On Psalm 51—Part 3

In Ps 51:4, David said to God that "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned". He mentioned here only sins that were done against God only. We cannot say based on Ps 51:4 that every sin is only against God. Indeed, there are Scripture passages indicating that sins can be also against men. Any sin is against God, since it represents a violation of his ordinances. However, some sins affect directly people. Such sins are not only against God but also against the people that were affected. Sins against men are mentioned in passages such as Jdg 11:27, 1Sa 19:4, 1Sa 24:11, Mt 18:15, Mt 18:21, 1Co 18:12. One can sin even against his own body (1Co 6:18). It should be noticed that David confessed not only the sins of adultery and murder, but also other sins that were only against God. Such sins may not be known to men, but are nonetheless very significant in God's eyes. Thus, David did not confess just a few major sins, but confessed also the other sins that were only against God. The sins of adultery and murder were not only against God, but also against Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba.

(Ps 51:4)Darby Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in thy sight; that thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, be clear when thou judgest.

The Hebrew word translated "when thou judgest" can also be translated "when thou art judged". The same observation could be made about the translation to Greek of the verse. The translation to Greek appears in Ro 3:4. Based on this verse we can understand that whatever people do, good or bad, justifies God's ways and in particular his dealings with us. Whatever they do shows that God is right. "But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Surely God, the One inflicting wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I speak as a man.) Certainly not! For otherwise how shall God judge the world?" (Ro 3:5-6)EMTV. On one hand, God is shown to be right by whatever one does, good or bad. On the other hand, this does not mean that men have an excuse for doing evil. "For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?" (Ro 3:7). "And not rather, (as we are wrongly accused, and as some affirm that we say), Let us do bad things that good may come? Their condemnation is just" (Ro 3:8)MKJV. God "will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil ... But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good ... " (Ro 2:6-10). Now, it is God who influences and empowers people to do things that are truly good. Thus, being in the right relationship with God is essential in order to be a "man that worketh good". On their own, people cannot do good, for "there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Ps 14:3). On their own, men have a problem even if they intend to do good. "For I do not practise the good that I will; but the evil I do not will, that I do. But if what I do not will, this I practise, it is no longer I that do it, but the sin that dwells in me" (Ro 7:19-20)Darby. The apostle Paul was a believer, so he delighted in the law of God. Nonetheless, he mentioned that "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Ro 7:23). This "law of sin which is in my members" refers to the sinful nature of man. Man has a sinful nature from conception, as mentioned in the following verse.

(Ps 51:5)MKJV Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Here are some other related passages. Is 48:8 says "thou ... wast called a transgressor from the womb". The Lord said this in the context of a passage addressing people who did not worship him in truth (Is 48:1). In Ps 58:3 we read that "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies". The sinful nature is a problem for all men. Believers realize that "we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others" (Eph 2:3)NKJV. It is only by God's mercy that man is saved. "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)" (Eph 2:4-5). If God is merciful with a man, he will give him knowledge of the truth. King David was a believer, so he mentioned that "thou shalt make me to know wisdom".

(Ps 51:6) Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

In the verse above, the Hebrew phrase for "thou shalt make me to know wisdom" can also be translated "thou makest me to know wisdom". Furthermore, the translation "hidden part" is based on the vowel markings added by the Masoretes. In this instance, the vowel markings do not follow strictly the spelling of the word. If the vowel markings are ignored, a literal translation would be "in hiding". Thus, the second part of the verse could be translated "and in hiding thou makest me know wisdom". The interpretation of this statement would be that typically the Lord does not manifest visibly his presence when he teaches man. He has direct access to the mind of man and he can place there wisdom without manifesting his presence.

(Job 38:36) Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?

It is interesting to notice that Job 38:36 and Ps 51:6 use the same Hebrew word for "inward parts". Sin affects the relationship of the believer with God. The fulfillment of the statement "thou shalt make me to know wisdom" assumes a working, restored relationship with God. One is in right relationship with God when he is cleansed from sin (that is, when God no longer considers it).

(Ps 51:7) Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
(Ps 51:8) Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

In Hebrew, the words translated "purge me", "wash me", and "make me to hear" are not in the imperative form. An alternative translation is "Thou wilt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Thou wilt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Thou wilt make me hear joy and gladness. The bones that thou hast crushed will rejoice". It is interesting to note that the Septuagint translates Ps 51:7-8 in the same manner. We can conclude that Ps 51 expresses not only petitions but also confidence that God will answer them. One who repents will be forgiven.

(1Jn 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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