Psalm 51 Passion

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.


I am speaking this weekend about mission and passion.  I am going to develop a sermon/talk from Psalm 51 where David’s passion is on display.  David’s passion for God had been rivaled by his passion for Bathsheba.  Somehow he had silenced his conscience and only seems to have repented fully when the prophet Nathan brought him to his senses.  We all have a variety of passions and those passions pull us in various directions.  Foolishly our passions warp our sense of reality and we start redefining the truth to justify our actions.  We need someone to be a truth-teller, or a prophet, like Nathan was to David so that we see the mess that we are creating.  I have had times when the abyss of my own passions has become clear to me, and the horror of the realisation of what I had embraced became real to me.  It is like a smoker who has a passion for cigarettes and then has to face the painful news that they are dying of lung cancer.  It is the Casanova who falls for a woman who gives herself to a string of lovers.  There are circumstances where God’s design for the world and the horor of living in rebellion become all too clear.

God sometimes takes us to those places and we need to cry out to God for restoration and forgiveness so that we can lead others to him.  The wounded healer can emphasize the foolishness and the darkness of sin.  However, to do so they must rediscover the passion for the truth.  They must see God’s unfailing love, grace, and forgiveness.  Sometimes we take God for granted, but he lets us fall so that we will return with a level of gratitude that was unavailable to us without falling away.

I have a passion to restore souls because I see how mine is restored.


  1. What was the cause of this psalm?
  2. For what does David plead before he can lead others to God?
  3. How did David’s passion for rebellion die within him?
  4. What passions vie for your attention?
  5. How do you maintain a passion for God and his work to draw others to himself?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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2 Responses to Psalm 51 Passion

  1. Kelli says:

    LOML, I resonate with your final two sentences. “Sometimes we take God for granted, but he lets us fall so that we will return with a level of gratitude that was unavailable to us without falling away. I have a passion to restore souls because i see how mine is restored.”

    This has been my experience as well. When we truly understand the depths of our own depravity and the enormity of God’s grace and forgiveness, we can’t help but fall on our face and fall in love.

    David’s prayer in Psalm 51 is gut wrenching. His desire to be cleansed and brought back into full fellowship with his God is palpable. I want this same passion–a fierce passion to eradicate sin in my life, a passion for God’s cleansing, and a passion to share with others the freedom that is avaiable in forgiveness.

  2. Kristen Patush says:

    I recite this psalm everyday. Brokenness has been a theme in my life the past few years. I’ve found that when I am most broken, and feel so helpless so far down in my sin, that that is when God moves most nightly in my life and reveals His glory and grace. Receiving His mercy in the midst of my sin and ugly disobedience to Him causes me to run in the path of His commandments. It is in Him I experience what freedom is, and it is in Him that I find rest and satisfaction. He causes passion to bubble up with in me as a result of His grace at work in my life. I don’t deserve His mercy for the filthiness I succumb to. My renewed and restored soul causes me to reach out to people, so that they may know that same renewal and restoration in their own lives.

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