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Psalms 51:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Have mercy upon me, O God - Without mercy I am totally, finally ruined and undone.

According to thy loving-kindness - Mark the gradation in the sense of these three words, Have Mercy on me, חנני chonneni ; thy Loving-Kindness, חסדך chasdecha ; - thy Tender Mercies, רחמיך rachameycha, here used to express the Divine compassion. The propriety of the order in which they are placed deserves particular observation.

The first, rendered have mercy or pity, denotes that kind of affection which is expressed by moaning over an object we love and pity; that natural affection and tenderness which even the brute creation show to their young by the several noises they respectively make over them.

The second, rendered loving-kindness, denotes a strong proneness, a ready, large, and liberal disposition, to goodness and compassion, powerfully prompting to all instances of kindness and bounty; flowing as freely as waters from a perpetual fountain. This denotes a higher degree of goodness than the former.

The third, rendered tender mercies, denotes what the Greeks called splagcnizesqai, that most tender pity which we signify by the moving of the heart and bowels, which argues the highest degree of compassion of which nature is susceptible. See Chandler.

Blot out my transgressions - מחה mecheh, wipe out. There is a reference here to an indictment: the psalmist knows what it contains; he pleads guilty, but begs that the writing may be defaced; that a proper fluid may be applied to the parchment, to discharge the ink, that no record of it may ever appear against him: and this only the mercy, loving-kindness, and tender compassions of the Lord can do.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Have mercy opon me, O God - This is the utterance of a full heart; a heart crushed and broken by the consciousness of sin. The psalmist had been made to see his great guilt; and his first act is to cry out for mercy. There is no attempt to excuse his sin, or to apologise for it; there is no effort to vindicate his conduct; there is no complaint of the righteousness of that holy law which condemned him. It was “guilt” that was before his mind; guilt only; deep and dreadful guilt. The appeal properly expresses the state of a mind that is overwhelmed at the remembrance of crime, and that comes with earnestness to God to plead for pardon. The only hope of a sinner when crushed with the consciousness of sin is the mercy of God; and the plea for that mercy will be urged in the most earnest and impassioned language that the mind can employ. “Accordingly to thy Iovingkindness.” On the meaning of the word used here, see the notes at Psalm 36:7.

(a) The “ground” of his hope was the compassion of God:

(b) the “measure” of that hope was His boundless beneficence; or, in other words, he felt that there was need of “all” the compassion of a God.

His sin was so great, his offence was so aggravated, that he could have no hope but in a Being of infinite compassion, and he felt that the need of mercy in his case could be measured and covered “only” by that infinite compassion.

According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies - The same idea occurs here also. The psalmist fixed his eye on the “vastness” of the divine mercy; on the numberless “acts” of that mercy toward the guilty; here he found his hope, and here alone. Every instance of extraordinary mercy which had occurred in the world furnished him now with an argument in his appeal to God; was an encouragement to him “in” that appeal; was a ground of hope that his appeal would not be rejected. So to us: every instance in which a great sinner has been forgiven is evidence that we may be forgiven also, and is an encouragement to us to come to God for pardon. See the notes at 1 Timothy 1:16.

Blot out my transgressions - In allusion to an account that is kept, or a charge made, when such an account is wiped away, erased, or blotted out. Compare Exodus 32:32-33; see the notes at Isaiah 43:25; notes at Isaiah 44:22; notes at Colossians 2:14. Never was a more earnest appeal made by a sinner than that which is made in this verse; never was there a more sincere cry for mercy. It shows us where we should “begin” in our prayers when we are pressed down with the consciousness of sin - with a cry for “mercy,” and not an appeal to “justice;” it shows us what is to be the “ground” and the “measure” of our hope - the mere compassion of an infinitely benevolent God; it shows us the place which we must take, and the argument on which we must rely - a place among sinners, and an argument that God has been merciful to great sinners, and that therefore he may be merciful to us.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.
Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 39.5

You have every reason for praising God for His loving kindness and tender mercy. His all-atoning blood is available to all your children. If you do not overtax your physical powers, you can in the name of Jesus do much precious work.… To you therefore which believe, He is precious.... Walk in love as dear children. The Spirit of God is striving with the children, inviting them to Christ, saying, “Come; for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17). Will you not obey?—Letter 94, January 31, 1895, to the widowed mother of a large family of adult children. TDG 39.5

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 639

Says the apostle: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” This scripture has been interpreted to sustain the practice of going to the priest for absolution; but it has no such application. Confess your sins to God, who only can forgive them, and your faults to one another. If you have given offense to your friend or neighbor you are to acknowledge your wrong, and it is his duty freely to forgive you. Then you are to seek the forgiveness of God because the brother whom you wounded is the property of God, and in injuring him you sinned against his Creator and Redeemer. The case is not brought before the priest at all, but before the only true mediator, our great High Priest, who “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” and who is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” and is able to cleanse from every stain of iniquity. 5T 639.1

When David sinned against Uriah and his wife, he pleaded before God for forgiveness. He declares: “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight.” All wrong done to others reaches back from the injured one to God. Therefore David seeks for pardon, not from a priest, but from the Creator of man. He prays: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving-kindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” 5T 639.2

True confession is always of a specific character, and acknowledges particular sins. They may be of such a nature as only to be brought before God, they may be wrongs that should be confessed before individuals who have suffered injury through them, or they may be of a general kind that should be made known in the congregation of the people. But all confession should be definite and to the point, acknowledging the very sins of which you are guilty. 5T 639.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 343

If you who have engaged in this work of bruising and condemning have not heartily repented, then light, peace, and joy will not come into your souls. When you are careful, kind, and tender to your brethren in the same degree that you have been hard, unforgiving, and oppressive, you will confess your faults and make restitution as far as possible; and when you have done all on your part you may ask the Lord to do that which it is impossible for you to do—heal the wounds you have made, forgive you, and blot out your transgression. When there is so great reluctance to confess a wrong which is laid open and plain before the erring, it shows that they are controlled by their own untamable, unsanctified natures rather than by the spirit of the gospel of Christ. 5T 343.1

If God has ever spoken by me, you have most earnest work to do in zealous repentance for showing to the erring the satanic element in your character, not in coldness and indifference merely, but in neglect and contempt. If they are indeed in darkness and doing things that imperil their souls, you should manifest the greater interest in them. Show them that while you will be true to principle and will not swerve from the right, you love their souls. Let them know by your words and actions that you have not a spirit of revenge and retaliation, but that for their sakes you will sacrifice feeling and subdue self. Represent Jesus, our pattern; manifest His spirit at all times and under all circumstances, and let that mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus. Your ways have not been God's ways; your will has not been God's will. The precious plant of love has not been cultivated, and watered by the dews of grace. Self-love, self-righteousness, self-complacency, have exerted a controlling power. 5T 343.2

What has Jesus done for you, and what is He continually doing for us individually? What have you that you have not received? Said Christ: “I am the Vine, ye are the branches.” “Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” The branches do not sustain the vine, but the vine supports and nourishes the branches. The church does not support Christ, but Christ, by His vital power, supports the church. It is not enough to be a branch; we are to be fruitful branches. “He that abideth in Me,” said Jesus, “and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” But if the fruit produced be that of the thornbush, it is evident that we are not branches of the living Vine. 5T 344.1

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Ellen G. White
The Faith I Live By, 134.1

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Psalm 51:1. FLB 134.1

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