Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Reflections on Psalm 51

     Without a doubt, scripture has played a crucial role in my marriage’s healing during this season.  I find myself continually returning to Psalm 51, a beautiful passage where King David cries out to God during a time of great turbulence.  In this entry, I will unravel my own thoughts on this remarkable portion of text; you can read the entire Psalm here.
    David was an adulterer, and a murderous one at that. He was also an esteemed man, powerful and known for his fervor for God.  In a moment of weakness, he succumbed to the desires of his flesh and set in motion a series of events that would ruin lives and bring shame on his royal name.
    I find it so encouraging that the Bible, God’s precious word, would chronicle the experiences of such a man.  Thank heavens that the pages of the Old Testament are not filled with flawless, two-dimensional men that needed no mercy.  Reading about David’s broken nature invigorates me with hope, knowing that there is renewal in the shadow of grievous transgression.
    Psalm 51 is a candid and personal song of repentance and redemption.  It illustrates King David’s constantly present guilt (v. 3-6), juxtaposing the darkness of shame against the jubilance of God’s love.  The humbled king calls out that his Creator would grant him a new heart and a steadfast spirit as he pleads to once again taste the joy of his salvation (v. 10-13).
    Then, we come upon one of my favorite portions of this text.  David proclaims that his response to being restored will be one of deliberate action – he will teach transgressors God’s ways, turning them back from their wicked paths (v. 13).  This is the only natural response to a life transformed by grace.
    Finally we find my favorite verses in this psalm, and perhaps in all of scripture. I have quietly recited this to myself so many times when my spirit felt flooded with oppression from within:
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;

    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.
    This may seem elementary but I believe that if we examine this further, we find a unique insight into God’s heart and David’s intimate connection to his Heavenly Father.  David’s writing proclaims that a sacrifice would not be sufficient to cleanse his guilt… Think about this. Sacrifices were the path to atonement that believers understood at the time. 

    Somehow, David concludes that the true sacrifice is not a ram or bull, but one’s own pride.  We are the sacrifice.  For repentance to occur, we must place ourselves on the altar and relinquish our very hearts as an offering.  God will not despise a sacrifice that we bear from within ourselves; anything else is a hollow religious gesture.
    This concept is fundamental to our understanding of penitence.  Seeking forgiveness is not a matter of rituals or religious observances; it is one of spirit-rending introspection and surrender. Through all of my soul searching and prayer, I cannot escape the gravitational pull of this simple notion.  This is the meaning of repentance. 
(I wrote a song about this…. take a listen here.)


  1. Thank you, brother, for commenting on my blog. I watched the video of your song. Although the music is not at all my style (hey, I'm old, OK?), the words are rock-solid theology, heart-felt, and the music fits the words. The song is not sentimental feel-good froth (which has infected too much recent church music). Continue using and developing the excellent gifts the Lord has given you, and walk in the joy of forgiveness. Spend time in Psalm 32. Be defined by who you are now in Jesus Christ, not by who you've been apart from him. I pray for the Lord's blessings for you today, and that my own repentance can match yours.

  2. I appreciate the feedback! I definitely realize that the musical stylings of that song can be a bit much for some people.... Perhaps an acoustic version is in order?

    and I agree with you about the status of recent church music. I am especially perplexed by songs that have somber, reverent lyrics and yet the music does not agree with the words at all. So I'm all for music and lyrics that match, at least!

    Thanks so much for checking it out and giving your input! it's much needed.

  3. Ray, I would not necessarily say that an acoustic version is needed. Your version will speak to hearts of many of your generation. One of the Lord's blessings is the variety of his people. We all need one another, but we don't all have the same tastes in clothing or music or art or furniture. Just be the man the Lord created you to be.

  4. as of yesterday, my husband has disappeared for the second time in our marriage. we have not even been married for a year (our first year anniversary would be july 22). we both have played a part, of course, in this horrible re-enactment. my sin is before me, and the sharp pain of his silence and complete disconnection from me is near unbearable.
    I am expecting our first child in December. I thank God that I came across this small message of hope. I seek to be blameless before the Lord, and to be gracious, patient, ready for the next step, but time is grueling.
    if you would, when you read this,
    pray for us. we're just mixed up, and my husband has been led astray. we need to set God back in the center of our marriage. it seems so hopeless, because this came from the blue to me, it wasn't near a fight, and he told me he wouldn't do this again. broken promises are on both sides...
    I don't know how long this storm will be, but I know God is able to speak to the hardest, darkest corners and bring forth light. please, pray for us.