Today, Tuesday May 02
“Have Mercy upon Me, O God”
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
“Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight-- That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.”
Today we begin looking at Psalm 51. This is the fourth of the Penitential Psalms. Psalm 6 is the first of seven "penitential psalms" in which the writers are being disciplined by God and experiencing suffering. The other psalms are Psalms 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. All of these psalms are helpful to us when we need to confess our sins and draw closer to the Lord. This is also the first of fifteen consecutive psalms in Book II that are attributed to David.
The title, which many scholars believe to be as inspired as the verses themselves, tells us both who the writer is and also the occasion of it. It will help us to remember the story behind this Psalm to grasp the fullest meaning and understanding of it. In 1 Samuel 15:22-29, after King Saul refused to take responsibility for his sin of disobedience, God was preparing a young shepherd boy named David to take his place.
In the Apostle Paul’s first recorded message in the book of Act, while in the city of Antioch of Pisidia on his first missionary journey with Barnabas, he was telling the story of the history of Israel and he said this about David: “And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.'” (Acts 13:21-22).
God sent Samuel the Prophet to anoint David, the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse to become the next king of Israel (1 Samuel 16). Shortly after this, David kills the Philistine giant Goliath and becomes a national hero. But King Saul becomes jealous and for next seven years seeks to kill him. Through all this David learns to trust the Lord and writes many of his psalms. Finally, Saul is killed in a battle with Philistines and David is anointed king at Hebron over the southern tribe of Judah (2 Samuel 2:11). Seven years later he is anointed king over all of Israel (2 Samuel 5:3-5).
For the next number of years David establishes his kingdom and conquers the surrounding nations. But one day, when he should have been fighting with his army, he stayed at home in his palace. 2 Samuel 11:1-5 tells us exactly what happened next: “It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, "I am with child."
For the next year David tried to cover up his sin with Bathsheba. First by scheming with Joab to have her husband Uriah killed in battle. So now David has broken two of the ten commandments, adultery and murder.
And God begins His chastisement on David during this time. The baby born to Bathsheba dies. David gets very sick. He is also emotionally and mentally affected. It is then that God sends Nathan the prophet to confront David with his sins (Psalm 32; 2 Samuel 12). Psalm 51 is the result of that confrontation and David’s prayer of confession and repentance.
I’m looking forward to the next several days as we look at this Psalm because there are so many lessons and applications we can make from it in our own lives. Even today, as God’s own special people, we can still sin and need to know that we can confess, repent and find forgiveness with the Lord (1 John 1:9-10).