition (please notice that not once did David blame God for the sin that he committed.). It just goes to show that the preparations of the heart in man are from the Lord. He is guiding and directing our every step, our every word, our every act, our every breath we take! And even though David committed this horrific sin in God’s sight, he was still a man after God’s heart. And all of his children are viewed the same way by the Lord because of being covered with the blood of the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

In hope,
Tom Adams
March 2006