Theme: Blessing for Zion
In this week’s lessons we learn that confession of our sin also involves the desire for our inward renewal, as well as the fact that what we do affects other people, for good or ill.
Scripture: Psalm 51:10-19
Teaching is not the only thing David wants to do however. He also wants to praise God rightly. He wants to praise God out of a broken spirit and a contrite heart.
This is the way in which we are to understand his words about sacrifices and burnt offerings in verse 16. Earlier, when I was discussing verse 7, I pointed out that the prayer “cleanse me with hyssop” is a reference to ceremonial purification by sprinkling with the blood of an animal sacrificed for sin. It is a recognition that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). Does verse 16 mean that David is contradicting himself now, that he was wrong earlier and that God does not actually want sacrifices? Or that sacrifices have no value? Not at all! Forgiveness is on the basis of the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ. There is no forgiveness without faith in him. However, having been justified by faith in Christ, we are not to think that a right relationship with God is now somehow to be retained or advanced ceremonially, as if sacrifices without an upright heart can please God. They cannot. What God requires in regenerate people is a yielded spirit which will express itself in willing obedience to the law of God and in righteousness.
To put it in New Testament terms, it is what Paul writes in Romans when he asks those who have been justified, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! we died to sin; how can we live in it any longer” (Rom. 6:1, 2)? The proof of the forgiveness described in Psalm 32:7-9 is found in the altered heart attitudes depicted in verses 13-17.
Yes, and in verses 18 and 19, too. These two verses, the last of the six sections of this psalm, are a prayer for God’s blessing on Zion, that God would prosper the city, build up its walls and make it a place where godly people could continue to present their sacrifices.
These last verses have been used by some writers, even conservative ones, as an argument against David’s authorship of the psalm or at least his authorship of the final verses. Alexander Maclaren argues that these verses are a liturgical addition since the walls were not down and did not need to be rebuilt.8 Derek Kidner and Stewart Perowne believe that the words were added during the Jewish captivity or following the exile.9 This is possible, of course. But it is also possible that the verses are not added or misplaced, that David, having confessed his sin, now contemplates the bad effect it may have had upon the nation and prays about it.
As for the walls being built up, two views are possible. David may be speaking metaphorically, suggesting that the strength of Jerusalem is in the righteousness of its people and that this had been weakened because of his sin and now needed to be restored. Or he may be speaking literally, since the walls, buildings and temple, were not completed until the days of Solomon (1 Kings 3:1). In this case, David would be praying that this important work might not be hindered by his sin and might continue.
Let us remember that everything we do affects other people, whether for good or evil. It is not true that we can sin “as long as it does not hurt anyone,” because it does. But it is also true that those who confess their sin find forgiveness and renewal, teach others the ways of God, and become a blessing.
Why does David pray for Zion?
From the lesson, what is the proof of forgiveness?
Application: What are some ways that our sin hurts others? Be attentive to times when your words, actions, or attitudes will affect others in either a positive or negative way.
For Further Study: True joy can only come from the knowledge that our sins have been cleansed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. For more teaching on the joy of the Lord, download for free and listen to Donald Barnhouse’s message, “The Joy of the Lord.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
8Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms, vol. 2, Psalms 39-89 (New York: A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1893), p. 141.
9Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1973), p. 194; and J. J. Stewart Perowne, Commentary on the Psalms, 2 vols. in 1 (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989), vol. 1, p. 423. Original edition 1878-1879.