Year B – Lent 5 –Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
5Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
6You desire truth in the inward being;*
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right
* spirit within me.
11Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing
* spirit.
13Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
15O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt-offering, you would not be pleased.
17The sacrifice acceptable to God* is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
19then you will delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt-offerings and whole burnt-offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Summary— David hopes in God’s covenant love (v.1).  He seeks not only forgiveness, but change (v.2).  He acknowledges that no matter who else is hurt, sin is sin because it’s against God Himself (v.4).  He asks to be purged with hyssop (v.7), the plant with which priests sprinkled blood on formerly-diseased houses to declare them clean (so, he’s asking God to be his Great High Priest in sprinkling blood to declare him clean).  He fears that he might be among those who share in the Holy Spirit but fall away (v.11, cr. Heb. 6:4-6).  He desires the restoration of his joy in God (v.12).  And he wants all this mercy to overflow in evangelism (v.13) and praise (v.14).

Insight— How will we think about and confess our sinfulness?  We are not without divine direction: God placed within the Psalter—His prescribed hymnbook—King David’s confession.  It isn’t just any confession: as a psalm written to the choirmaster for corporate use, it’s specially intended to inform and shape our own thinking and feeling about confession.  And confession is something that Jesus assumes we’ll need every day, as seen in the words He taught us to pray, “give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us trespasses…”   So, confess: confess as one shaped by David’s confession, and as one who trusts that forgiveness is already there, since Jesus always lives to make intercession for us, so that even as we sin, we already have an advocate with the Father.

Child Catechism— When you sin against mom or dad, who are you sinning against ultimately?  God and God alone.

Discussion— As you listen to this prayer, what do you notice as things that David hopes will come to pass?

Prayer— Have mercy on us, O God, according to Your steadfast love.  We have committed sins against You, and You alone—wash us from them.  Sprinkle us with Christ’s blood, and declare us clean.  May we not be among those who share in Your Holy Spirit only temporarily.  Return to us the joy of Your salvation, that we might praise You and lead others to do the same, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Contributed by Scott Cline

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