R1396-123 Bible Study: The Prayer Of The Penitent

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LESSON V., MAY 1, PSALM 51:1-13

Golden Text—”Create in me a new heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

This draws our attention to the darkest stain

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upon the history of the Prophet David—the matter of the murder of Uriah and the taking of his wife. Skeptics are wont to point to that great, double sin and to sneer: “And that was the ‘man after God’s own heart,’ according to the Bible’s grand standard of morality.” But the fact is that it was when David was a young shepherd just coming to manhood that he was after God’s own heart. And yet in connection with this very matter of this, David’s greatest sin, there is something which shows forth his better character which was “after God’s heart:” and this is brought before us by this lesson. The commendable features are: (1) He did not attempt to justify his course by saying that all the kings around about did such things and worse, and that it was generally conceded by their subjects that a king had a right to do as he pleased; (2) he not only did not deny the wrong, but he did not even try to see what he could say in self-defense; he did not plead his peculiar temptation nor that it was above that of others, from the power he exercised as king; but he confessed fully and heartily in such a manner as convinces all that his heart was really better than his evil conduct had seemed to indicate. We have no right to

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condone David’s crimes, but we have the privilege of noting those other qualities in him which to some extent were an offset to his weaknesses.

And it is well, too, that the Bible attests its own truthfulness in thus faithfully preserving the record of the sins of its great characters alongside the records of their faith and service. Of no other book which stands as the foundation of a religion is this true. Others tell only the good and leave the evil untold; but the Bible tells of the weaknesses of its greatest heroes except our Lord Jesus: of Paul’s persecutions; of Peter’s denial and blasphemy; of David’s sins; of Abraham’s errors, etc.

Yet this, which worldly wisdom would consider a serious drawback, God saw to be the proper thing; and many of God’s people have been greatly blessed by these very records of human weakness and sin. They but corroborate God’s testimony that all have sinned; that there is none righteous; that all need the grace of God to forgive the past and to lift them out of the miry pit of sin and its consequences. And many a sinner has thus been taught to have hope toward God for forgiveness and to realize that God who offers him his grace has had compassion upon others who were out of the way when they turned to him with true repentance.

Verses 1-3. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is continually before me.”

David thus plead for mercy; and although he realized finally that God’s favor was restored to him, he knew nothing of the real philosophy of the matter—how God could be just and yet be the justifier of those whose sins merited wrath. Ah, yes! the standpoint of the sons of God, during this Gospel age, is much more blessed. Our Father in heaven not only tells us of our forgiveness and reconciliation to his favor, but he gives us the particulars so that we may see how he has done it without sanctioning our sins or excusing them and without violating his own just law on the subject. He shows us that Christ our Lord was the Lamb of God whose death as our substitute and sin offering taketh away the sins of the world; that by his stripes pardon and healing may be granted to whosoever accepts the grace offered through him. Indeed, David’s sins were not blotted out nor forgiven; for although the Lord restored to him divine favor and communion, he punished him severely for his sin, as he had foretold by Nathan the Prophet (2 Sam. 12:11,12), Absolom’s rebellion being the means employed.

True, the penalty exacted was not the full penalty of sin, for that would have been lasting death. God showed mercy on David (as to all Jews under the Law Covenant established upon the basis of the typical sacrifices) in that he made allowance for his fallen condition and hence punished his sin, not with everlasting death, but with trouble, etc., in connection with Absolom’s rebellion, as above stated.

And as with David and others under the typical Law Covenant, so, too, it is with God’s children under the New Covenant in Christ. The death of Christ as our ransom-price cancels the original sin of Adam, and also such portion or degree of our sins and shortcomings as are involuntary and contrary to our real sentiments. But whatever proportion of a sin is wilful, designed and agreed to by us, has a penalty attached to be inflicted in either the present or the future life. And in the case of all who shall be members in the Anointed body, God declares that such sins shall be punished in the present life—saying through the Apostle “Some men’s sins go before to judgment [during the present life], others they follow after” into the next life, when some shall be beaten with many and some with a few stripes. And again it is specified that in the cases of all accounted worthy to be of the glorified Church,

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they are chastened now in order that they may not have part with the world in the condemnation (trial) of the world in the next age.—1 Tim. 5:24; Luke 12:48; 1 Cor. 11:32.

Verses 4 and 5. David’s confession here is to God—the wronged Uriah was dead. Anyway, in that day it was esteemed a king’s privilege to have the bodies and lives of his people subject to his will; and doubtless other kings habitually did as bad. But David had been enlightened and knew better, and although his offenses would have been lightly passed over by others, David realized his guilt before God and besought his mercy. He confessed his sin that others might know, when the chastisements of the Lord should come, that God’s judgments and the king’s troubles were just punishments and not violations of God’s covenant promises.

Verses 5-12. After confessing in verse 5 his original sin—his impairment through the fall—he shows in verse 6 his clear appreciation of the divine plan. Although fallen and weak in the flesh, and therefore unable to do perfectly, God looks for and demands purity of heart (purity of motive or intention) and this David realized he had not manifested. Hence his prayer in succeeding verses is not that the Lord shall excuse him in sin, but that his heart may be cleansed and brought into harmony with God’s character and plan. Alas! how strange that some living under the still clearer light of the Gospel dispensation fail to see what David so clearly expresses, and instead some even charge God with inspiring and causing all sin and crime and wickedness. But David was right, and these would-be wise ones have become darkened and foolish in their vain imaginations.

Verse 13. What a grand principle is here set forth. It is eminently proper that those who would be used of the Lord as teachers to instruct transgressors, whether in this or the coming age, should be fully consecrated to God—clean—pure in heart. And the only way to get to this condition is to lay hold by faith upon the merits of the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, and to have our sins blotted out by him, and then, too, to be renewed in spirit, sanctified through the truth.


— April 15, 1892 —