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11 Do not reject me.[a]
Do not take your holy Spirit[b] away from me.[c]
12 Let me again experience the joy of your deliverance.
Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey.[d]
13 Then I will teach[e] rebels your merciful ways,[f]
and sinners will turn[g] to you.

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  1. Psalm 51:11 tn Heb “do not cast me away from before you.”
  2. Psalm 51:11 sn Your holy Spirit. The personal Spirit of God is mentioned frequently in the OT, but only here and in Isa 63:10-11 is he called “your/his holy Spirit.”
  3. Psalm 51:11 sn Do not take…away. The psalmist expresses his fear that, due to his sin, God will take away the Holy Spirit from him. NT believers enjoy the permanent gift of the Holy Spirit and need not make such a request nor fear such a consequence. However, in the OT God’s Spirit empowered certain individuals for special tasks and only temporarily resided in them. For example, when God rejected Saul as king and chose David to replace him, the divine Spirit left Saul and came upon David (1 Sam 16:13-14). An alternative understanding of this verse is that the term Holy Spirit is simply metaphorical for the Lord’s presence, but this is unlikely given the other use of the term in Isa 63:10, where the Holy Spirit is personal and distinct from God himself.
  4. Psalm 51:12 tn Heb “and [with] a willing spirit sustain me.” The psalmist asks that God make him the kind of person who willingly obeys the divine commandments. The imperfect verbal form is used here to express the psalmist’s wish or request.
  5. Psalm 51:13 tn The cohortative expresses the psalmist’s resolve. This may be a vow or promise. If forgiven, the psalmist will “repay” the Lord by declaring God’s mercy and motivating other sinners to repent.
  6. Psalm 51:13 tn Heb “your ways.” The word “merciful” is added for clarification. God’s “ways” are sometimes his commands, but in this context, where the teaching of God’s ways motivates repentance (see the next line), it is more likely that God’s merciful and compassionate way of dealing with sinners is in view. Thanksgiving songs praising God for his deliverance typically focus on these divine attributes (see Pss 34, 41, 116, 138).
  7. Psalm 51:13 tn Or “return,” i.e., in repentance.