Psalm 51B

April 19, 2021

4 Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest.

5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me.

6 Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Make me to hear joy and gladness: that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice.

9 Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.

11 Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy holy spirit from me.

12 Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation: and uphold me with Thy free spirit.

The Point:

This psalm gives us a picture of confession and renewal for any and all sinners.

How do we feel in the recitation of this psalm?

Broken. We come to God on our knees, with a deep sense of our unworthiness, our filthiness, and our brokenness. Conviction of sin brings to us a continual anguish of mind, pressing us to cry out to God, “Have mercy on me, O God!”

What does this psalm say?

Verses 4–6. Confession. When David sinned against Uriah the Hittite by taking his wife and then killing him, it would seem that David sinned against Uriah. But verse 4 refers to this horrible deed as a sin committed against God and only against God. In the ultimate sense, murder would not be sin if it were not for the standard of God’s holy law. It is God who has commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves and to eschew the sin of murder. Therefore, to murder someone is to break God’s holy law. To put it another way, without God in the picture, there can be no sin. As David begins to see the true nature of his sin, he realizes that he has offended God—and that is what makes his sin such a serious matter.

Nevertheless, even as David has offended God, his sin does not in any way detract from the glory of God. Because God is the judge His righteousness in judgment will always triumph, regardless of how much sin is committed. The effect, the event, isn’t over until God’s judgment is complete.

In verse 5 David moves on to confessing the depth of his sin. His sin is as deep as his nature. It goes back to when he was a baby in his mother’s womb. That tiny little cell, so small that it would require a high-powerd microscope to see it, constituted a human being—and it was a sinful cell.

Verse 6 gives us the nature of true conviction. Most people do their best to ignore their sin. They deny it, give excuses for it, or cover it up by a heavy use of opiates, such as alcohol. They rationalize and minimize it. But true conviction is being honest with yourself. From now on, David isn’t going to hide anything from God. When, by the grace of God, we are enabled to be truthful about our condition, only then are our hearts prepared to receive God’s salvation in Christ. True conviction comes from the Holy Spirit of God. If it were up to us, we would never convict ourselves of sin, for our hearts and minds bear thick coatings of self-deception and denial.

Verses 7–12. Healing. In these verses David produces a list of six petitions to God so that He might engage the process of healing and restoration.

Petition #1–“Purge me with hyssop.” The hyssop was a leafy plant dipped in blood and water and sprinkled on the thing or person requiring ceremonial cleansing. But it is important to note in this prayer that David does not seek cleansing from the priest in the ceremonial form. He asks God to clean him up because this is a job that only God can do. According to Titus 3:5, we are washed by regeneration and renewed by the Holy Spirit. Also, 1 Peter 1:2 tells us that we are cleansed “through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” Whether it be dirty people in the Old Testament or dirty people in the New Testament, no one can clean themselves. Only God the Holy Spirit can give us a bath sufficient to wash us from our sins.

Petition #2– “Make my broken bones rejoice.” Beyond any other psalm, this one presents David as a broken man. In many ways his sin ruined his life. There are those who make light of David’s sin, but they fail to consider the severity of God’s chastisement brought upon David, and the bitterness of his sorrow over his sin. Remember that God killed his first son born of Bathsheba, and later he would see his own son Absalom execute a coup in Jerusalem. Broken bones signify significant wounds that produce long and lasting pain, and require significant time for healing. Also, broken bones are crippling and hamper our strength to engage the battle.

These broken bones signify God’s discipline. Sometimes surgeons must break bones in order to reset them. Likewise, God as an infinitely wise surgeon disciplines his own children. Though his chastening may be severe, it is only for a little while and we must trust that He knows what He is doing.

But even in this chastening, God brings about a restoration. It is the sadness of conviction that brings the joy of forgiveness, and it is the feeling of pain that introduces the healing of restoration. In the words of Job 5:17–18, “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For He maketh sore, and bindeth up: He woundeth, and His Hands make whole.”

In David’s plea for healing, we find a transparency, humility, and sincerity. There is no bitterness against God for these broken bones. His plea is simply this: “May the joy that You give me in healing be as deep as the pain I have felt.”

Petition #3–“Hide Your face from my sins.” Now David addresses the two fundamental problems that plague every sinner that walks the earth—a bad record and a bad heart. When a man breaks the law by robbing a bank he gives himself a bad record in the courts of our country. Likewise, when we break God’s law, we give ourselves a bad record in the courts of Heaven. David’s conscience screams relentlessly for justice because he murdered a man. So he turns to God, the Judge of all the earth, and pleads for forgiveness. “Oh God!” he cries, “Will you forget about these sins? Can You take Your eraser and erase these deep, dark marks from the whiteboard of my heart?” This request for forgiveness and expiation of sins comes from a heart of trust. While it is true that David did not know precisely how God could forgive his sins, he still prayed in faith, believing that God could and would do it. For those of us who have the benefit of the full revelation of God in Christ, we find the answer clearly in Jesus, “Once He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9).

Petition #4–“Create a clean heart.” After dealing with his bad record, David turns to his second problem – his heart that has been corrupted by sin. Only God can provide a fundamental change of heart, a pure heart free from the corruption of sin. Our hearts grow calloused by sin, and often we are locked into a cycle of anger, bitterness, lust, or just plain selfishness. Without the work of the Spirit of God within us, we are unable to overcome the evil corruption within. So with David, we cry out to God for a heart that pumps blood again, a heart that is open to God’s Word, and a conscience that is tender, full of tender love for our Saviour and vehement hatred towards our sin.

Petition #5–“Take not your Holy Spirit from me.” When Christians sin they grieve the Holy Spirit, which may result in a withdrawal of His presence. Unfortunately, this further weakens us in our battle with our spiritual enemies. Therefore, David confesses his need for the Spirit’s continual presence and assistance in his life.

Petition #6–“Restore the joy of your salvation.” David does not ask for joy until he has dealt with his sin. Those who are not experiencing joy in their Christian life most likely have not dealt properly with their own sin.

How do we apply this section of this psalm?

Some Christians think that conviction of sin, confession, and petitions for God’s saving work are not things that should be repeated throughout the Christian life. After a one-time conviction and conversion experience, there is no need for any further contrition and repentance in the life of the believer.

But this is far from a biblical concept of the Christian life. As long as we fall short of God’s moral standard, we must continually follow through with humble confession and pleas for God’s forgiveness.

How does this psalm teach us to worship God?

Worship involves conviction and confession of sin. Only those who have received God’s forgiveness can praise God for His salvation! If you are unaware of your deep need for forgiveness, you will never understand the true beauty of the gift that God has given us in His salvation. Worship takes us from conviction to joy, from brokenness because of our sin, to inner healing because of God’s salvation.


1. What was hyssop?

2. Who cleans us by regenerating our hearts?

3. What do most people do with their sins?

4. Who breaks bones?

5. What are the two problems that David deals with in this section of the psalm?

Family Discussion Questions:

1. Do we confess our sins to God as often as we should? How long has it been since we shared the heart of David in this psalm?

2. Can you see where sin has done damage in your life? Can you see where God has healed that damage?