Monday, 30 December 2013

Psalm 51 - The broken-hearted sinner's cry to the God of grace.

"The riches, the power, the glory of a kingdom, could neither present nor remove the torrent of sin, which puts the monarch and the beggar upon a level" says Charles Horne.

No one has more keenly scrutinised his own backslidings, and more bitterly lamented them,, "laying bare the iron ribs of misery" than David, in this Psalm.

We saw a series of considerable length concluded in Psalm 50. The Psalm before us stands in an isolated position. It is not part of any series. It has a peculiarity that no previous Psalm has exhibited, for it is written (and the Hebrew title authenticates the fact) on the occasion of David's adultery, and his detestable attempts to hide his adultery by murder of the basest kind.

Now, no such circumstances as these could ever had in them aught that corresponded in the remotest manner to any circumstances in the life of the Surety, David's Son.

On the contrary, so far is this Psalm from being fitted to express the work of the Surety, that it seems introduced at this point in order to lead us to look back on the former songs of David, and to say of what was set forth in them: Surely this David, who appears here as a leper all over, with a heart as vile as the worst action of his life, cannot be the David of whom such glorious things were formerly spoken?

Viewed in this light, the Psalm before us is fitted, both by its title and its contents, to direct us in the other Psalms to the true David, as He of whom the lofty things of preceding Psalms were sung.

Coming, as this Psalm does, close upon one which set the principles of judgement before us, int is not uninteresting to observe that it falls into its place very appropriately.

For here we find a sinner - an individual sinner - realising his position at that bar, and consenting to the decisions of a tribunal where nothing but justice has free course.

The sinner acknowledges in verse 4 that his sin is all his own, and done in direct opposition to the Holy One; and he owns his folly before all the universe.

"That you may be justified in the manner of the law proclaimed by you... and be clear in regard to the judgement pronounced by you on the law breaker."

He finds nothing in the terms of the law too strict, nor anything in the penalty annexed too severe. We may have a reference to Exodus 20:1.

It is as if God had printed the diary of David, and, in order to humble him, handed it to the "Chief musician", that all Israel might know his bitter repentance, and might say, in substance, what Augustine writes:

"It is not an example of falling into sin that is set before you, but of rising if you have fallen. Do you love in David that which David hated in himself?"

1. Deep groans for pardoning mercy, from the pit of pollution (v1,2)
2. Confession of sin, and acknowledgement of the Lord's righteous law (v3,4)
3. An awful gaze upon the source of all actual sin (v5)
4. Deliverance from falsehood, folly and guilt, must come from God alone (v6,7) "Purge me from sin with hyssop", as the leper is purged.
5. The voice of a reconciled God heard again (v8). Perhaps it was the idea of Resurrection that suggested "bones rejoicing."
6. On the foundation of thorough forgiveness, prayer is made for thorough and constant holiness (v9,10) "Renew to me the gift of a fixed spirit"
7. He seeks permanent holiness, as well as permanent fellowship (v11)
8. The joy of full salvation (i.e. of both pardon and holiness) is sought, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, the true and natural equipment for future usefulness (v12) "Uphold me with the Spirit, who is generous" - princely.
9. Efforts are made to for the good of others (v13)
10. Sorrow for having, in days past, injured others is expressed (v14, first clause)
11. Closing strain of adoring gratitude (the last clause of 14, and 15,16,17)
12. A closing prayer for the glory of God in the land and in the earth (v18,19)

This desire for God's glory, the unfailing mark of a soul in communion with God, is expressed in terms that indicate hope as well as faith. "Be favourable to Zion for your own sake, as a fruit of your free will."

This is the sense; as if he said, "I have given you cause to forsake my kingdom and people, and even to abandon Zion, where your ark stands; but will you not rather show free grace?"

"Build the walls of Jerusalem!" Make your people in Jerusalem strong against their foes; build up this city, fortifying and ornamenting it. This city which I took from the Jebusites and am seeking to beautify though my sin might provoke you to give it back to the Canaanite again. Make Zion and Jerusalem strong  in their bulwarks as you will yet do in the latter day (Psalm 48:11.)

"Then shall you be pleased with sacrifices of righteousness."

In that spot where your name has been blasphemed by me, you shall yet again be honoured, if instead of judgement you send us victory and peace. We shall testify of you to all lands by the "sacrifices according to just rule and measure" (Lev 19:36) and by bullocks as our calves of thank-offering (Hosea 14:3).

This city Jerusalem shall be a place in which atonement is proclaimed, and your praises sung by your forgiven ones, whose contrite, broken hearts shall be a daily thank offering (v17). This last result was especially attained under Solomon.

In addition to what we have stated as the primary meaning, is there not a look into the future? Is not the strain to this effect: Hasten Zion's final glory, and then shall there be no more scandals to give the enemy cause to blaspheme, no more backslidings, no more falls.. Then shall you be fully honoured as the God of atonement and fully praised with the calves of our lips.

Hasten the day of Jerusalem's glory under the true Solomon. Such is this Psalm of David - The broken-hearted sinner's cry to the God of grace.

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