The bondage of habitual sin is more than brutal and sadly we often lose hope for ourselves or loved ones, even question salvation. Darrin Koone, a dear friend put this together for us; the 51st Psalm, David’s Lament after Nathan the prophet confronted him on his sin with Bathsheba.

Here is a great question to ponder before you read this: if YOU had known King David back in the day, and  knew what he had done with Bathsheba and Uriah and saw how long it went on; would you have questioned David’s salvation?

Our prayer as we study this together is that we would all see the grace God gave David in this and we would adopt that Biblical precedent in our own treatment of ourselves, our families and our church.

Psalm 51 commentary by Darrin Koone

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Have mercy on me, O God (‘elohiym), 

This is the exact same word used aver 50 times in the first 4 chapters of Genesis so David is definitely calling upon the God who creates things out of nothing which is extremely important.  David believes God will have to use his mercy to create again in his own life because he believes there is nothing there worthy of being transformed.

according to your unfailing love;

David is describing a love that is Merciful and Wholly Adequate for whatever the need is here. Merciful love is different from love because someone has done something for you or behaved in such a way as to draw you to them.

according to your great compassion

David is describing an abundant, overflowing gut wrenching feeling God has toward a sinner who is wanting to be free from their sin.  It is often spoken of as a truly physical feeling in a person’s gut that moves them to do something about a situation. Same idea as Mark 1:41 Jesus being moved with Compassion to heal a leper.    

blot out my transgressions.

“Blot” = literally a picture of God rubbing, scrubbing, wiping away our sin.  Transgression is representative of a boundary we have crossed, gone beyond, but it carries a stronger connotation than just stepping over a line.   It is a revolt against whatever boundaries God has given us.  An expansion of our ground much like invading another country because we are not satisfied with what we have been given.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

David is using a term here that envisions a lot of work of someone’s part. He is speaking of being trampled underfoot in water to wash clothing against the rocks to get the dirt out.  He also uses a word here to signify that this will need to be done over and over again.

David is speaking of being as pure as can possibly be.  Ceremonially, physically, and spiritually as pure as God himself, spotless and without blemish, innocent and without guilt.  “Morally uncontaminated.”  That’s a tall order but one he knows is possible.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

David is saying he is completely and totally aware of his sin.  This word is even used to “know one carnally / intimately”, inside and out you might say.   He knows exactly how well he has obliterated the boundaries set for him.

The word David uses here for SIN often carries with it the idea of habitual sin.  We often are willing to forgive “a sin”.  But in practice we often do not forgive the SINNER or one who is habitual in their sin.    David is saying that his sin is of a nature that it is there all the time.  He is constantly aware because it is constantly a struggle for him whether this is just because of the consequences or in practice.   He wants to fix that but it is still an issue for him.

The word he uses for always is an all-encompassing type of feeling.  He is saying that he cannot escape it.  Meaning everywhere I turn I am reminded of my sin.  I cannot escape it unless someone outside of it comes in to help me.

We can see here that we do not need to remind the habitual sinner of their sin anymore.  They are consumed by it and tortured by it.  We may need to help guide them to the one who help but the last thing they need is to be reminded of their sin.

It is no wonder most addicts are wishing and hoping for someone to come along and fix there problem.   They feel helpless to do it….   But that hunger is really a vacuum that only God can take care of.   I think David is feeling very much the same here.


Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.

This is not the best translation of this thought in my opinion. I kind of understand why it was translated this way but the Hebrew gives the idea that “besides anyone else, I have definitely sinned against you and you for sure” David is not saying he did not sin against anyone else.   This is in fact a sin against thousands of people.  A whole nation and people group since he as the government leader as well as one of the spiritual leaders and as such would have way more accountability to God and in God’s economy of things.  I think that is the idea he is covering here.

Ultimately this is David’s confession.   This is where he is saying,  I agree with you God that I have sinned and blown it and whatever you decide about me and my sin from this point is just and right.  Even though I sinned against many people you are my only true judge.  


Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

This is where the grace meets the sin.  David is saying God will have to use the same power he used to create the heavens and earth or literally David in his mother’s womb to create a pure heart in him.   Not to fix the heart he has but literally to create something NEW.     He is saying there is nothing for God to work with therefore God will have to create something.

The word he uses for renew is different.  It means to repair and make like new again.   But this is different word than create.   David is saying a new heart will need to be created and then his spirit can be repaired. 


Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

The phrases David uses here are very significant.

  1. Do not cast me away from your presence or face.  Meaning that God has not yet done this.
  2. Do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Again meaning he has not yet done this.

David was obviously living his life as if God had turned away from him and taken His Spirit from him according to Psalms 32 and 2 Samuel 12. However, God had not yet abandoned David to his sin and depravity.

I honestly believe this is precisely why David felt physically, mentally and spiritually depressed as he talks about in Psalm 32.   God’s spirit was with him and God’s face was still looking upon him and shame of living in God’s presence while still trying to hide one’s sin is unbearable.


Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Restoring the Joy of one’s salvation and restoring your salvation are two different acts. Both are often needed but in this case David is only saying that even though you have not abandoned me I feel as if you have or at least as if I have abandoned you and therefore I cannot receive the JOY and be sustained by the JOY of being saved.


Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.

After you have restored the joy of my salvation I will teach other folks who also have trouble with boundaries about your good and safe ones.  I will help them understand those boundaries are a blessing and actually let me run free in your love and safety without fear or regret.

The purpose of my teaching is redemptive.  As opposed to condemnation.   David is talking about the worse type of sinners here but it is critical to understand he is not saying anything in condemnation.  His only intent here is redemption and restoring of relationship between parties who have been separated.   The next verse pretty much confirms David’s mindset.


Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

David is saying I need you to snatch me out of this place where I find myself guilty of slaughter.  He is using a phrase here that is reassuring to him.  God (‘elohiym) who creates and saves. In other words if you can create me you can save me.

Sing is not quite strong enough for what David is saying here.   He is saying my mouth will not be able to stay shut on this matter.   It will be like a creaking board that has to squeak when it is stepped on.   My tongue will be like that of a little girl screaming out with glee. Specifically about how right you are.


Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.

David is envisioning a strong God who is in total control here releasing his mouth after it has been bound up by his own sin.  The term open here signifies especially after one has been silent by force.  David is saying my lips have been in bondage to my sin and shame but you are powerful enough to release them for this task.

Declaring praise here is a very purposeful and specific endeavor.  He is saying I will with purposefully create songs of your greatness.


You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

David is saying God is not moved by or satisfied with sacrifices. But David is considering what would be pleasing to God.   Do I do something to please Him or do I be something to please Him? 


My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

David is using the word “shabar” which is the same word Isaiah used when he discusses the mission of the Christ. SHABAR MEANS

  1. break, break in or down, rend violently, wreck, crush, quench

The word for contrite is a bit stronger.   This is a crushed or collapsed heart.   Meaning there is no more arrogance of heart here.  This heart is flat and without outside help will not be doing much.

Will not despise is referring to the fact that God does despise a puffed up heart, arrogance, and sin that results from these attitudes.   And that sacrifice does nothing to take care of these problems….  Only a changed heart does.


May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.


Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.