A Study of Psalm 51:1-5

David’s Sin and His Attempt to Hide It

David the king was a man after God’s own heart. But David also had a weak spot for women. One night David could not sleep, and he got out of his bed and walked on the roof of his palace. They built houses with flat roofs in those days. And from the roof David saw a woman washing herself, and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. David sent for the woman, and she came and he lay with her. Then she went back home and she conceived. That woman’s name was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. A few weeks later she sent a message to David: “I am with child”.

Now David tried to cover up his act of adultery, because the sin of adultery is punishable with death. David sent a messenger to Joab, the commander of the army to send to him Uriah the Hittite. Uriah came, and David inquired of him how the war was going. In the evening David said to him: “Go down to thy house and wash thy feet.” Then Uriah left David, but he did not go to his house. Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of David. So, David’s cover up did not work.

David tried it a second time. David invited Uriah to have dinner with him. David gave him food and much wine to drink. He made Uriah drunk. And in the evening Uriah did not go to his house, but he slept with the servants of David at the door of the king’s house. Uriah was a faithful servant of David.

The following morning David tried another ploy to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba. David wrote a letter to Joab, the commander of the army, and he wrote: “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and withdraw from him, so that he will die.” David sealed the letter and sent it with Uriah back to Joab. Uriah carried his own death sentence with him. Sure enough, a short time later Joab sent a messenger to David that Uriah the Hittite had died. When Bathsheba heard that her husband was dead she mourned for her husband, and based on other Scripture references she mourned for her dead husband seven days. When her time of mourning was past, David took her to be his wife. And about seven to eight months later she bare him a son.

I think of so many young girls who try to hide their sin of fornication by aborting the baby that they carry. They are doing exactly the same thing that David did: they are hiding their sin through murder. Now here is the irony of it all. David desperately tried to hide his sin of adultery, and he even followed it up with murder. But God wrote it in the Bible, and so it became known through the entire world what David had done. God wrote 450 years earlier in Numbers chapter 32:

Numbers 32:23
Be sure your sin will find you out.

What David had done displeased the Lord, and God sent Nathan the prophet to David. Nathan told David this story: There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had many flocks and herds, but the poor man had only one little ewe lamb (a female lamb), which he had bought, and it grew up together with him, and with his children, it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveler to the rich man. But instead of taking from his own flock, the rich man took the little ewe lamb from the poor man and served it to his visitor for dinner. And David’s anger was greatly kindled against that man, and David said: “As the Lord liveth, that man shall surely die”. And Nathan pointed his bony finger at David and said: “Thou art the man”. And David instantly knew that he was found out and that he could not hide any longer. And David said unto Nathan: “I have sinned against the Lord”.

You can read more of the details of this story in 2 Samuel, chapters 11 and 12, and in Psalms 32 and 38. And Nathan said to David:
“The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die, but the child that is born unto thee shall surely die.” God demonstrated here the principle of substitution. David the sinner would not die, but his descendant who had not sinned this great sin would die in his place. God already introduced this principle of substitution after Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. Only because God allowed the Lord Jesus Christ to be our stand-in do we have a Savior.

The title of this article is: ‘God Be Merciful to Me a Sinner’.

That was essentially the prayer of David when God wrote through the hands of David Psalm 51. So the child of David and Bathsheba died.

But can you see in all this the hand of God and the providence of God?

Think of:

The Providence of God (2 Samuel 12:24)

What is providence?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, providence is: “Divine guidance or care from God, who is conceived as the Person whose power is sustaining and guiding human destiny”. The universal providence of God is the basic assumption of all Scripture. Divine providence is the outworking of the divine decrees, which are:

Ephesians 1:11
..the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the council of His own will.

We read in 2nd Samuel chapter 12:

2 Samuel 12:24
And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him.

Did God know Solomon before the foundation of the world?


And did God know that Solomon would be the second son of David and Bathsheba?


Could God have stopped the adultery of David and Bathsheba?


But God did not stop it. In fact, God made sure that the evidence of David’s sin remained: God caused Bathsheba to conceive her first son. God did that! It was not God’s sin, because God cannot sin, neither does God tempt anyone to sin. But God knew her second son Solomon, and we read in 2 Samuel 12:24, “The Lord loved him”.
This means that Solomon was one of God’s elect, because God only loves them that are His.

And God knew David’s heart. We know from Psalm 32 and Psalm 38 that God’s hand was heavy on David for all those months. His conscience was nagging him. He never walked on the roof of his house without reflecting on that night when he saw Bathsheba. He never lay down to sleep without a sorrowful thought of the bed of his uncleanness. He never sat down to eat without thinking of the last meal he had with Uriah the Hittite. He never took a sip of wine without thinking of the time when he made Uriah drunk. He never took a pen in his hand without thinking of the execution of Uriah that he wrote and he signed. God put the squeeze on David for all those months.

David Acknowledged His Sin (Psalm 51:1-3)

David is aware of the wonder of mercy and pardon from God. But he cannot rest until he has made a full confession. To begin with, David expressed a sense of personal accountability. He does not try to blame the circumstances, or blame the Devil; he does not try to make Bathsheba share the guilt; David confesses that he alone is the guilty one. David’s conviction of his sin is stressed in the words: “my sin is ever before me”. Let’s read the first three verses of Psalm 51:

Psalm 51:1
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Psalm 51:2
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:3
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

What is David’s humble petition?

He pleads for mercy: “Blot out my transgressions”.

How are our transgressions blotted out?

Does God just wave His hand and pronounces us clean?


The Bible says that Almighty God is also a perfectly righteous God. The righteousness of God demands that each sin must be penalized by an eternity in Hell. If you slap a policeman in he face, you go to jail. If you slap the president of the United States in the face, you go to jail at least for a year. But if you slap Almighty God in the face, you go to Hell for an eternity. Every time we sin, we have slapped God in the face.

The Lord Jesus said:
“Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34).

Therefore, the first sin we commit, makes us a slave of sin. Whenever a baby sins, that baby becomes a slave of sin for the rest of his or her life.

Do babies commit sin?

When is it that we commit the first sin?

God says in Psalm 58:3 that:
“The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.”

And God says in Isaiah 48:8 that we are:
“called transgressors from the womb”.


Every baby commits sin, and therefore the whole human race is on the way to Hell, because we are all transgressors from the womb. In fact, since Adam’s sin infected our whole being, we are by nature children of wrath because, like Adam after the Fall, we are by nature inclined to sin and haters of God.

That is a sad story, but because it is on the pages of the Bible, we must believe it.

Is there then no one who goes to heaven?

Yes there are!

God, who is full of mercy, chose a people for Himself out of this miserable mess of mankind, and God determined to save those people from their awful destiny.

When did God choose those people?

The Bible says: He chose us before the foundation of the world. When God determined to save His elect, there was nothing that could hinder God from carrying out His plans. The Lord Jesus said that His elect are so secure in His hand that even:

The Hairs of Your Head are All Numbered (Luke 12:6-7)

Not a hair can fall from your head…

Luke 12:6
Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?

Luke 12:7
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

What does that mean: “The hairs of your head are all numbered”?

Does God know how many hairs are on our head?


But this verse goes much further. The hairs on our head are numbered: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, and so on. God’s providence covers all the details of our being, and of our life, and of our future. God even knows which sins we are going to commit long before we have committed them. But before God can take His people into God’s holy heaven, these people must be cleansed from all their sins. The righteousness of God must be satisfied. Therefore the Lord Jesus Christ had to come to this earth to take our place before the Judgment Throne of God, and to atone for our sins. The Lord Jesus Christ had to endure on the cross the penalty for our sins in our place, which was the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. Since Christ was fully God, He could endure such a great penalty.

David was one of God’s elect. David’s sins had to be atoned by the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world. Therefore all the Old Testament saints could be saved, because Christ already paid for their sins.

What was David’s humble petition?

David asked:
“according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1).

David asked the Lord Jesus Christ to atone for his sins on the cross of Golgotha. David actually pleaded the Lord Jesus Christ to go to Hell in his place.

That is right!

That is what we ask for when we plead for forgiveness. There is only one way any sin can be forgiven, and that is by Christ atoning for that sin on the cross and to suffer in our place the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. The Lord Jesus Christ did that almost 2000 years ago.

Did He pay for the sins of the whole human race?

If He did pay for the sins of the whole human race then no one would go to Hell in the life hereafter. God’s righteousness would not require that sins be paid twice. But the Lord Jesus said that there will be many who will end up in Hell, and that there will be few who end up in heaven. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ did not pay for the sins of everyone in the world. The Bible clearly records names of persons who will end up in Hell.

David pleaded for God to have mercy on him. David pleaded for mercy. What is:

The Mercy of God (Psalm 51:4-5)

What is grace, and what is mercy?

Grace is God giving us something we do not deserve. Mercy is God withholding from us what we do deserve. We do not deserve to go to heaven. We do not deserve to be called sons of God. If God gives us these things then we receive these honors entirely by grace, which means God bestows on us these honors entirely as a free gift. We do deserve to be under the wrath of God, and we do deserve to go to Hell. If God withholds these things from us, if God does not send us to Hell, then God bestows on us His mercy. But realize now what is involved in God’s mercy. In order to withhold Hell from us, the Lord Jesus Christ has to endure the equivalent of an eternity in Hell for us. The Lord Jesus did that while He hung on the cross. Therefore, anytime you see the word “mercy” in your Bible, make the mark of a cross next to it in the margin, because that is what it took for God to have mercy on us.

We read in the beginning of Psalm 51 the words:
“Have mercy upon me, O God.”

Place a cross there, because that is what David is asking for. When you petition God on behalf of someone you love, and you pray: “Lord, have mercy upon that individual”, then you are actually asking:
“Lord, is it possible that the Lord Jesus Christ could have endure the equivalent of an eternity in Hell for this person?

The mercy of God is available to all who sincerely ask God for mercy. Nobody is too rotten. Nobody can say: There is no hope for me. But nobody will ask, nobody will plead with the God of the Bible, unless God Himself puts that desire within us. We read in Psalm 51:4-5:

Psalm 51:4
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

Psalm 51:5
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Only a saved person will acknowledge that we have sinned against God. Only a saved person will agree that God does right all along. “That thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest” David agrees with God for the sentence passed upon him. That sentence was: “The sword shall never depart from thine house”. David bowed his head and accepted his sentence from God. Moreover, David said: “That Thou mightest be clear (or clean, pure) when Thou judgest”. God cannot be too severe when He passes judgment. God’s judgments are always righteous and just. And when God wants to be merciful, no one can criticize God for doing that. No one can blame God for being too merciful when He wants to be merciful.

God says in Romans 9:

Romans 9:15
“I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion”.

Romans 9:16
“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy”.

We do not deserve that God will have mercy on us. Mercy and grace are not bestowed on someone who is worthy, but on someone who is not worthy, because mercy and grace from God cannot be earned or deserved.

We read in verse 5:
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).

God does not say here that the act of conception or that the process of birth is sinful, but that a baby in the womb is already infected with sinfulness. This is a statement of the doctrine of original sin. It is not pleaded as an excuse, but it is called as a witness to the depth and extent of man’s need as a sinner. We are sinners from birth, but we are already damaged by sin from conception. Therefore, no one is worthy in the sight of God.

Where did David hear of the mercy of God?

David Heard From Nathan (2 Samuel 12:13)

2 Samuel 12:13
And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.

Here is where David heard from Nathan about the great mercy of God for His people. Here is where David heard of the great love that God has for His people, that God would send His only begotten Son into the world to atone for our sins, and that the world was not worthy of Him.
Nathan represented the Word of God.

Where do we learn about the great mercy of God?

We learn it from the Word of God. It is the Word of God that teaches us to say: “God be merciful to me a sinner”. The Word of God teaches us that there is forgiveness with God. There is forgiveness for every sinner who turns to Christ and pleads for mercy.

Here in Psalm 51:17 we read:
“A broken and a contrite (repentant) heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise”.

And the Lord Jesus said: “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out”. No one will be turned away for being too rotten. Go ahead. Turn to Christ and plead: “God be merciful to me a sinner”.

But to Whom do most people turn?

To whom does the majority of the world turn for mercy?

They turn to their man made idols. They turn to their gods whom they have fabricated in their minds. These are gods who cannot even respond to the whims of mortal man. These are gods who must wait to see if you really are making your contribution to this whole process of repentance and faith. People in these religions do not believe that they are spiritually dead, and that they cannot make any contribution to their salvation, because that is unacceptable to them. Therefore, they have fabricated salvation programs where God has done all He could, and now it is up to you to reach out and accept Him.

But this is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is omnipotent, and sovereign, and His grace cannot be frustrated.

Is this the God to whom you plead for mercy?

Do you really mean it?

Then you can be assured that “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).

This Psalm shows that everybody can fall into sin.

Nobody Is Exempt (1 Corinthians 10:11-13)

Nobody can say: “I am so holy, I cannot fall into sin”. God says: “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall”. On the one hand, this Psalm shows that everybody can fall into sin, but this does not mean that we have a license to sin.

No way!

David had a one-night stand, but this does not mean that we are entitled to a fling once in a while. That is not the life of a repentant sinner. Repentance means that we turn 180 degrees the other way. Repentance means that we live a life that is opposite of what we were used to. Repentance means that we no longer try to live on the edge of what is acceptable to God.

Furthermore, keep in mind what we read here in 1 Corinthians 10:11-13

1 Corinthians 10:11
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

1 Corinthians 10:12
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

1 Corinthians 10:13
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

All these things that we read about in the Old Testament happened to them for examples to us, for our admonition (for our learning), upon whom the ends of the world are come.

If we are the end time generation, and Christ is coming soon as the Judge, could we, in all honesty, declare to Him that we have lived a life that is worthy of a child of God?

If we have been living a life that is far from repentance, could we look Him straight in the face and say that this or that was just an accident?


God gave us a way out. God said in 1 Corinthians 10:13, that He is not tempting us to sin, but with the temptation that comes from Satan, or comes out of our own dirty mind, God will give us a way of escape, because God is faithful. Let us now return to Psalm 51.

Nobody is exempt from falling into sin, but “let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.” Nobody is exempt, and nobody should make excuses. David confessed his original corruption: “Lord, I have not only been guilty of adultery and murder, but I have an adulterous murderous nature. Therefore I abhor myself”.

Why do we live with a body that is inclined to sin?

We have to ascribe that to:

The Wisdom of God

God in His wisdom created us with a body and a soul. This is a distinction that is not always seen in the Scriptures. Sometimes the Bible uses the word “soul” to indicate the whole personality, and sometimes the Bible addresses the whole personality, when it actually is talking only about the soul. But here in Psalm 51:6, God speaks about both the body and the soul:

Psalms 51:6
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts (plural): and in the hidden (= closed up) part (singular) thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

Allow me to paraphrase that: Behold, Thou (God) desirest that I know the truth of the Word of God in the inward parts of my whole personality; in my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and in every fiber of my being. Moreover, in the closed up part that is in me, or in the closed up thing that is in me, Thou shalt make me to know the wisdom of knowing God. That closed up thing in me is referring to my soul. God makes me to know salvation in my soul. No ifs and buts: God makes me. I would never do it on my own volition, because by nature I am a hater of God. But now, God the Holy Spirit has regenerated my dead soul when I became born again. That was the moment of my salvation.

God, in His wisdom, has designed our souls and bodies that way. Symbolically, think of a human being as two concentric spheres. The outer sphere is the body, including the brain, which means it includes the mind and the will of that person. The inner sphere is the soul, which lives in that body. We know nothing about the soul, since it is a spirit. But the Bible says that when the body dies the soul will leave that body and either lives and reigns with Christ, or it goes to a place of silence.

For example, when we read in Ephesians 2, verses 1, 2 and 3 that we were dead in trespasses and sins, this refers to the soul of an unsaved human being. Our soul was dead to God, which means separated from God. Our desire was to do only evil continuously. Both our soul and body had no desire at all to please God, and in fact we were incapable of doing anything pleasing to God. That is why we were by nature the children of the wrath of God, even as others who never become saved.

On the other hand, when God made us born again, in Ephesians 2, verses 4, 5 and 6 we read that our soul is made alive to God, which means in communion with God, and owned by Christ. Our soul desires to please God. It is a new inner sphere. God’s Spirit comes to live within that soul to guarantee the perseverance of the saints. This=the First Resurrection

What about the body?

In the unsaved man the body lusts after sin, because the depraved soul influences this body, and the person becomes enslaved to sin both in body and soul. On the other hand, in the saved man the body still lusts after sin, but it is gradually changed, because the new spirit makes its presence known. The outer sphere is affected by the presence of a new inner sphere.

What about the mind of man?

Our mind resides in our brain, which is a part of the body.
In Romans, chapter 8, God speaks about:

The Mind of Man (Romans 8:5-8)

The mind of man is affected by the soul that dwells in him. A rotten soul feeds a rotten mind. On the other hand, a soul that delights in God feeds a mind that initially was depraved, but now more or less leans toward the things of God. God speaks about that in Romans 8:5-8,

Romans 8:5
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

Romans 8:6
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Romans 8:7
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Romans 8:8
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

The mind of an unsaved man cannot please God, because that mind resides in the body of an unsaved man who is owned by Satan, body and soul. The carnal mind is the fleshly mind. It is the mind with which we were born. It is a mind that only seeks after worldly pleasures, and worldly power and worldly fame. It is a mind that yearns after the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. And God says that this is a mind that seeks after the world, and not after God. This is how we can examine ourselves if we have been saved.

When we wake up in the morning, what is the first thing we are we thinking about?

When we do our business during the day, what is in the forefront of our mind?

Do we consciously meditate about the word of God at any time in the day?

When we go to bed at night, do we have any desire to speak to God about that day?

And God warns us: “To be carnally minded is death”, and God warns us again: “The carnal mind is enmity against God”. To have a carnal mind means that our soul is still in the clutches of Satan, and we are unable to subject ourselves to the Law of God, and we are unable to please God.

But what does the Bible say about a regenerate person?

A regenerate person has a new inner sphere. All his or her sins are gone, nailed to the cross. But a saved person still has the old body which lusts after sin. That is why it was possible that David fell into sin. What can we find in the Bible about:

The Body of Man is the outer sphere, the one that is externally visible. God says:

Romans 8:9
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Romans 8:10
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Romans 8:11
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

First of all, if we are saved, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. If we do not have the Holy Spirit, we are not saved. Secondly, the body is in subjection to the soul. Thirdly, the body is dead because of sin.

When the Apostle Paul says in Romans 7:18:
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing”,

Does this mean that we despise our bodies like the “Flagellants” did in the Middle Ages?


On the one hand we find in the Bible verses like Romans 7:18, reminding us that we still live in sinful bodies. But on the other hand we find in the Bible verses, which say that the body is called to serve the Lord with sacrifices of thanksgiving. We are to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable (well pleasing) unto God, our reasonable service. (Romans 12:1) And

God says:
“Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

It means that the body is also separated to serve God. In fact, we are called to serve the Lord with sacrifices.

Why does God speak about our bodies in two different ways?

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died to save both our bodies and souls. First He regenerates us and then on the Last day He will also save our bodies. He will cast out the old body, which is corrupt, and He will replace it with a new glorified body. We have read in:

Romans 8:11
He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Can you see the wisdom of God in all this?

By the mercy of God our bodies have also been called to serve the Lord with sacrifices of thanksgiving, and God graciously accepts those sacrifices, which are tainted by sin, but wherein Christ has already cleaned up the sin.

By Alfred Chompff

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