January 10, 2021

Liturgy of the Psalms- Psalm 51 "Create in me a Clean Heart"

Scripture Reading: Psalm 51
In the words of the psalms we hear the liturgy of the Church. Within the 150 psalms we hear calls to Worship, Confession, and Prayer; Listening and Giving. We hear words of Lament and Joy; Fragility and Confidence; words of Sending and Blessing.

In a Sunday worship service, we move from the “Call to Worship” into a time of “Confession and Assurance” where we hear of God’s grace. Last week we heard the words of Psalm 95 which call us to worship. Today we have heard from Psalm 51 which is a call to confession and assurance of pardon. There’s a reason we design our worship services the way we do. Worship that is God-centered and based on the Bible will know that we enter God’s presence by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. To be called to worship is, first of all, God coming to us. God comes to us because he wants to have a real and loving relationship with us. For this to happen, we need God’s grace. In worship we are reminded that we are not the center of the universe and that we should never be arrogant or presumptuous in our approach to God. We come to God on God’s terms and God has given us his love and grace in Jesus Christ.


 Who is the author of Psalm 51? What has he done? (see II Samuel 11-12)

All sin is an affront to the Holy and Sovereign God of the universe. All sin must be confessed and ultimately that confession is a cry for God’s grace which is given in Jesus. To understand Psalm 51, we need to hear it as a Christ-centered prayer. The apostle John writes, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

James Montgomery Boice outlines Psalm 51 in this way:

  1. The approach to God, a cry for forgiveness (verses 1-2)
  2. Confession of sin (verses 3-6)
  3. An appeal for cleansing (verses 7-9)
  4. Desire for inward renewal, creating of a pure heart (verses 10-12)
  5. A promise to teach others the lessons he has learned (verses 13-17)
  6. A concluding prayer for the prosperity of Zion (verses 18-19)


 What are some of the Commandments which David has broken?

What does he ask God to give him in verse 10? What does this mean?

In Christ we are a New Creation. In Christ we have a new and right spirit within us. Apart from this re-creation we are alienated from God. Sin will do that if we give it the power and control over our lives. In Psalm 51:11 David writes, “Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.” This might sound as if a person could lose their salvation once given. However, Reformed people do not believe that. We believe in the “Perseverance of the Saints”. We believe those who are called by God will come to him and will be saved. We hang on to the words of Jesus in John 10 where he says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one will snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” 


 David is not asking for his salvation to be given back to him. What does he want? (look carefully at Psalm 51:12)

Who was the prophet who confronted David? Is he forgiven for his sin?

The Conclusion:

Worship reminds us and Psalm 51 teaches, there is no excuse for those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ to be miserable and pessimistic people in this world. If God has restored us in his grace then the “joy of salvation” should be in us. We can have a positive worldview that focusses on God’s Kingdom and a security that rests in the finished work of salvation for us at the cross of Christ. To be “restored” is to be in the grace and peace that comes from our Savior.

The God who calls us in Christ is faithful and he has done all that we are asking of him in the words of Psalm 51. We are a New Creation. Our hearts have been made new in Christ. God has given us his Holy Spirit by which we can begin to live holy lives in this world. And God will restore the “joy of salvation” to all who really hear his Gospel Word! Amen.