On Psalm 51—Part 2

(Ps 51:1) To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
(Ps 51:2) Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
(Ps 51:3) For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

The law of Moses prescribed the death sentence for anyone committing adultery or murder (Lev 20:10, 24:21). There were no sacrifices prescribed for one was guilty of adultery or murder. The offender had to die. King David was guilty of both adultery and murder and yet he was praying for forgiveness. One might have expected the prophet Nathan to tell David "There is no way you can be forgiven". Actually, what Nathan told him was "The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die" (2Sa 12:13). Clearly, David was forgiven. However, it seems obvious that he was not forgiven by means of the law.

The law "was added because of transgressions" (Ga 3:19), "for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Ro 3:20), "for where no law is, there is no transgression" (Ro 4:15). The law prescribed sacrifices for sins. While the sacrifices had to be offered, forgiveness did not come on the basis of the sacrifices, "for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Heb 10:4). Because God is righteous, there was a basis on which sins could be forgiven. The ground on which people could be forgiven under the law or apart from the sacrifices of the law (as in the case of David) was revealed in passages such as Is 53:6, stating that "the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all". Thus, God promised in the Old Testament that there would be one who would take away all sins. When God fulfilled this promise, sins were taken away and God gave the proof of his righteousness in forgiving past sins. God set forth Christ to be "propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past" (Ro 3:25). All sins (past or future) are forgiven through the sacrifice of Christ.

(Heb 10:1) For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
(Heb 10:2) For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
(Heb 10:3) But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
(Heb 10:4) For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

David was forgiven not through the law, but apart from the sacrifices of the law, because of faith. "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe" (Ro 3:21-22). "Therefore be it known to you, men, brothers, that through this One the forgiveness of sins is announced to you. And by Him all who believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the Law of Moses" (Ac 13:38-39)MKJV.

David was aware that sacrifices could not help him. He spoke about sacrifices in the following verse.

(Ps 51:16) For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

Literally, the verse states that " ... thou delightest not in sacrifice, else would I give it. Thou art not pleased with burnt offering". Therefore, one might have wondered what he could bring to God, to please him. The kind of offering that is pleasing to the Lord is described in the next verse.

(Ps 51:17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

The word translated "broken" is a form of a verb meaning "to break, break to pieces". The word translated "contrite" is a form of a verb meaning "to crush". This description of the heart and spirit refers to the way God sees them. In God's eyes, a person who opposes him has a hard heart (Ex 7:14, Eze 3:7, De 2:30, Eze 11:19-20). Even if one is in very difficult circumstances, his heart is still hard if he continues to oppose God. A person with a broken and contrite heart no longer tries to impose his own will, for his heart is broken and crushed. Rather, he is open to obeying God's will. A broken spirit would also indicate humility. Thus, a person with a broken heart and spirit has a humble acceptance of God's will. God will not despise this attitude. The Lord said that "him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (Jn 6:37). The Lord is close to those with a broken heart and contrite spirit (Ps 34:18), he binds their wounds (Ps 147:3, Is 61:1), and revives them (Is 57:15).

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