I. David prays against the guilt of sin, and prays for the grace of God, enforcing both petitions from a plea taken from the glory of God, which he promises with thankfulness to show forth. 1. He prays against the guilt of sin, that he might be delivered from that, and promises that then he would praise God, Ps. 51:14. The particular sin he prays against is blood-guiltiness, the sin he had now been guilty of, having slain Uriah with the sword of the children of Ammon. Hitherto perhaps he had stopped the mouth of conscience with that frivolous excuse, that he did not kill him himself; but now he was convinced that he was the murderer, and, hearing the blood cry to God for vengeance, he cries to God for mercy: “Deliver me from blood-guiltiness; let me not lie under the guilt of this kind which I have contracted, but let it be pardoned to me, and let me never be left to myself to contract the like guilt again.” Note, It concerns us all to pray earnestly against the guilt of blood. In this prayer he eyes God as the God of salvation. Note, Those to whom God is the God of salvation he will deliver from guilt; for the salvation he is the God of is salvation from sin. We may therefore plead this with him, “Lord, thou art the God of my salvation, therefore deliver me from the dominion of sin.” He promises that, if God would deliver him, his tongue should sing aloud of his righteousness; God should have the glory both of pardoning mercy and of preventing grace. God’s righteousness is often put for his grace, especially in the great business of justification and sanctification. This he would comfort himself in and therefore sing of; and this he would endeavour both to acquaint and to affect others with; he would sing aloud of it. This all those should do that have had the benefit of it, and owe their all to it. 2. He prays for the grace of God and promises to improve that grace to his glory (Ps. 51:15): “O Lord! open thou my lips, not only that I may teach and instruct sinners” (which the best preacher cannot do to any purpose unless God give him the opening of the mouth, and the tongue of the learned), “but that my mouth may show forth thy praise, not only that I may have abundant matter for praise, but a heart enlarged in praise.” Guilt had closed his lips, had gone near to stop the mouth of prayer; he could not for shame, he could not for fear, come into the presence of that God whom he knew he had offended, much less speak to him; his heart condemned him, and therefore he had little confidence towards God. It cast a damp particularly upon his praises; when he had lost the joys of his salvation his harp was hung upon the willow-trees; therefore he prays, “Lord, open my life, put my heart in tune for praise again.” To those that are tongue-tied by reason of guilt the assurance of the forgiveness of their sins says effectually, Ephphatha—Be opened; and, when the lips are opened, what should they speak but the praises of God, as Zacharias did? Luke 1:64.
II. David offers the sacrifice of a penitent contrite heart, as that which he knew God would be pleased with. 1. He knew well that the sacrificing of beasts was in itself of no account with God (Ps. 51:16): Thou desirest not sacrifice (else would I give it with all my heart to obtain pardon and peace); thou delightest not in burnt-offering. Here see how glad David would have been to give thousands of rams to make atonement for sin. Those that are thoroughly convinced of their misery and danger by reason of sin would spare no cost to obtain the remission of it, Mic. 6:6, 7. But see how little God valued this. As trials of obedience, and types of Christ, he did indeed require sacrifices to be offered; but he had no delight in them for any intrinsic worth or value they had. Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not. As they cannot make satisfaction for sin, so God cannot take any satisfaction in them, any otherwise than as the offering of them is expressive of love and duty to him. 2. He knew also how acceptable true repentance is to God (Ps. 51:17): The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. See here, (1.) What the good work is that is wrought in every true penitent—a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart. It is a work wrought upon the heart; that is it that God looks at, and requires, in all religious exercises, particularly in the exercises of repentance. It is a sharp work wrought there, no less than the breaking of the heart; not in despair (as we say, when a man is undone, His heart is broken), but in necessary humiliation and sorrow for sin. It is a heart breaking with itself, and breaking from its sin; it is a heart pliable to the word of God, and patient under the rod of God, a heart subdued and brought into obedience; it is a heart that is tender, like Josiah’s, and trembles at God’s word. Oh that there were such a heart in us! (2.) How graciously God is pleased to accept of this. It is the sacrifices of God, not one, but many; it is instead of all burnt-offering and sacrifice. The breaking of Christ’s body for sin is the only sacrifice of atonement, for no sacrifice but that could take away sin; but the breaking of our hearts for sin is a sacrifice of acknowledgment, a sacrifice of God, for to him it is offered up; he requires it, he prepares it (he provides this lamb for a burnt-offering), and he will accept of it. That which pleased God was not the feeding of a beast, and making much of it, but killing it; so it is not the pampering of our flesh, but the mortifying of it, that God will accept. The sacrifice was bound, was bled, was burnt; so the penitent heart is bound by convictions, bleeds in contrition, and then burns in holy zeal against sin and for God. The sacrifice was offered upon the altar that sanctified the gift; so the broken heart is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ; there is no true repentance without faith in him; and this is the sacrifice which he will not despise. Men despise that which is broken, but God will not. He despised the sacrifice of torn and broken beasts, but he will not despise that of a torn and broken heart. He will not overlook it; he will not refuse or reject it; though it make God no satisfaction for the wrong done him by sin, yet he does not despise it. The proud Pharisee despised the broken-hearted publican, and he thought very meanly of himself; but God did not despise him. More is implied than is expressed; the great God overlooks heaven and earth, to look with favour upon a broken and contrite heart, Isa. 66:1; Isa. 57:15.
III. David intercedes for Zion and Jerusalem, with an eye to the honour of God. See what a concern he had,
1. For the good of the church of God (Ps. 51:18): Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion, that is, (1.) “To all the particular worshippers in Zion, to all that love and fear thy name; keep them from falling into such wounding wasting sins as these of mine; defend and succour all that fear thy name.” Those that have been in spiritual troubles themselves know how to pity and pray for those that are in like manner afflicted. Or, (2.) To the public interests of Israel. David was sensible of the wrong he had done to Judah and Jerusalem by his sin, how it had weakened the hands and saddened the hearts of good people, and opened the mouths of their adversaries; he was likewise afraid lest, he being a public person, his sin should bring judgments upon the city and kingdom, and therefore he prays to God to secure and advance those public interests which he had damaged and endangered. He prays that God would prevent those national judgments which his sin had deserved, that he would continue those blessings, and carry on that good work, which it had threatened to retard and put a stop to. He prays, not only that God would do good to Zion, as he did to other places, by his providence, but that he would do it in his good pleasure, with the peculiar favour he bore to that place which he had chosen to put his name there, that the walls of Jerusalem, which perhaps were now in the building, might be built up, and that good work finished. Note, [1.] When we have most business of our own, and of greatest importance at the throne of grace, yet then we must not forget to pray for the church of God; nay, or Master has taught us in our daily prayers to begin with that, Hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come. [2.] The consideration of the prejudice we have done to the public interests by our sins should engage us to do them all the service we can, particularly by our prayers.
2. For the honour of the churches of God, Ps. 51:19. If God would show himself reconciled to him and his people, as he had prayed, then they should go on with the public services of his house, (1.) Cheerfully to themselves. The sense of God’s goodness to them would enlarge their hearts in all the instances and expressions of thankfulness and obedience. They will then come to his tabernacle with burnt-offerings, with whole burnt-offerings, which were intended purely for the glory of God, and they shall offer, not lambs and rams only, but bullocks, the costliest sacrifices, upon his altar. (2.) Acceptably to God: “Thou shalt be pleased with them, that is, we shall have reason to hope so when we perceive the sin taken away which threatened to hinder thy acceptance.” Note, It is a great comfort to a good man to think of the communion that is between God and his people in their public assemblies, how he is honoured by their humble attendance on him and they are happy in his gracious acceptance of it.