Rebuild Zion (Ps 51:18-51:19)

“Do good to Zion!

In your good pleasure!

Rebuild the walls of Jerusalem!

Then you will delight in right sacrifices.

You will delight in burnt offerings.

You will delight in whole burnt offerings.

Then bulls will be offered on your altar.”

This psalm ends with this addition about rebuilding Zion that had nothing to do with David and his sin with Bathsheba.  David had not even built the Temple so that to rebuild it would have been a post-exilic effort such as in Ezra and Nehemiah. This addition is almost in contradiction to the preceding verses that were pointing out the non-importance of sacrifices.  Here it is the opposite.  God would delight in right sacrifices, various burnt offers, and all those bulls on his altar.  This seems to go against the whole theme of this psalm, but brings the repentance back to ritual sacrifices.

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David’s broken contrite heart (Ps 51:15-51:17)

“O Lord!

Open my lips!

My mouth will declare your praise.

You have no delight in sacrifice.

If I were to give a burnt offering,

You would not be pleased.

The sacrifice acceptable to God is

A broken spirit,

A broken heart,

A contrite heart.

O God!

You will not despise.”

David wanted God to open his lips and mouth so that they might praise God. He seemed to imply that God was not that pleased with sacrifices and burnt offerings. What God really wanted was a broken spirit and a contrite broken heart that would not despise him.

God of salvation (Ps 51:13-51:14)

“Then I will teach transgressors your ways.

Sinners will return to you.

Deliver me from bloodshed!

O God!

O God of my salvation!

My tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.”

If David were to be forgiven, he would teach God’s way to other transgressors in hope that they would return to God. He did not want to shed his blood with an early death. He wanted to be saved so that his tongue and voice could sing to God about his deliverance.

David wants a clean heart (Ps 51:10-51:12)

“Create in me a clean heart!

O God!

Put a new spirit within me!

Put a right spirit within me!

Do not cast me away from your presence.

Do not take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me

The joy of your salvation.

Sustain in me a willing spirit.”

David wanted God to create a clean heart, a new right spirit, the Holy Spirit. He did not want to leave the presence of God. The Holy Spirit would remain with him. He wanted to be restored to the joy of salvation, while retaining his willing spirit. Clearly this is an internal spiritual new life, what some might call a born again experience that David wishes to undergo. He wanted this “Holy Spirit” to be in him.

David wants purification (Ps 51:6-51:9)

“You desire truth in the inward being.

Therefore teach me wisdom

In my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop!

Then I shall be clean.

Wash me!

Then I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness!

Let the bones that you have crushed rejoice!

Hide your face from my sins!

Blot out all my iniquities!”

David wanted to be purified. He wanted wisdom in his heart. He wanted to be purged or purified with some ritual that involved a hyssop, a ceremonial plant that was used to sprinkle water in a cleansing ritual. The hyssop was used in cleansing lepers in Leviticus, chapter 14. This cleansing hyssop was more explicit in Numbers, chapter 19, as the main tool used in sprinkling water to ritually clean things. He wanted to be clean, whiter than snow. There was a mention of some crushed bones. He wanted to be joyful, not with broken bones. He wanted his sins hidden and blotted out. He wanted a clean slate.

David is a sinner (Ps 51:3-51:5)

“I know my transgressions.

My sin is ever before me.

Against you,

You alone,

Have I sinned against.

I have done what is evil in your sight.

Thus you are justified

In your sentence.

You are blameless when you pass judgment.

Indeed,

I was born guilty.

I was a sinner

When my mother conceived me.”

David knew that he had sinned. His transgression was in front of him. He knew that he had done evil in the sight of God. He recognized that the sin was against God alone, as he did not see the human implications of his sin. This was evil in the sight of God. Thus God was justified and blameless in passing judgment on him. Then David hid behind the fact that he was born guilty. He was a sinner from his conception. Somehow he was throwing his sinfulness back to his mother and sex in general. Perhaps he was alluding to the human condition to be prone to sin or something akin to human original sin.

May God have mercy (Ps 51:1-51:2)

To the choirmaster leader, a psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone into Bathsheba

“Have mercy on me!

O God!

According to your steadfast love,

According to your abundant mercy,

Blot out my transgressions!

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity!

Cleanse me from my sin!”

Psalm 51 is the great penitential psalm when David was confronted by the prophet Nathan for his sexual encounter with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel, chapters 11 and 12. Eventually, David and Bathsheba were punished with the death of their first born. David wanted God’s mercy because of God’s steadfast love. This psalm is like Psalm 6 as a lament that is addressed to God directly. David wanted his transgressions blotted out. He wanted his iniquities washed away. He wanted to be cleansed from his sin. He wanted everything back to normal.