I saw one Book on Prayer that called David’s “magnum opus” (Psalm 51) … the “Gospel” in the Old Testament! I suspect we have more of David’s prayers recorded in the Bible than any other person. A whole “collection” of them, really. For example, Psalm 72:20 declares, in a literary sense: “The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.”
The 51st Psalm, our Text today and maybe again tomorrow, is a prayer of confession. Begging God for forgiveness! This great Bible Chapter is no doubt as thorough, every bit as complete … as is 1st John 1:9 in its theology, too! “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
David’s prayer here (again, in Psalm 51) rises to the heights (or plunges to the depths) of Isaiah’s great ode to the Greatness of God (Isaiah 40), Habakkuk’s great statement of faith, resolve and determination (Habakkuk 3), John’s great description of the Second Coming of Jesus (Revelation 19), and certainly Paul’s detailed description of the downward spiral of sin (Romans 1).
Psalm 51 … which, because of these (still coming) thoughts being written here today … may become one of Dr. Bagwell’s Revival Texts for a week in the near future! I’d love to consecutively preach several Sermons from this great chapter, its 19 verses!
But for today, I’d like to show you David’s grasp of the Biblical idea of “sin.”
He is under heavy conviction now, his conscience paining him deeply, over his sin (make that sins) in the Bathsheba affair. Sins he had denied for months and months.
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my TRANSGRESSIONS. 2 Wash me throughly from mine INIQUITY, and cleanse me from my SIN. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” Psalm 51:1-3
The King is burdened over his “transgressions,” one of three terms for sin I’ve capitalized in the above Paragraph. The Hebrew here is “pesha,” basically meaning “rebellion!” In fact, it is translated exactly that way once in the King James Version of Scripture, “rebellion.” It is from a root verb meaning “to revolt,” to attempt to overthrow Someone! Now it’s no longer David, “the sweet Psalmist of Israel” (as in 2nd Samuel 23:1). Neither is it David, “man after God’s Own Heart” (as in Acts 13:22). But it is David THE REBEL! The rebel against God!
The next word used for David’s wrongdoing is “iniquity.” He is himself, under the Holy Spirit’s Touch, using words he knows to be true, the terrible reality of disobeying God! The noun “avon” (pronounced “avone”) means “perversity,” something that has been taken and “twisted, bent out of shape, distorted” from God’s original Purposes! Now it is David the “pervert!” REPROBATE AGAINST GOD!
See the “depth” of David’s sorrow?
Third, the noun “sin” translates “chattah,” built on a verb stem meaning “to miss the mark!” To go the “wrong way.” To disqualify oneself from his or her “inheritance!” Not to lose one’s soul salvation, but to forfeit rewards amassed for faithful service! So here is David the spiritually “bankrupt!” Or, if you will allow me, David the SINNER!
In a day that no longer (on the part of multitudes anyway) acknowledges sin in any form (even denying the existence of the very concept) … we critically need the first three verses of Psalm 51.
Written by (and for) David … who indeed loved God!
David … who had already written many a lovely Psalm, prayed (and had answered) many a sincere prayer … but also (shamefully) had fallen into sin!
A sin that could have been easily excused by any Monarch in those days long ago. (“Any may would have been tempted!” Or “I married her, didn’t I?” Or, “Doesn’t God forgive all wrongdoing?” Or, “Don’t mention this ‘stuff’ again!”)
But a sin that David now is realizing its shocking enormity!
And according to our Psalm (verse 3) David is now unable to get his “failure” off his mind. It is “ever before him.” He is just beginning to “know” the wrong he has committed! The verb “acknowledge” is “yada,” meaning “to know” the horrors of such sin!
Yes, David is finally “under conviction!”
And the closer to God we get … the more hideous our sin will appear.
So much so that Paul the Apostle, dozens of years after he was “saved,” still called himself “the chief of sinners!” 1st Timothy 1:15 is the reference. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
Let’s quit minimizing sin!
And start realizing the seriousness of our disobedience to Almighty God!
— Dr. Mike Bagwell