Create In Me a Clean Heart, O God (Psalm 51)

Psalm 51:1-19; 10 (Read 2 Samuel 11-12)

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Ps 51:10, NASB).

This is the fourth, and surely the greatest and best known, of the seven "penitential psalms." It comes from David's blackest moment of self-knowledge; it explores the depths of his guilt and the broken contriteness of his repentance. According to the title, David composed this psalm as a result of Nathan the prophet convicting him of his sins, both in committing adultery with Bathsheba and in arranging for the murder of Bathsheba's husband, Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam 12:1-14). This is also more than David's personal prayer. Its instructional elements (Ps 51:16-19) show that, though the situation that led to the psalm was intensely personal, the psalm in its current form is well-suited to be a hymn by which the members of the worshiping congregation confess their own sins.

Why is David called "A Man After God's Own Heart"? It is not his terrible sins but his confession, his repentance, and his prayers that justly entitled him to such an accolade.

  1. Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1 - 72: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1973. Psalm 51 - Whiter Than Snow:
    1. Appeal (1-2).
    2. Confession (3-5).
    3. Restoration (6-9).
    4. Inward Renewal (10-13).
    5. Humble Worship (14-17).
    6. A People's Prayer (18-19).
  2. Motyer, J Alec. The Psalms. New Bible Commentary. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1994. Psalm 51 - The Marvel of Repentance:
    1. God and the Individual: Repentance and Forgiveness (1-6).
    2. The Dimensions of True Repentance (7-15).
    3. God and the Community: What Pleases the Lord (16-19).
  3. Psalm 51 - The Penitent's Prayer:
    1. David's Plea (1-12).
    2. David's Promise (13-17). A. To teach others (13). B. To offer praise (14-17).
    3. David's Prayer (18-19).
  4. ESV Study Bible. Psalm 51 - Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God:
    1. Have Mercy on Me (1-2).
    2. I Own Up to My Sin (3-5).
    3. I Seek Restoration and Renewal (6-13).
    4. Then I Will Worship Truly (14-17).
    5. Do Good To Zion (18-19).
  5. The Penitential of Penitentials. (James Burton Coffman Commentaries on the Bible.)