Psalm 51: Repentance Before the Lord
1. Description and Prescription
a. Description of David’s repentance
b. Prescription of how we should repent
i. Show us what repentance looks and sounds like
ii. Psalm 51 is not everything to be said about repentance—we need the full Bible for this!
2. Why we need Psalm 51—the pervasive reality of sin in our lives means we will need to repent often!
3. Historical context leading up to Psalm 51 in the life of David
a. 2 Samuel 11 narrates the sins of David for which he repents in Psalm 51
i. Adultery with Bathsheba
ii. Murder of Uriah the Hittite
iii. Deceitful cover-up
iv. “But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord.” 2 Samuel 11.27
b. 2 Samuel 12 narrates Nathan coming to David to expose and rebuke the sin
i. There is the threat of judgment
ii. David responds, “I have sinned against the Lord.” 2 Samuel 12.13
iii. Nathan responds: “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.” 2 Samuel 12.13-14
4. Structural division: the reality of repentance and the results of repentance
Reality of Repentance
Results of Repentance
5. Watch where David begins in Psalm 51—the character of God (verse 1)
a. David appeals to the character of God—his lovingkindness and compassion.
b. If God is not this way—full of lovingkindness and compassionate—all is lost (see Psalm 130.3-4
c. Foundational pieces of God’s character revealed to Moses in Exodus 34.6-7
d. Trusting in God’s gracious character allows David to plead for God’s pardon.
6. Key elements of repentance:
a. Repentance longs for pardon.
b. Repentance longs for a new heart and steadfast obedience.
c. Repentance longs for the presence of God.
7. Repentance longs for pardon. (Verses 2-9)
a. Pardon: the desire to be cleansed from the sin and to have it taken away (vv. 2, 7, 9)
b. Sin does not sit well in the heart of the child of God!
c. Repentance longs for pardon because it…
i. Recognizes the reality of sin and guilt (vv. 3-4)—true moral guilt; not merely guilty feelings
ii. Recognizes the radical pervasiveness of sin
1. In birth (v. 5)—sinning from the beginning; not an excuse for sin
2. In all of me (v. 6)
d. Longing for pardon also includes the desire to be relieved from sin’s consequences (v. 8)
i. Sin is antithetical to joy and gladness
ii. Sin can produce physical reactions and sickness (Psalms 32.1-5; 38.1-8; James 5.14-15; 1 Corinthians 11.30)
e. Repentance longs for pardon—to be out of the realm of sin
i. Sin’s guilt
ii. Sin’s consequences
8. Repentance longs for a new heart and steadfast obedience. (Verse 10)
a. Repentance is not only a desire to get away from that which is wrong but also a desire to pursue that which is right.
b. The call to live a life consistent with repentance
c. This longing desire for a new heart and steadfast spirit is one antidote against pseudo-repentance.
i. Some people are not interested in getting rid of guilt—just guilty feelings. They will engage in ritualistic motions (whether corporately or individually) to get rid of guilt feelings. They like the mechanism by which they can be self-served to ease their conscience. They are not longing for restoration with the living and holy God. The elements of religion—even true religion—become a masquerade to hide their sinful hearts.
ii. Jeremiah 7.1-11
9. Repentance longs for the presence of God. (Verses 11-12)
a. The gracious presence of God is the great covenantal blessing for his people.
b. Consider Moses’ response to God’s word that he (God) would not go up with Israel to the Promised Land (Exodus 33.1-5—esp. v. 3).
c. Repeated emphasis in the Psalms for God’s presence:
i. Psalm 42.1-5
ii. Psalm 63.1-8
iii. Psalm 73.21-28
d. Consider that Jesus Christ is called Emmanuel—God with us (Matthew 1.23)
10. Repentance longing for: (i) pardon, (ii) a new heart and steadfast obedience, and (iii) the presence of God
a. Not steps in repentance
b. Manifestations of repentance—these longings in the heart and in language express the true nature of repentance.
11. Results of Repentance (verses 13-19): Consider the following areas…
12. Ministry (v. 13)
a. Repentance moves toward God for cleansing, a new heart, and God’s presence; then it moves out toward others in ministry.
b. Ministry is not just “ordained ministry”
i. Fathers/mothers to their families
ii. Older men to younger men (Titus 2)
iii. Older women to younger women (Titus 2)
iv. All the “one anothers” of the New Testament
1. Love one another
2. Encourage one another
3. Pray for one another
4. Rebuke one another
c. Sin short-circuits ministry!
i. Sin makes us selfish—we don’t care to help others.
ii. Sin makes us weak—we can’t help others.
d. Repentance must precede ministry.
i. Galatians 6.1—“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”
ii. 2 Timothy 2.21—“Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”
e. Repentance leads to ministry. (v. 13)
f. Repentance preceding and leading to ministry: example of Isaiah in Isaiah 6.1-8
13. Praise (verses 14-15)
a. Repentance precedes praise.
i. If our hearts our full of the filth of sin we cannot praise God rightly.
ii. Our lips may move and pronounce words of praise but God does not accept it as praise.
b. Repentance leads to praise (vv. 14-15)
i. One of the first fruits of repentance is praising God!
ii. We’ve been delivered from sin and we long to praise the Deliverer!
iii. Praise is preceded by God’s grace.
1. God’s grace empowers praise
2. We should ask for this grace-filled empowerment to praise (v. 15)
a. Liturgy is the structural approach to worshipping God
b. Verses 16 and 19
i. “you do not delight in sacrifice” (v. 16)
ii. “you will delight in righteous sacrifice” (v. 19)
iii. Q: What accounts for the change?
c. Verses 17-18
i. Our humility and God’s favor
ii. Our broken spirited repentance and God’s grace
d. Important to remember…
i. Sacrificial system of the Old Testament was ordained by God; this was the system he desired to be in place under the old covenant.
ii. It was through the blood sacrifices that God had designed that his people approach him.
iii. Yet, the presence of un-confessed and rampant sin could render this liturgy “worthless”
iv. God-approved liturgy must be pursued in a God-approved manner—namely, humble obedience.
1. Isaiah 1.10-20
2. Jeremiah 7.1-11
3. Amos 5.21-24
4. 1 Corinthians 11.20-22, 27-34
 The importance of this revelation of God’s character is found in its continued repetition throughout the Old Testament: Numbers 14.18; 2 Chronicles 30.9; Nehemiah 9.17, 31; Psalms 86.15; 103.8; 145.8; Joel 2.13; Jonah 4.3; Nahum 1.3. If the individual attributes are counted the numbers grow sharply. For example, “lovingkindness,” by itself, appears around 125 times in the Psalms.