Why Psalm 51 is a Key Scripture to Understanding The Importance of Grace
One of the most authentic prayers in Scripture is in Psalm 51, written by David, the great king of Israel, after he sinned with Bathsheba and had her husband killed. This psalm reveals the transparency, depth, and intimacy of David’s relationship with God.
Even though David lived long before Yeshua walked the earth, the psalms show that he had a relationship with Messiah Jesus and was led by the Spirit of God. We see this, for example, in Psalm 110:1, where David writes, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’” The “Lord” David was referring to is Messiah Jesus. Yeshua even quoted David’s words in Psalm 110:1 to the Pharisees when they were trying to trap Him. Jesus asked, “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” The Pharisees answered Him, “The son of David.” Yeshua then asked, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet”’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?”
The Pharisees didn’t know how to respond to that. Somehow David understood a mystery of God’s nature that stumped even the religious elite of Jesus’ day. So as we prepare to study Psalm 51, let us bear in mind that David, the ancient Hebrew king, knew Messiah Jesus and the psalms were inspired by the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit.
In light of this, let’s now turn our attention to David’s prayer. Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Appealing to the God of Grace
David begins by saying, “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness.” The first thing David did is appeal to the God of grace. Paul did the same thing in his letters in the New Testament. He began each one by saying something along the lines of, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” David was appealing to this same One, asking Him to be gracious.
Why would David begin his prayer this way? It’s because of the nature of grace. While grace is many things, one important definition is that it is God’s undeserved love and empowerment to be accepted, favored, and loved by Him. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Grace is God’s love extended to us. It involves both God’s forgiveness and His empowerment to supernaturally walk with Him and know Him. So David begins his prayer by reaching out to a God who did not reward him according to his sins but who David knew is a God of love.
I want you to stamp that truth on your heart. The God we serve, the God of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and the Brit Chadashah (the New Testament) is a God who loves and accepts you for who you are, right where you are. This is why the Bible says we’ve been “accepted in the Beloved.” God accepts you right where you are, whoever you are, if you will look to Jesus.
David had confidence that his Creator is a God of love. David was not perfect. After all, he had sinned with Bathsheba and ordered the murder of her husband. I mean, how much worse does it get? Yet he still had confidence that his God loved him. That’s a lesson for you and me.