Psalms 51:4 MEANING

Psalm 51:4
(4) Against thee, thee only . . .--This can refer to nothing but a breach of the covenant-relation by the nation at large. An individual would have felt his guilt against the nation or other individuals, as well as against Jehovah. The fact that St. Paul quotes (from the LXX.) part of the verse in Romans 3:4 (see Note, New Testament Commentary) has naturally opened up an avenue for discussion on the bearing of the words on the doctrines of free-will and predestination. But the immediate object of his quotation appears to be to contrast the faithfulness of the God of the covenant with the falsehood of the covenant people ("Let God be true, and every man a liar"). The honour of God, as God of the covenant, was at stake. It is this thought which appears in the last clauses of this verse.

That . . .--So that (or, in order that) thou art (or mayest be) justified in thy cause, and clear in thy judgment. The Hebrew, rendered in the Authorised Version when thou speakest, is often used of a cause or suit (see (Exodus 18:16-22, "matter," &c), and it is here plainly used in this sense and is parallel to judgment. The clause seems to imply not only a sense of a breach of the covenant, but some manifest judgment from Jehovah in consequence; and, as usual, it is of its effect on the heathen that the psalmist thinks. The Divine honour would be justified when the suffering nation confessed that condemnation and punishment had been deserved. This was apparently the meaning read in the words by the LXX.

Verse 4. - Against thee, thee only, have I sinned. Though no sins could be more directly against man than adultery and murder, yet David feels that that aspect of them shrinks away into insignificance, and is as if it were not, when they are viewed in their true and real character, as offences against the majesty of God. Every sin is mainly against God; and the better sort of men always feel this. "How can I do this great wickedness," says Joseph, when tempted by Potiphar's wife, "and sin against God?" And so David to Nathan, when he was first rebuked by him, "I have sinned against the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:13). And done this evil in thy sight; that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Clear in the eyes of the world, that is; free from all charge of harshness or injustice, when thou judgest me, and condemnest me for my sins, as thou must do.

51:1-6 David, being convinced of his sin, poured out his soul to God in prayer for mercy and grace. Whither should backsliding children return, but to the Lord their God, who alone can heal them? he drew up, by Divine teaching, an account of the workings of his heart toward God. Those that truly repent of their sins, will not be ashamed to own their repentance. Also, he instructs others what to do, and what to say. David had not only done much, but suffered much in the cause of God; yet he flees to God's infinite mercy, and depends upon that alone for pardon and peace. He begs the pardon of sin. The blood of Christ, sprinkled upon the conscience, blots out the transgression, and, having reconciled us to God, reconciles us to ourselves. The believer longs to have the whole debt of his sins blotted out, and every stain cleansed; he would be thoroughly washed from all his sins; but the hypocrite always has some secret reserve, and would have some favorite lust spared. David had such a deep sense of his sin, that he was continually thinking of it, with sorrow and shame. His sin was committed against God, whose truth we deny by wilful sin; with him we deal deceitfully. And the truly penitent will ever trace back the streams of actual sin to the fountain of original depravity. He confesses his original corruption. This is that foolishness which is bound in the heart of a child, that proneness to evil, and that backwardness to good, which is the burden of the regenerate, and the ruin of the unregenerate. He is encouraged, in his repentance, to hope that God would graciously accept him. Thou desirest truth in the inward part; to this God looks, in a returning sinner. Where there is truth, God will give wisdom. Those who sincerely endeavour to do their duty shall be taught their duty; but they will expect good only from Divine grace overcoming their corrupt nature.Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,.... All sin, though committed against a fellow creature, being a transgression of the law, is against the lawgiver; and, indeed, begins at the neglect or contempt of his commandment, as David's sin did, 2 Samuel 12:9; and being committed against God, that had bestowed so many favours upon him, was a cutting consideration to him, which made his sorrow appear to be of a godly sort; wherefore he makes his humble and hearty confession to the Lord, and who only could forgive his sin;

and done this evil in thy sight; for with respect to men it was secretly done; and was only known to God, with whom the darkness and the light are both alike;

that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest; not that David committed this sin that God might be just, and pure, and holy; but this was the event and consequence of it: God, by taking notice of it, resenting it, and reproving for it, appeared to be a righteous Being, and of purer eyes than to behold sin with pleasure; see Exodus 9:27. Or these words may be connected with his acknowledgment and confession of sin; which were done to this end and purpose, to justify God in his charge of it upon him, and in threatening him with evils on account of it, by the mouth of Nathan the prophet: or with his petitions for pardoning grace and mercy; that so he might appear to be just to his promise, of forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, to humble penitents; and particularly that he might appear to be just and faithful to his Son, in forgiving sin for his sake; whom he had set forth, in his purposes and promises, to be the propitiation for sin, to declare his righteousness, Romans 3:25; see Romans 3:4.

Courtesy of Open Bible