Do you ever feel torn between repentance and praise? Pondering this issue, Bible scholar Michael E. Travers explained: “It is this tension between guilty sinner and righteous God that creates the paradox of praise in the penitential psalms. When God forgives the sinner for his personal sins, it is only to be expected that the speaker should break forth in intense praise to the God who forgives him.”
Psalm 51 is a great example of this tension between repentance and praise. David had failed in dramatic fashion by committing both adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11). When he finally repented (2 Samuel 12), he wrote this psalm. True repentance involves at least five ingredients seen here: (1) An acute consciousness of and sorrow over specific sins (vv. 3, 17); (2) An understanding that all sin is first and foremost against God (v. 4); (3) An understanding of and sorrow over our general sinfulness (v. 5); (4) A strong faith in and desire for God’s love and mercy as our only hope (v. 1); and (5) A strong and urgent desire to be cleansed and transformed by God (vv. 1–2, 7–12, 14).
David didn’t deserve forgiveness, but he knew he could count on God’s mercy. This joy-filled anticipation caused him to break forth in praise (vv. 13–15). David failed, but God never fails, and David desired to proclaim God’s “unfailing love” and “great compassion” or “abundant mercy” (v. 1, ESV) to all who would listen. The covenant God had made with David (June 5) looks even more amazing now. God knew that David would sin. He knew Solomon would be the son of Bathsheba. In His promises to David, then, God—though only He knew it at that time—had pre-promised to bring blessing out of David’s future failure.
>> Do you ever include music or singing as part of your personal devotions? Today, we suggest listening to or singing the classic song, “Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God” (drawn from verses 10–12) as an appropriate and worshipful response to Psalm 51.