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Psalm 51 1
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. 14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

clip_image097Background

This is considered one of the Psalms of David. It reflects David’s lament and request for forgiveness when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Psalm 51 is one of the seven Penitential Psalms. These seven psalms have served as a special source of prayer and reflection during Lent for centuries. The tone of their honest pleading is compelling and invites us to turn to our Lord with the same candor and desire. The other six psalms are 6, 32, 38, 102, 130 and 143.

Biblical Truths

Psalm 51, a lament, is the most famous of the seven Penitential Psalms. It prays for the removal of the personal and social disorders that sin has brought. The poem has two parts of approximately equal length: Psalm 51:3-10 and Psalm 51:11-19, and a conclusion in Psalm 51:20-21. The two parts interlock by repetition of “blot out” in the first verse of each section (Psalm 51:3, 11), of “wash (away)” just after the first verse of each section (Psalm 51:4) and just before the last verse (Psalm 51:9) of the first section, and of “heart,” “God,” and “spirit” in Psalm 51:12, 19. The first part (Psalm 51:3-10) asks deliverance from sin, which is not just a past act but its emotional, physical, and social consequences. The second part (Psalm 51:11-19) seeks something more profound than wiping the slate clean: nearness to God, living by the spirit of God (Psalm 51:12-13), like the relation between God and people described in Jeremiah 31:33-34. Nearness to God brings joy and the authority to teach sinners (Psalm 51:15-16). Such proclamation is better than offering sacrifice (Psalm 51:17-19). The last two verses ask for the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Psalm 51:19 [20-21]).

Verse 5 defines the psalmist as a sinner, even as his mother conceived him: literally, “In iniquity was I conceived,” an instance of hyperbole 2: at no time was the psalmist ever without sin. (See Psalm 88:15, “I am mortally afflicted since youth,” i.e., I have always been afflicted.) The verse is not implying that the sexual act of conception is sinful.

Hyssop is a small bush whose many woody twigs make a natural sprinkler. It was prescribed in the Mosaic law as an instrument for sprinkling sacrificial blood or lustral water for cleansing. (See Exodus 12:22; Lev 14:4; Numbers 19:18.)

Verse 16 “You do not delight in sacrifice” helps us understand that the mere offering of the ritual sacrifice apart from good dispositions is not acceptable to God. (See Psalm 50).

There is a belief by many scholars that the last two verses were added to the psalm some time after the destruction of the temple in 587 B.C. The verses assume that the rebuilt temple will be an ideal site for national reconciliation.

Items for Discussion

  • Can you find the three main points of this psalm?
  • What is David praying for in this psalm? (1-2)
  • What does God desire of David? (6)
  • In praying for forgiveness, what does David ask God to do? (7-12)
  • In praying for restoration, what does he ask God to do? (7-12)
  • What two things does David promise to do when forgiven? (13-15)
  • What does God desire more than burnt offering? (16-17)

 

Romans 8:31-39
31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Background

The Epistle to the Romans was written to Christians residing in the city of Rome (1:7, 15). Rome was the center of the Empire and was ethnically diverse. In the first century AD it had a population of around one million people in an area less than ten square miles. Of this large population, it is estimated that there was between 40,000 and 50,000 Jews in the city. The Jewish population dates back to the second century BC as part of the Diaspora. In AD 64 there was a large fire in Rome that led Nero to expulse the Jews. This also resulted in the first major persecution of the Church.

It is unclear how the church in Rome originally began. The best explanation is that the Romans who were present at Pentecost (Acts 2:10-11) eventually made their way back to Rome and started a church in one of the synagogues. However, there are also other explanations. “All roads lead to Rome” was the popular saying that demonstrated the city’s importance and accessibility. It should not be surprising that there was already an established church before Paul’s arrival. People who may have heard the gospel in Asia, Greece, or elsewhere could have traveled to Rome. In Romans 16 Paul greets several people, with the most notable of these being Priscilla and Aquila. Both Aquila and Priscilla were in Rome until about AD 49 when Claudius expelled all the Jews from the city (Acts 18:2). Paul probably met the couple when he came to Corinth. They did further ministry in Ephesus (Acts 18:19) around AD 53. From there they went to Rome. It is likely that they were not the first ones to bring the gospel to Rome. A church was probably already established as it is noted that Paul greets the church that met in their house (16:5).

Of course the city of Rome was predominately populated by Gentiles and so it is expected that the church was comprised of both Jewish and Gentile believers (cf. 1:6, 7:1). Paul addresses both groups in this epistle.

Biblical Truths

Many believers today seem to lose the wonder of what God has done for them. In these verses, we can see that Paul never lost that wonder.

  1. THE WONDER OF GOD FOR US (8:31)
    1. The God Who is For Us (Psalm 56:9)
    2. None Can Oppose Us (Isaiah 54:17)
  2. THE WONDER OF GOD’S FREE GIFTS (8:32)
    1. The Free Gift of His Son (John 3:16)
    2. The Free Giving of All Things (Psalm 84:11)
  3. THE WONDER OF DIVINE JUSTIFICATION (8:33)
    1. God has Justified (Romans 3:24; 5:1)
    2. None Can Press Charges
    3. The attempts of the devil (Revelation 12:9-10)
    4. The forgiveness of Christ (John 8:10-11)
  4. THE WONDER OF CHRIST’S INTERCESSION (8:34)
    1. The Payment He Made on the Cross
    2. The Position He has with the Father (Ephesians 1:19-23)
    3. The Pleading He Makes for the Saints (Hebrews 7:24-25)
  5. THE WONDER OF CHRIST’S KEEPING LOVE (8:35)
    1. The Fact of No Separation (John 10:28-30)
    2. The Act of No Separation
    3. Not tribulation
    4. Not distress
    5. Not persecution
    6. Not famine
    7. Not nakedness
    8. Not peril
    9. Not sword
  6. THE WONDER OF BEING CONQUERORS (8:36-37)
    1. Though Counted as Sheep for the Slaughter (8:36)
    2. We Stand as More Than Conquerors (8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14)
  7. THE WONDER OF FULL PERSUASION (8:38-39)
    1. The Feeling of Persuasion (8:38)
    2. The Range of His Love (8:38-39)
      1. Death
      2. Life
      3. Angels
      4. Principalities
      5. Powers
      6. Things present
      7. Things to come
      8. Height
      9. Depth
      10. Any other creature
    3. The Container for His Love (8:39) – In Christ Jesus our Lord

Items for Discussion

  • Can anyone bring a charge against a Christian?
  • Is there someone who tries to bring charges against the Christian?
  • Are Satan’s accusations valid? Will they hold up in court?
  • Who condemns the believer before God?
  • What can separate the Christian from the love of God?
  • Using Paul’s list, what is your greatest wonder?
  • A child always seems to find wonder in the simplest things around them. With time, they learn to be bored by everything. A new Christian is caught up in the wonder of God’s great salvation. Why does our wonder leave us? How can we get it back?

Additional Study Notes

Items for Discussion in Psalm 51
  • Can you find the three main points of this psalm?
    • David’s plea (1-12)
    • David’s promise (13-17)
    • David’s prayer (18-19)
  • What is David praying for in this psalm? (1-2)
    • For God to have mercy upon him
    • For God to blot out his transgressions
    • For God to wash and cleanse him from his sin
  • What does God desire of David? (6)
    • Truth in the inward parts
    • Wisdom in the hidden part
  • In praying for forgiveness, what does David ask God to do? (7-12)
    • Purge him with hyssop, that he might be clean (note the figurative language again)
    • Wash him, that he might be whiter than snow
    • Hide His face from his sins
    • Blot out all his iniquities
  • In praying for restoration, what does he ask God to do? (7-12)
    • Make him hear joy and gladness
    •  Make his broken bones rejoice
    • Create in him a clean heart
    • Renew a steadfast spirit in him
    • Not cast him away from His presence
    • Not take His Holy Spirit from him
    • Restore to him the joy of His salvation
    • Uphold him with His generous Spirit
  • What two things does David promise to do when forgiven? (13-15)
    • Teach transgressors the ways of God
    • Sing aloud the righteousness of God
  • What does God desire more than burnt offering? (16-17)
    • A broken and contrite heart
Items for Discussion in Romans 8:31-39
  • Can anyone bring a charge against a Christian?
    • No one! It is God who justifies. If God is the Judge and He declares us justified, that settles it.
  • Is there someone who tries to bring charges against the Christian?
    • Yes. Satan tries. In Revelation 12:10, we read that he is the accuser of the brethren, accusing us before God day and night.
  • Are Satan’s accusations valid? Will they hold up in court?
    • Yes, his accusations are valid because we sin. But are thrown out of court because God is both Judge and Justifier of the believer.
  • Who condemns the believer before God?
    • No one. Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God making intercession for us. He is the One who died for us and paid the penalty of sin. The payment is guaranteed by Christ’s resurrection and ascension
  • What can separate the Christian from the love of God?
    • Nothing! See Romans 8:35-39 for a full answer.
  • Using Paul’s list, what is your greatest wonder?
    • As a personal question, please share.

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. A figure of speech in which deliberate exaggeration is used for emphasis. Many everyday expressions are examples of hyperbole: tons of money, waiting for ages, a flood of tears, etc.
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