One of the greatest things about studying the Psalms is the wealth of truth to be found about both God and ourselves. As I read Psalm 51, I became amazed that I could simultaneously gain insight into the mind and ways of both God and man. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that truth pertaining to the creator would also shed light on the creature, but as I began make notes highlighting truths about God, I was amazed to find an equal amount of truths about myself.
It’s important for us to remember that Scripture contains only those truths that God has chosen to reveal about himself. It does not, nor could not, contain all truth about God. He is infinite, and the pages of Scripture are finite. As has been said, as God is limitless, we can look forward to spending eternity learning about Him. Right from the start and continuing through the entire Psalm, we see that God is gracious, loving and compassionate, even when we are not. We cannot take these attributes of God for granted, however. Jesus exhorts us in Matthew 6:14-15 that God will hold back his forgiveness if we fail to exhibit a forgiving spirit ourselves.
All through the Psalm David is seeking relief from the heavy burden his sin has placed on his heart. He longs to be freed from the pain of the constant mindfulness of his own wickedness. There is an interesting plea that David makes in verse 14. He asks that God deliver him from bloodguiltiness. The only other instances where this word appears are in the Pentateuch. There is described those sins where the guilt of shedding blood is upon those who’ve committed acts of violence, or committed sins resulting in their own blood being shed. Nowhere else in Scripture do we find the removal of bloodguiltiness expressed; and, we know that for the remainder of his days, David’s house would be one of violence and bloodshed.
For me this begs the question, does the forgiveness of sin result in the removal of guilt? In other words, does justification remove the guiltiness of our sin? Remember, justification refers to our forensic, or legal, status before God. When God declares us justified, He is choosing to regard Christ’s death on the cross as full payment for our sin. We are made righteous by Christ’s obedience to death (Rom. 5:1, 19). When God looks at us, He sees Christ. The guilt of our sin is removed from the sight of God who cannot abide sin (Psalm 51:9), and we are made clean by the blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 6:11; Titus 3:5).
So, in one sense the guilt of our sin is taken away; but in another, the guilt of our sin remains in our memory as a reminder of what we are capable of, as well as a reminder of the magnitude of God’s grace toward us. We see in David’s life, and in our own, there are sins that we commit that result in ongoing consequences. And, even if the consequences don’t remain, the memory of our sin does. Although these reminders may be fraught with pain and regret, we need to regard them as a blessing.
We know that it is for these sins that Christ went to the cross; and, we also know that because of the cross, we are made righteous in the sight of our Father in Heaven. Being mindful of these truths will bring us to hear joy and gladness, and will make our broken bones rejoice.