Here is a penitential Psalm, penned by David, as the title expresses it, upon a remarkable occasion; in which we trace the sorrowful workings of his soul in a devout humiliation before God.
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bath-sheba.
It is worthy our closest observation, in the very opening of this Psalm, and the subject connected with it, that at least nine months had passed by, after David's falling into the foul crimes of adultery and murder before any remorse seems to have taken place in his mind; nay, so far from it, that when Nathan came to him with a message from God, because the man of God veiled his discourse in a parable, David's heart took no alarm, and though alive to punish the man that had taken his neighbor's lamb, never thought of himself having taken his neighbor's wife, and having also caused him to be murdered. Alas! how doth sin harden? 2 Samuel 12:5-7. We have here the devout actings of the soul, when awakened by grace to a sense of sin: all that we meet with, verse by verse, serves but to show the stirrings of a distressed, conscious, guilty soul, in the recollection of his foul ingratitude to God, and his base dishonesty to man.
How beautiful these expressions are, if offered with reference to Christ's blood as the fountain there opened for sin and for uncleanness. And observe in what true sorrow for sin consists; an unceasing view of sin, and self loathing in consequence thereof.
This is a striking expression: David looks upon the sin as directly levelled against God. He had injured Uriah, injured Bathsheba, injured, in short, everyone that heard the story, in the example he had set; but the great sin was against God. Had be not lost reverence for God, he could not have injured men. David dwells therefore upon this: Against Thee, Thee only, (says he, repeating the words with painful recollection) have I sinned. Here was the sad, sad business. Reader, it is among the truest marks of genuine sorrow, when we detect our sin against the sovereignty of God at every step.
He here goes back to the source of all sin, in original depravity! What hyssop shall purge this away, what washing of water will make this clean? Oh! how blessed is it do behold Christ, whose blood alone cleanseth from all sin. 1 John 1:7.
Nothing but a complete pardon can satisfy David. Hide thy face from my sins, heal my bones that are broken by reason of it! What should we do, whither should we fly, were there not a total oblivion for sin, and had not the Lord cast them into the depths of the sea? Oh! the blessedness of redemption by Jesus! Micah 7:18-20.
Pardon alone, without the renewings of the Holy Ghost, will not complete the mercy. Hence, David prays not only to be cleansed, but to be renewed, to be strengthened by the Holy Ghost against any future sins. It is as if David had said, Lord, I see that the want of thy Holy Spirit to restrain those vile affections of mine first led to the sin of adultery, and adultery next led to murder. Lord, I beseech thee, take not thine Holy Spirit from me; take, Lord, whatever else thou art pleased to take, for I deserve nothing but punishment from thee; but, oh! take not thy unspeakable gift, lest I should fall yet more foully. Here, Lord, I must plead! Oh! turn me not away. Reader, there is nothing a child of God dreads so much as the absence of the Comforter. Oh! precious Jesus! remember thy promise, in which thou didst say, He shall abide, with you forever; John 14:16.
It is a blessed mark of real repentance, when, after our recovery, we do not scruple to tell others of our worthlessness, and the divine goodness in raising us up, thus preaching to others what the Lord hath done for our souls. Reader, think what everlasting preachers to this amount hath Peter, the Apostle, and David the Prophet been. How hath God in mercy over-ruled their fall to his glory and the comfort of thousands. So Jesus bid Peter, when he should be recovered, to strengthen his brethren; Luke 22:32.
Behold, now David's heart is awakened, how the foul sin of murder haunted his guilty conscience!
Oh! how much gospel is here: surely David had seen and felt the efficacy of Christ's blood, or he never could have learned to think so lightly of the sacrifices under the law.
Observe how the interests of Zion still lay near David's heart. This was the most solemn moment David had ever seen, when one might have thought his own personal sorrows would have swallowed up the consideration of every other. But no: he remembers Zion in his saddest seasons as well as in his greatest joy. Reader, how ought you and I to feel for Zion in her present languishing circumstances?
READER! let you and I look at this man after God's own heart, and tremble in the recollection of what man is in his highest attainments, if left for one moment void of grace. Oh! what an important truth it is, and must be, to be impressed upon the mind, that our poor fallen nature is the same in all men: there is, there can be no difference: a corrupt stock must produce a corrupt generation; and this in an endless succession from father to son. And that the seeds of sin do not produce an equal degree of blossom and fruit in all men, doth not arise from any difference in our nature, but from the preventing and restraining grace of God. Oh! how blessed is it to see this and to be convinced of it, that we may not only ascribe all the praise where that praise is alone due, but also may walk with such holy fear and caution, amidst the numberless temptations arising both from our own nature and the dangers everywhere around, as to be always on the watch-tower, and while we think we stand, to take heed lest we fall. And above all, to be forever looking up for grace from above, knowing that they that are kept are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Reader, let us not dismiss the contemplation of a subject in which we are so highly interested, without gathering from the review, under divine teaching, another improvement, namely, that as the best of men are but men, and cannot keep themselves from falling; so when, from the strength of temptation without, and the weakness of our own powers within, we are at any time overtaken in a fault, it is well to be convinced that no exertions of our own can restore us to the divine favour. David knew this and therefore, in another of his Psalms, gives the glory to God for his recovery by grace. "Thou restorest my soul (saith he) thou leadest me in the paths of righteousness, for thy name's sake." Hence, therefore, from the Lord let us seek grace, and the renewings of the Holy Ghost, to raise us up when fallen, and to restore to our souls the light of his countenance.
And lastly, and above all, let us remember, and everlastingly keep in view, that all our pardons, all our recoveries after backslidings, our perseverance in grace, our final preservation to God's kingdom, as well as our first awakenings from sin; all and everyone is the sole result of God's covenant love in Christ, and the merits of his blood and righteousness. Yes! thou precious, blessed Jesus, thou who art the Lord our righteousness! it is thy Father's merciful engagement to thee, and the efficacy of thy obedience and death, which become the everlasting cause and security of all our mercies. God is a pardoning God to all thy redeemed, because there is an everlasting acceptableness in thy Person and thy work, notwithstanding our manifold departures, backslidings, and sins. And though those departures wound our souls, though those backslidings daily testify our poor corrupt nature, though those sins plead against us, and Satan is ready to accuse; yet, precious Jesus, thy blood is a speaking blood, and speaketh more for us than all that are against us.
Oh! grant our souls the daily, hourly benefit of thy great salvation! Lord, let this be the continued joy of all thy redeemed, that we have redemption through thy blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of thy grace. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 51". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://pro.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34