Praying the psalms II: Looking at Ps 51 through 2019 eyes

Personal note: Some weeks are crazier than others as we all know. Today’s post is a short thought with scripture passages added in. I trust that you understand how the ideas are wrapped in scripture.

Last week I shared about the phrase, “Praying the psalms.”  Thinking about how to take ancient literature into a 21stcentury has kept me focused on this phrase.  

Today, reading Psalms 51, I also had to read the story of David and Bathsheba again because a study note mentioned that this particular psalm is the result of the story in 2 Samuel 12.  

The story is when King David saw Bathsheba and desired her so much that he arranged for the death of her husband so he could take her as a wife.  In order for you to know the story, I am inserting 2 Samuel 12 here:

Nathan Rebukes David

12 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives,the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for[a] the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

15 After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth[b] on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.

18 On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”

19 David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.

“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”

20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.

21 His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”

22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows?The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him; 25 and because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.[c]

26 Meanwhile Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal citadel.27 Joab then sent messengers to David, saying, “I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. 28 Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me.”

29 So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah, and attacked and captured it.30 David took the crown from their king’s[d] head, and it was placed on his own head. It weighed a talent[e] of gold, and it was set with precious stones. David took a great quantity of plunder from the city 31 and brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labor with saws and with iron picks and axes, and he made them work at brickmaking.[f] David did this to all the Ammonite towns. Then he and his entire army returned to Jerusalem.  [NIV]

I realize that is quite a bit of reading, but when reading Psalm 51, there is a reference to Nathan’s prophecy.  Here is Ps.51:

Psalm 51[a]

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
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,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
    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 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
    to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
    in burnt offerings offered whole;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.  [NIV]

The context of the two scriptures are connected and that reminds us that the psalms were written over a period of times and are not aligned chronologically.  The key is the themes and the purposes of the psalms. There really is a psalm for many of the issues that all of humanity deals with at some time or another. 

Praying the psalms can be done over and over.  Locating a particular psalm that fits one’s immediate need is possible, but today, I want to share how to modify a psalm to fit the need.

After I completed my reading and study of Ps. 51, I realized there were certain verses or couplets that made a stand-alone prayer for me to use at various times, not necessarily for the theme King David wrote this one.

Consider these verses as a prayer and join me in closing with them today (using the NLT):

Have mercy on me, O God,

          According to your steadfast love.  [v.1]

     Create in me a clean heart, O God,

          And put a new and right spirit within me.       [v.10]

     Restore to me the joy of your salvation 

         And sustain in me a willing spirit.  [v.12]

     The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken          spirit;

          A broken and contrite love, O God, 

         you will not despise. [v.17] Amen.

P.S.  Read on into 2 Samuel 13 and discover how King David suffered, grieved, repented and then continued forward remaining faithful to God who did forgive him of his sins.  We all need to remember that when we repent, God hears.

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