Psalm 51—God’s Medicine for You

People are always looking for selections, or verses, in God’s Word to read, reread, and memorize. This is an excellent practice. Why? God says His Word is like medicine—it cleanses, heals, and strengthens you (Psalm 107:20; 19:7; 30:2; Proverbs 4:20–23).

One of God’s most powerful medications is Psalm 51. God’s Word in Psalm 51 is highlighted in yellow. In the non-highlighted text, GOOD NEWS explains the active ingredients God has in His living Word-medicine for you.


Notice how David comes to God with all his sins. David first acknowledges God’s mercy. This is also how God desires that you know him, first as a God of mercy, in spite of your Sin. By reading and reciting this verse daily, the Holy Spirit will give you increasing assurance of God’s mercy, in spite of your many failings.

David is not asking for God’s assistance to wash and repair himself. Rather, David asks God to take total control and for God to wash him thoroughly with the water of His cleansing and healing Word and Spirit. David makes this request with absolute confidence that he will receive this cleansing, healing, and faith-strengthening gift from God.

David made no pretense of hiding or avoiding any sins. Let David’s example be your daily guide. Don’t hesitate to confess your Sin to God, and do it with the assurance of total forgiveness, even of your most secret sins.

Luther stresses that verse 4 is almost always wrongly translated, or mistranslated. Instead of saying: “Against You, You only have I sinned, and done evil in Your sight,” the correct translation is: “Against You, You only do I sin, and do what is evil in Thy sight.” The correct translation is a confession, not just of specific past sins, but of the power of Original Sin, the Sin that pervades your entire being and you are helpless to fight on your own. (See also Jesus’ Words in Matthew 15:19.)

1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my trans­gressions, and my Sin is ever before me.

4 Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight, so that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, and blameless when Thou dost judge.

5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in Sin my mother conceived me.

6 Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom.

7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice.

9 Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

The Spirit teaches this as the foundation of your faith. From the very instant of your conception, the infection—and disease—of Original Sin has run rampant throughout your system, from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. You are like a newborn who has inherited incurable HIV/AIDS from his mother.


God wants your confession to pour from your heart, a confession based not our your own definition of Sin, but on God’s teaching of your total corruption. Through the daily use of His Word, God promises to convict you (John 16:8) that Sin is not merely a wrong action—which it is—but Sin the incurable disease of your heart (Matthew 15:19; 7:11). As God’s definition of Sin overtakes your mind and soul, so also will His grace in Christ overtake your entire spirit.

Daily reading and reciting verse 7 will cause you to hear the echo of verse 2, a beautiful echo, like a bell calling you to God’s perfect cleansing followed by His feast for your hungry heart on God’s living Word. Beginning when God miraculously baptizes you, you are cleansed and made whole by His sin-cleansing and faith-strengthening blood. “And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood” (1 John 5:5–6).

As David constantly did in Word and song, you daily ask God to enable you to see His Word, not merely as “religion,” but as a message of joy through which God daily cleanses and heals your sin-filled heart and broken spirit.

As you read and daily recite this precious Psalm, verse 9 reaffirms in your mind that you have no role in your forgiveness; God does it all. Praise His name. His cleansing is perfect, total, and com­plete.

For further study, turn to the Bible Study on page 37, questions 22–­31.

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