A Study of Psalm 51 -- By: Everett F. Harrison

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 092:365 (Jan 1935)
Article: A Study of Psalm 51
Author: Everett F. Harrison


A Study of Psalm 51

Everett F. Harrison

David, whether as shepherd, warrior, king or psalmist, presents a life in keeping with his name. Christian appraisal affirms that he who was “ever a lover of David” had a well-placed affection. We love him as we see him first, ruddy and of open countenance, stand wonderingly amidst his brethren as the holy anointing oil proclaimed him God’s chosen king. We love him as we hear his confession of faith to Saul. “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of the Philistine.” We love him as we listen to his battle hymn of triumph as king, for he has fought a good fight, his arm ever strengthened and his heart ever encouraged by the Lord. Something in this song particularly attracts our attention. It is the claim that his rise to absolute power has been accomplished without the loss of his integrity. “The Lord rewardeth me according to my righteousness: according to the cleanness of my hands does he recompense me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments are before me, and as for his statutes, I do not depart from them. And I have been perfect toward him, and I have kept myself from my iniquity. And the Lord hath recompensed me according to my righteousness; according to my cleanness before his eyes” (2 Sam 22:21–25). Will he retain his integrity?

History has demonstrated that it is easier for men, whether as individuals or nations, to fight their way to eminence than to retain this position. David the king, now possessing absolute power over the realm, faced a test more severe than the sorest battle. In a day of rest and relaxation, it became easy to act for sinful and selfish pleasure and

thereby undo the example of a lifetime. The act with its succeeding complications calls for no defence: it has none. But when, after a time, Nathan the prophet came in and skilfully aroused David’s indignation by the story of the rich man who robbed his poor neighbor of his cherished pet, and then openly accused the king-who is not amazed at David’s attitude and awed into profounder respect for Jesse’s son? Here is true greatness, the more so when we reflect that for the lowly as well as the high, confession of wrong-doing crosses the grain of pride and wounds it. Whereas the lowly man has no escape and must swallow his pride, the high has his devices and he will employ them to the limit to extricate himself. Behold a man, a king, an absolute monarch, pushing aside all defense and saying simply, “I have sinned.” The classic statement of Margoliouth sets the uniqueness of the act in fi...

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