It’s Lent, and it’s a time when many people engage in self-examination, and repentance, a turning-back to Christ. Along with self-examination is almost certainly not far away from a reflection on sin and sins. And Psalm 51 is a great one for such reflection. Here’s a great quote on sin and Psalm 51 from a book I picked up in my parish library, “Arising from the Psalms” by Dewi Morgan.
Sin is rebellion. In other words, it is a condition of mind and soul rather than the specific acts which spring from that condition. Sins are the outward boils and blains. Sin is the poison in the bloodstream.
This fifty-first Psalm knows both the boils and the poisons. And confronts both because it springs from the knowledge that sin is not God’s intended condition for man.
Here’s Psalm 51, pasted in for your convenience, as it appears in the Book of Common Prayer. Peace be with you!
51 Miserere mei, Deus
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness *
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, *
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you only have I sinned *
and done what is evil in your sight.
5 And so you are justified when you speak *
and upright in your judgment.
6 Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *
a sinner from my mother’s womb.
7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.
8 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.
9 Make me hear of joy and gladness, *
that the body you have broken may rejoice.
10 Hide your face from my sins *
and blot out all my iniquities.
11 Create in me a clean heart, O God, *
and renew a right spirit within me.
12 Cast me not away from your presence *
and take not your holy Spirit from me.
13 Give me the joy of your saving help again *
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked, *
and sinners shall return to you.
15 Deliver me from death, O God, *
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,
O God of my salvation.
16 Open my lips, O Lord, *
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
17 Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice, *
but you take no delight in burnt‑offerings.
18 The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; *
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
19 Be favorable and gracious to Zion, *
and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
20 Then you will be pleased with the appointed sacrifices,
with burnt‑offerings and oblations; *
then shall they offer young bullocks upon your altar.