Some Preparatory Words on the Penitential Psalms.

There are 7. We will discuss 6 now and 1 during the worship service.

When I wrote these notes and did my study, I began with John Peter Lange’s Commentary.

  • While I have rewritten parts, added insights, deleted sections, etc. the Commentary from sometime after 1857, was heavily relied upon so its link will be noted below.

Why The Penitential Psalms?

Because, I have long sensed that WE DO NOT take sin seriously in the church, admittedly, with me the CHIEF of guilty Christians.

These Psalms will help us look properly at sin.

  • This is not about begging God for forgiveness.
  • This is about humbly crying out for mercy, A LOST ART IN THIS TIME OF GRACE.

Here is a MARKISM which came from this message: We are so deeply immersed in God’s grace, we SHALLOWLY understand His mercy.

We’ve decided that FOCUSING ON SIN somehow injures our psyche (because it’s negative).

  • And yet, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
  • Pleading for Mercy cleanses our heart with an ointment of love from God.
  • Not surprisingly, we can NEVER grasp, experience, enjoy, the depth of this love, if we Do Not Know WE NEED IT!

We have got to return to, what I call, “Owning Our Sin.”

–Another MARKISM: His love is overflowing. But you will not experience it to the fullest if you routinely give-yourself-a-pass, regarding your sin.

These penitential Psalms are not written to beat you up, but to stir you up.

-As you listen to these Psalms, ask yourself if you handle sin in your life, the way the Psalmist describes.


A Prayer for Mercy
For the choir director: with stringed instruments, according to •Sheminith. A Davidic psalm.

This is not written by a man who has great troubles, FROM WITHOUT. He is not lamenting family problems, work issues, or financial woes.

1 LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger;
do not discipline me in Your wrath.

2 Be gracious to me, LORD, for I am weak;
heal me, LORD, for my bones are shaking;

3 my whole being is shaken with terror.
And You, LORD— how long?

4 Turn, LORD! Rescue me;
save me because of Your faithful love.

5 For there is no remembrance of You in death;
who can thank You in •Sheol?

6 I am weary from my groaning;
with my tears I dampen my pillow
and drench my bed every night.

7 My eyes are swollen from grief;
They grow old because of all my enemies.

8 Depart from me, all evildoers,
for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.

9 The LORD has heard my plea for help;
the LORD accepts my prayer.

10 All my enemies will be ashamed and shake with terror;
they will turn back and suddenly be disgraced.


This is the supplication of a man who has been brought to this point by Divine REPRIMAND (Psalm 6:1).

He’s been brought to the EDGE of the grave (Psalm 6:5–7).

And yet, he is assured of being heard by God (Psalm 6:8, 9).

He knows he’ll be MANAGED OR SHAPED by God (Psalm 6:2).

And don’t miss this, he is confident he’ll be sustained (Psalm 6:4). HOW? By God’s grace.

And yet he feels the wrath of God NOT in sickness, but in distress through ungodly enemies THRU THE EVIL ONE (Psalm 6:7, 8, 10),


  • POST, the cross, I always read, “enemies” as the evil one.
  • Why? because of Ephesians 6:12.

Finally, he has grieved so much, that bodily weakness is the consequence of his anguish of soul (Psalm 6:2, 3, 6, 7).

Think about David’s distaste for sin in his life.

  • When was the last time sin in your life caused you to feel like this?
  • EVER???

Notice something else, about ALL of David’s Psalms. Where he is grumpy, or in distress. He NEVER finishes the Psalm till things are right between him and God, NEVER. He stays on his knees till things are right between him & God.

Consider staying on your knees instead of getting up too quickly.


THE PSALMIST’S STORY: Not owning sin in your life will eat you up.


These notes edited From <>


The Joy of Forgiveness
Davidic. A •Maskil.

This is written by one whose sins are ALREADY forgiven and he is experiencing the joy of forgiveness, “faithful love surrounding him. (Vs 7). . .but it has only recently come, for the heaviness of God’s hand is still well remembered by him.

1 How joyful is the one
whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered!

2 How joyful is the man
the LORD does not charge with sin
and in whose spirit is no deceit!

3 When I kept silent, my bones became brittle
from my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night Your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was drained
as in the summer’s heat.


5 Then I acknowledged my sin to You
and did not conceal my iniquity.
I said,
“I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and You took away the •guilt of my sin.


6 Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to You
at a time that You may be found.
When great floodwaters come,
they will not reach him.

7 You are my hiding place;
You protect me from trouble.
You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.


David, because of his painful experience, is now talking to you and me

8 I will instruct you and show you the way to go;
with My eye on you, I will give counsel.

9 Do not be like a horse or mule,
without understanding,
that must be controlled with bit and bridle
or else it will not come near you.

10 Many pains come to the wicked,
but the one who trusts in the LORD
will have faithful love surrounding him.

11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice,
you righteous ones;
shout for joy,
all you upright in heart.


This Psalm was a favorite of Augustine and is cited by the Apostle Paul in Romans 4:6–8.

  • According to Luther it is “an extraordinary doctrinal Psalm. . . [which] says here that all the saints are likewise sinners, and can be holy and blessed in no other way, than by recognizing that they are sinners before God, and that they are regarded as righteous before God by faith alone without merit and without works.”

This Psalm, is bookended by the JOY of the FORGIVEN sinner (Psalm 32:1–2 & 11).

This joy of forgiveness is based upon the description of a twofold experience,

  • First the pain and distress of the Psalmist so long as he held back his confession of sins (Psalm 32:3–4);
  • Then the forgiveness which came BECAUSE he confessed. (Psalm 32:5)

But note the encouragement for all those who have received grace from the Lord (Psalm 32:6-7)

The Psalmist could have ended this Psalm at verse 7, but he continues with an exhortation and warning (Psalm 32:8–9)

He takes on the role of a shepherd, a loving father trying to warn us as well as encourage us.

He warns us of the consequences of those who prefer to NOT OWN their sin (Psalm 32:10).

  • Remember, this isn’t a Christian vs. non-Christian thing.
  • ALL OF US who refuse to own our sin experience the pains the Psalmist did.
  • Pains that God allowed or brought into his life.

And then at the end of this Psalm, he circles back around to speak of joy (Psalm 32:11).

This blessedness (or Joy) which David begins and ends this Psalm with, is the consequence of forgiveness of sin.

Do you see how forward thinking David was? What we’ve just read is related to the Gospel.

  • Yes, under the law, sacrifices occurred, but David recognizes something greater is needed, confession, owning our sin.
    • Related thoughts are found in Proverbs 28:13 (concealing); 1 John 1:8 (thinking we’re sinless).

I found this curious so I want to read it:

of Augustine, [IT IS SAID] that he “often read this Psalm with weeping heart and eyes, and before his death had it written upon the wall which was against his sick bed, THAT HE MIGHT BE BOTH EXERCISED AND COMFORTED BY IT in his sickness.”

A Markism: These penitential Psalms are not written to beat you up, but to stir you up.

THE PSALMIST’S STORY: If you’re not joyful, it may be the consequence of UN-owned sin in your life.


These notes edited From <>


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A Prayer for Restoration
For the choir director. A Davidic psalm, when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone to Bathsheba.

This was written by a man who refused to hide his sin any longer.

1 Be gracious to me, God,
according to Your faithful love;
according to Your abundant compassion,
blot out my rebellion.

2 Wash away my •guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I am conscious of my rebellion,
and my sin is always before me.

4 Against You— You alone— I have sinned
and done this evil in Your sight.
So You are right when You pass sentence;
You are blameless when You judge.

5 Indeed, I was guilty when I was born;
I was sinful when my mother conceived me.

6 Surely You desire integrity in the inner self,
and You teach me wisdom deep within.

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

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones You have crushed rejoice.

9 Turn Your face away from my sins
and blot out all my guilt.

10 God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not banish me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore the joy of Your salvation to me,
and give me a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways,
and sinners will return to You.

14 Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God,
the God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness.

15 Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare Your praise.

16 You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it;
You are not pleased with a •burnt offering.

17 The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit.
God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.

18 In Your good pleasure, cause •Zion to prosper;
build the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on Your altar.


A Psalm “which has been used by the Church in song and prayer oftener than any other in the Psalter” (Luther).

David cries out for mercy from God (Psalm 51:1–2)

And his crying out is based SOLELY on his COMPLETE ownership of sin (Psalm 51:3–4)

Today, we hear the phrase, “double-down on one’s tweets,” right?

Well David doubles down with the reality that sin is his responsibility and wisdom is God’s responsibility (Psalm 51:5, 6).

Notice David’s prayer. It is considered a double prayer (Psalm 51:7–9)

  • A prayer for forgiveness, and
  • A prayer for purifying, making entirely clean, whiter than snow, clean. 

And then comes renewal through the Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:10–12)

After renewal, David looks forward to instructing other sinners (Psalm 51:13–15).

  • Remember, he did this in Psalm 32:8ff

He then, soberly announces that the legal sacrificing was not as big a deal as obedience (Psalm 51:16).

  • A concept not uncommon to the Old Testament (1 Samuel 15:22, Psalm 40:6)

Fascinating, isn’t it? God actually wants you to suffer, sometimes. (Psalm 51:17)

Then, David states a truth, known well by history. (Psalm 51:18, 19)

  • David couches the statement in the positive, but it could have been said in the negative, as follows, “When God disciplines leaders, his subjects experience the discipline.”
  • William Gurnall said it this way in 1656 sermon: “To see what God intends for a people (good or evil), observe what Rulers and Governors, His Providence orders out to them.” (available free at

Compared with Ps. 6. and 38. the feelings expressed here are at a more advanced stage of mature understanding of mercy.


THE PSALMIST’S STORY: Brokenness is from God.

These notes edited From <>


Affliction in Light of Eternity
A prayer of an afflicted person who is weak and pours out his lament before the LORD.

This doesn’t have the same “feel” as the previous Psalms which were written by David, but the issue and the conclusion is consistent, namely, “my heart hurts, God, but I trust You.”

1 LORD, hear my prayer;
let my cry for help come before You.

2 Do not hide Your face from me in my day of trouble.
Listen closely to me;
answer me quickly when I call.

3 For my days vanish like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.

4 My heart is afflicted, withered like grass;
I even forget to eat my food.

5 Because of the sound of my groaning,
my flesh sticks to my bones.

6 I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.

7 I stay awake;
I am like a solitary bird on a roof.

8 My enemies taunt me all day long;
they ridicule and curse me.

9 I eat ashes like bread
and mingle my drinks with tears

10 because of Your indignation and wrath;
for You have picked me up and thrown me aside.

11 My days are like a lengthening shadow,
and I wither away like grass.


12 But You, LORD, are enthroned forever;
Your fame endures to all generations.

13 You will rise up and have compassion on •Zion,
for it is time to show favor to her—
the appointed time has come.

14 For Your servants take delight in its stones
and favor its dust.


15 Then the nations will fear the name of •Yahweh,
and all the kings of the earth Your glory,

16 for the LORD will rebuild Zion;
He will appear in His glory.

17 He will pay attention to the prayer of the destitute
and will not despise their prayer.

18 This will be written for a later generation,
and a newly created people will praise the LORD:

19 He looked down from His holy heights—
the LORD gazed out from heaven to earth—

20 to hear a prisoner’s groaning,
to set free those condemned to die,

21 so that they might declare
the name of Yahweh in Zion
and His praise in Jerusalem,

22 when peoples and kingdoms are assembled
to serve the LORD.

23 He has broken mystrength in midcourse;
He has shortened my days.

24 I say: “My God, do not take me
in the middle of my life!
Your years continue through all generations.

25 Long ago You established the earth,
and the heavens are the work of Your hands.

26 They will perish, but You will endure;
all of them will wear out like clothing.
You will change them like a garment,
and they will pass away.

27 But You are the same,
and Your years will never end.

28 Your servants’ children will dwell securely,
and their offspring will be established before You.”


Note the superscription.

  • Normally these are the historical context under which the Psalm was written.
  • This one is different though, it gives us the circumstances under which you would pray, read, or take hope in, this Psalm.

The suppliant speaks from personal experience of distress actually pressing upon him. He prays for himself, but at the same time affords help in prayer to those who not only are in like circumstances with him, but who are also in a like frame of soul.

The writer begins with a request to be heard, (Psalm 102:1-3),

There then follow 3 descriptions of distress, in three sections (Psalm 102:4–6, 7–9, 10–13).

To this there is attached, what I call a “But God” moment, which feeds hope and confidence (Psalm 102:12-18).

Then follows the confession, that his humiliation has come from the hand of the Lord (Psalm 102:19-24).

Finally, God is praised as the Eternal, who remains ever the same, and who will also grant perpetuity [durability] to the generation of His servants (Psalm 102:25–29).

THE PSALMIST’S STORY: Knowing God is what brings security, NOT your circumstances.

These notes edited From <>


Awaiting Redemption
A •song of ascents.

This writer speaks from the depth of sorrow. And it’s as if he has only a glimmer of hope.

1 Out of the depths I call to You, •Yahweh!

2 Lord, listen to my voice;
let Your ears be attentive
to my cry for help.

3 Yahweh, if You considered sins,
Lord, who could stand?


4 But with You there is forgiveness,
so that You may be revered.


5 I wait for Yahweh; I wait
and put my hope in His word.

6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning—
more than watchmen for the morning.

7 Israel, put your hope in the LORD.
For there is faithful love with the LORD,
and with Him is redemption in abundance.

8 And He will redeem Israel
from all its sins.


The distress out of which the Psalmist cries to Jehovah is very deep, and as he feels himself sinking, he sends forth an urgent cry to God that He would hear him (Psalm 130:1, 2).

This supplication rests upon the power to forgive, which is possessed by God alone, and is necessary for the sinner’s deliverance (Psalm 130:3, 4).

This confidence in calling upon God, flows from the hope cherished in his soul, which turns to God and His word (Psalm 130:5, 6).

And just like I am doing with you this morning, his confidence in God leads him to plead with Israel to seek redemption and then reminds her of God’s mercy (Psalm 130:7, 8).

THE PSALMIST’S STORY: Quit hiding from your sorrow, embrace it. And if it’s a result of sin, own it, as you admit it to God.


These notes edited From <>


A Cry for Help
A Davidic psalm.

Listen to the confidence in David’s speaking to God. He demonstrates he knows God which contrasts with our way-too-often, merely knowing about God.

1 LORD, hear my prayer.
In Your faithfulness listen to my plea,
and in Your righteousness answer me.

2 Do not bring Your servant into judgment,
for no one alive is righteous in Your sight.

3 For the enemy has pursued me,
crushing me to the ground,
making me live in darkness
like those long dead.

4 My spirit is weak within me;
my heart is overcome with dismay.

5 I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all You have done;
I reflect on the work of Your hands.

6 I spread out my hands to You;
I am like parched land before You.


7 Answer me quickly, LORD;
my spirit fails.
Don’t hide Your face from me,
or I will be like those
going down to the •Pit.

8 Let me experience
Your faithful love in the morning,
for I trust in You.
Reveal to me the way I should go
because I long for You.

9 Rescue me from my enemies, LORD;
I come to You for protection.

10 Teach me to do Your will,
for You are my God.
May Your gracious Spirit
lead me on level ground.

11 Because of Your name, •Yahweh,
let me live.
In Your righteousness deliver me from trouble,

12 and in Your faithful love destroy my enemies.
Wipe out all those who attack me,
for I am Your servant.


This is the last of the seven penitential Psalms. David is surrounded by implacable [determined, unshakable] enemies, who have brought him nigh to death. (Vs 3)

The servant of God has only Him remaining as his refuge.

  • But this Refuge is a sure one, and
  • Is passionately desired, and
  • Therefore, is prayed for with a fervor of a soul that:
    • 1) longs for deliverance, and
    • 2) remembers the faithful God from his past.

Don’t miss this though. For we often miss this in our “sloppy-grace” era:

For with all his trust in God’s faithfulness . . .he has yet a strong feeling of his human sinfulness before God, and therefore a strong need of His pardoning mercy and of guidance through His Spirit.

“He who knows David, finds here:
–that penitent confession to God,
–that humility,
–that longing after God,
–that sure confiding in Him as his refuge,
–that submission to Him,
–that desire for His holy guidance,
–that praise inspired experience of the Lord,
–that confidence in His holy righteousness, and
–that humble recognition of being the servant of the Lord.
Such characteristics are our David” (Clauss.)

Oh that the same would be said of you and I, that these are our characteristics.

THE PSALMIST’S STORY: The complete picture of penitent David.


These notes edited From <>



THE PSALMIST’S HEART: Weak, Grateful, Sorrowful, Needy, Distressed, Confident

THE PSALMISTS’ STORIES: Importunate Cries of Zealous Christians are Well Pleasing to the Lord. (Thomas Scott on Daniel 9:20ff)

Importunate = UN-Embarrassed to Cry Out to God

And this is the problem, sataN has “shamed-us”. He has embarrassed you & I to NOT CRY OUT to the Lord for mercy.

Don’t miss Mark’s message on Psalm 38. It’s on audio, HERE.

We are Taking Sin Too Lightly




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