CONTEXT: First we will look at C.H. Spurgeon’s explanation:
TITLE. To the Chief Musician. Therefore not written for private meditation only, but for the public service of song. Suitable for the loneliness of individual penitence, this matchless Psalm is equally well adapted for an assembly of the poor in spirit. A Psalm of David. It is a marvel, but nevertheless a fact, that writers have been found to deny David’s authorship of this Psalm, but their objections are frivolous, the Psalm is David like all over. It would be far easier to imitate Milton, Shakespeare, or Tennyson, than David. His style is altogether sui generis, and it is as easily distinguished as the touch of Rafaelle or the colouring of Rubens. “When Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” When the divine message had aroused his dormant conscience and made him see the greatness of his guilt, he wrote this Psalm. He had forgotten his psalmody while he was indulging his flesh, but he returned to his harp when his spiritual nature was awakened, and he poured out his song to the accompaniment of sighs and tears. The great sin of David is not to be excused, but it is well to remember that his case has an exceptional collection of specialities in it. He was a man of very strong passions, a soldier, and an Oriental monarch having despotic power; no other king of his time would have felt any compunction for having acted as he did, and hence there were not around him those restraints of custom and association which, when broken through, render the offence the more monstrous. He never hints at any form of extenuation, nor do we mention these facts in order to apologize for his sin, which was detestable to the last degree; but for the warning of others, that they reflect that the licentiousness in themselves at this day might have even a graver guilt in it than in the erring King of Israel. When we remember his sin, let us dwell most upon his penitence, and upon the long series of chastisements which rendered the after part of his life such a mournful history.
DIVISION. It will be simplest to note in the first twelve verses the penitent’s confessions and plea for pardon, and then in the last seven his anticipatory gratitude, and the way in which he resolves to display it.
Also I think it beneficial to look at Matthew Henry for verse breakdown of this Psalm:
In this psalm, I. He confesses his sin (v. 3-6). II. He prays earnestly for the pardon of his sin (v. 1, 2, 7, 9). III. For peace of conscience (v. 8, 12). IV. For grace to go and sin no more (v. 10, 11, 14). V. For liberty of access to God (v. 15). IV. He promises to do what he could for the good of the souls of others (v. 13) and for the glory of God (v. 16, 17, 19). And, lastly, concludes with a prayer for Zion and Jerusalem (v. 18). Those whose consciences charge them with any gross sin should, with a believing regard to Jesus Christ, the Mediator, again and again pray over this psalm; nay, though we have not been guilty of adultery and murder, or any the like enormous crime, yet in singing it, and praying over it, we may very sensibly apply it all to ourselves, which if we do with suitable affections we shall, through Christ, find mercy to pardon and grace for seasonable help.
This psalm is universally accepted as a Psalm of repentance. It is also a guide for what true repentance is all about. Let me break it down:
v.1-3 Sin must be identified and acknowledged – what do I mean, look at the extent David goes to identify his sin:
- blot out my transgressions
- from mine iniquity
- and my sin is
we must know our sin to confess our sin
v.1,2, 7, and 9 repentance requires pleading with God – David understood the severity of his situation and only with sincerity and begging God for forgiveness would it be rectified.
v.4 Understand against whom we have sinned – Even though we like David may have committed sins against others, in the end it is really God alone against whom it matters. for it is God’s standards, God’s mercy and God’s propitiation.
v.7-8 True repentance requires purification – Note two things in these verses, first the purging with hyssop signifies the OT blood sacrifice and the Blood of Christ. Next note that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice signifies that once crushed and broken under the weight of sin one can now rejoice.
v.11 Understand the need for the indwelling Holy Spirit – Long before the New Testament was written with these words; 1 Corinthians 3:16, Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? David penned these take not thy holy spirit from me. Christ gave us the Holy Spirit to guide and convict us.
v.12-15 True repentance leads to evangelism – David says; Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation…Then will I teach transgressors thy ways… A fully restore heart is one that wants to share the Good News.