Daybreak: Psalms 51:1 through 54:7
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51:1)
God always responds with mercy and forgiveness to those who come to Him with a truly repentant heart. Walter Janeway, an ex-convict who was once a drug addict, often testified of how God extended mercy to him. “My home was among the dope fiends, saloons, gambling dens, and behind the prison walls,” he would say. “My heart was as hard as stone. It was no trouble for me to hold up a man and take his money. I ran bars and dives all over this country, but I never knew a day or an hour of happiness.”
One day while Walter was awaiting trial in a jail in Spokane, Washington, a woman came into the prison with some Apostolic Faith Gospel papers. Walter asked for one, and in it he read the testimonies of a criminal and a drug addict who had been delivered from sin. “I was trembling like a leaf,” he later related. Although he had never read a chapter in the Bible, hope sprang up in his heart. He told his cellmate, “I have never prayed a prayer in my life, but I am going to pray. If God can save that kind of man, I believe there is hope for me.” He knelt down right there on the steel floor of his cell and poured out his heart to God. The men outside his cell cursed at him, kicked the door, and threw cigarette butts on him, and Walter was tempted to quit, but he prayed, “O God, don’t let me get up until You do something for me!” Pleading for God’s mercy, he stayed on his knees until the answer came and peace flooded his heart.
“That prayer changed my whole life,” he would say. “Before that I had gotten out of jail almost every way a man could. I had been bailed out and paroled out. I had sawed out and shot my way out. But that day I prayed my way out, and I have stayed out.” The next day was his trial, and for the first time in his life, he pleaded guilty. He also gave his right name — something he had not done for years. Amazingly, he was released! A few nights later, he attended a meeting at the Apostolic Faith Church. He told the people there that he had so many crimes to confess that he would likely spend the rest of his life behind bars. However, God went before him. Though Walter confessed and made restitution for a life of crime that stretched from coast to coast, he never had to serve a day of prison time. On every count, he received full and free forgiveness! For the rest of his life, he rejoiced in the mercy of God who responded to the desperate prayer of a sinner.
Like Walter Janeway, David acknowledged his sin before God and cried out for mercy and forgiveness. In today’s focus verse, he pleaded with God to “blot out my transgressions,” brokenly admitting, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight” (verse 4).
When a sinner approaches God with a repentant spirit, God is merciful. No sin is too great to be forgiven! Today, no matter what our past, we can thank God for His amazing grace. What peace and assurance we have in knowing that when He forgives, the sins we have committed are blotted out!
Psalm 51 is a penitential prayer for pardon and renewal, offered by David after Nathan the prophet confronted him regarding his sin with Bathsheba. It provides one of the clearest views in the Old Testament of sin and its remedy.
This psalm is addressed entirely to God. It opens with an impassioned plea from a deeply convicted heart. In verses 1-4, David cried out to God for mercy and pardon. He made no attempt to shift responsibility for his actions, but spoke of “my transgressions…mine iniquity…my sin.”
David recognized that his sin was rooted in a sinful nature, and so in verses 5-13 he also petitioned God to cleanse his heart. The word translated purge in verse 7 is intense, meaning “un-sin” or “purify from uncleanness.” Under the Law of Moses, hyssop (an herbaceous, aromatic plant with medicinal properties) was used in the ritual of cleansing for leprosy, and for purification after contact with a dead body. The concept of sacrificial blood is also present, as hyssop was used to sprinkle the blood of the Passover lamb before the plague of death (see Exodus 12:22).
David knew that this purging would bring about not only a clean heart, but also a right spirit — one that is fixed and resolute in its allegiance to God, and unmoved by temptation. The word “create” in verse 10 denotes bringing into being what was non-existent before, so David was requesting a radical inward transformation. Verse 11 is the first time the phrase “Holy Spirit” appears in the Bible. In verses 14-19, the psalmist concluded his prayer with a promise that he would teach sinners the way of God, and offer sacrifices of thanksgiving from a heart made right with God.
Psalm 52 is a wisdom psalm written by David that presents a sharp contrast between the righteous and the wicked. Composed in context of the events described in 1 Samuel 21:1 through 22:19, David expressed his deep resentment toward Doeg the Edomite, who had betrayed him to Saul. It may also have been directed toward Saul himself, as he fit David’s description of a proud, powerful tyrant.
In verses 1-4, the psalmist portrayed the man who lives for destruction, deceit, and wickedness. The word “mischief” in verse 1 comes from the Hebrew “ra,” a generic term for evil. In verses 5-7, David described the judgment that would fall on one who trusts in riches and wickedness rather than God. He concluded the psalm with a comparison between himself and Doeg. David, though persecuted, was sustained by God and kept as fresh as a green olive tree, and for that reason he determined to praise God’s name forever.
Apart from a few details and a variation in verse 5, Psalm 53 is nearly identical in content to Psalm 14. This psalm, which was authored by David, may have been modified for some special occasion. It is identified in the title as a Maschil or a teaching psalm. The word Mahalath means “suffering” or “sickness,” and is believed to reference a well-known tune to which the words were sung.
This psalm deals with the character and conduct of the atheist, labeling him a “fool” and a “worker of iniquity.” The term “fool” does not mean one who is mentally deficient, but one who is lacking in moral judgment. Verse 5 indicates that the time will come when circumstances will change, and those who have denied the existence of God will be in great fear. David concluded by expressing his heartfelt longing for God’s salvation for His people. This psalm is referenced by Paul in Romans 3:10-12.
Psalm 54 is a short song of lament, and a call for God to overcome enemies. Also described in its title as a Maschil, it is dedicated to the chief Musician “on Neginoth,” which was a stringed instrument. The author, David, began in verses 1-3 by beseeching God to save him in a time when he had been betrayed by the men of Ziph (see 1 Samuel 23:19-26; 26:1-4).
There is a pause at the end of verse 3, indicated by the word “selah.” Then the author shifted his focus from his enemies to God. In verses 4-5, he acknowledged his dependence upon God. In the final two verses, anticipating the answer to his prayers, David made a commitment to worship from his heart.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A Closer Look
- In Psalm 51:17, what types of sacrifices did David say God would not despise?
- In Psalm 51:12, David asked God to restore to him the joy of salvation. What is implied by the word “restore”?
- Psalm 54 is a call for God to help in a time of hurt and betrayal. What principles can we learn from this psalm regarding how to handle a situation of that nature?
God is unfailingly merciful and forgiving when a sinner approaches Him with a contrite and repentant heart.