Psalm 51 … Consider the Greatness of His Compassion

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions,

He doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. What she did was absolutely unforgivable. Have you ever heard those words? Or thought them yourself? Well, if anyone has the right to hold such an attitude, it would be God. And perhaps if anyone deserves to have the book thrown at him, it would be David; David, the adulterer, David, the manipulator, David, the murderer.

But it is to God that David makes his appeal. And David comes imploring God to act according to His lovingkindness.

Lovingkindness (unfailing/faithful love): :2617. חֶסֶד ḥeseḏ: A masculine noun indicating kindness, lovingkindness, mercy, goodness, faithfulness, love, acts of kindness…The classic text for understanding the significance of this word is Psalm 136 where it is used twenty-six times to proclaim that God’s kindness and love are eternal. The psalmist made it clear that God’s kindness and faithfulness serves as the foundation for His actions and His character…” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

David was counting on God’s character, on His unfailing and faithful love, on His eternal kindness to prompt His actions.

And immediately following, David then makes his appeal to the Greatness of His Compassion.

In the English, we associate this word with sympathy.

Compassion: “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”

But the Hebrew goes deeper.

Compassion: “7356. רַחַם raḥam: A feminine noun meaning womb, compassion, mercy, affection, maiden. The singular form of this word always signified the physical womb of a woman and was commonly used in this way (Gen. 49:25). Yet when the plural form was used, the author had in mind the idea of compassion, tenderness, or mercy. The Old Testament authors thought of the womb or bowels as the seat of warm and tender emotions,” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

David appealed not only to God’s sympathy, but to His tenderness, the tenderness of a mother for her child in the womb, an affection that would go to any length to protect and bring to fruition the life within.

And as a mother of two, this Hebrew definition brought new understanding of the Greatness of His Compassion.

And once again, I saw Jesus, Whose tender mercies went to the greatest of lengths to bring us to life, and continues to do so in order to bring to completion what He has formed.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus, (Philippians 1:6).

David was a man of faith, a man after God’s own heart; and yet he committed such grave atrocities against Holy God. And it was in that grievous state that he turned to his only hope, to the Greatness of His Compassion.

Really, His Compassion is too Great to comprehend, but has been fully manifested through the Greatness of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Whether we are yet lost in our sin or we belong to Him through faith, the Greatness of His Compassion will meet us in our need.

Consider the Greatness of His Compassion

  • In the Greatness of His Compassion, He hears our confession.
    • Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
      And cleanse me from my sin.
    • that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, (Romans 10:9).
    • If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, (1 John 1:9).
  • In the Greatness of His Compassion, He gives us understanding of our depravity.
    • Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
      And in sin my mother conceived me,
    • for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23).
  • In the Greatness of His Compassion, He gives us truth in our innermost being.
    • Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
      And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
    • “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free… 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed,” (John 8:32, 36).
  • In the Greatness of His Compassion, He purifies and washes us.
    • Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
      Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow,
    • and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, (Hebrews 10:21-22).
  • In the Greatness of His Compassion, He creates us anew in Him.
    • Create in me a clean heart, O God,
      And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
    • Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come, (2 Corinthians 5:17).
  • In the Greatness of His Compassion, He keeps us in Him.
    • Do not cast me away from Your presence
      And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me,
    • “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand,” (John 10:27-28).
  • In the Greatness of His Compassion, He restores and sustains us in His joy.
    • Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
      And sustain me with a willing spirit,
    • “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full,” (John 15:9-11).

How do we respond to the Greatness of His Compassion?

Many of us are familiar with several of the verses throughout this Psalm. We’ve probably asked God on more than one occasion to create in us a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us (51:15-16).

And we’ve also probably been reminded of the kind of sacrifice that pleases Him.

For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise,

Sacrifices and burnt offerings were the means of gaining atonement, and therefore access to Holy God. But when that is all that we bring, He is anything but pleased. David grew to understand what God finds acceptable; a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. But in the original language, this seems to convey much more than merely being sorry or remorseful.

From Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance:

Broken: “7665. שָׁבַר šāḇar: A verb meaning to break, to burst, to break in pieces, to break down, to break up, to smash, to shatter, to bring to birth. The word is most often used to express bursting or breaking.”

Contrite: “1794. דָּכָה dāḵāh: A verb meaning to crush, to break in pieces; to crouch…”

Both words, broken and contrite, express a crushing and breaking. A broken and contrite heart is crushed by the weight of sin, shattered at the thought of displeasing Him.

This morning, I was praying for a young college student who recently made a very difficult choice that caused her so much pain; but she made that choice to honor God. As I prayed for her, I was struck with the thought that she had broken her own heart so that she wouldn’t break His. Profound. And I couldn’t help but wonder if this too isn’t an integral part of a broken spirit and contrite heart. Perhaps, if we were so crushed by the mere thought of displeasing Him, we would be moved to willingly break self to pieces in order to escape the lure of sin so as to abide in the Greatness of His Compassion. It seems more than plausible, that when we are willing to shatter any hopes or dreams that remove Him from the throne of our hearts, when we are willing to live in that place of brokenness rather than risk separation from Him, that will keep us from the place of broken fellowship with our Heavenly Father.

Let us ask God to keep us broken before Him.

As we consider the Greatness of His Compassion, oh that we would truly be broken before Him as we…

  • …honestly confess our sins
    • For I know my transgressions,
      And my sin is ever before me, ,
  • …acknowledge that our sin is against Him
    • Against You, You only, I have sinned
      And done what is evil in Your sight,
  • …understand that we deserve His judgment
    • So that You are justified when You speak
      And blameless when You judge,
  • …depend on His deliverance and salvation
    • Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; (51:14).
  • …declare His praise
    • Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
      15 O Lord, open my lips,
      That my mouth may declare Your praise,

Oh that we would grow in our understanding of how we can please Him, that we might live in brokenness and dwell within the Greatness of His Compassion. And when we live in that place, we will certainly want others to live there as well.

Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You,

The truth is, not a one of us deserves to be forgiven; our sin against Holy God is truly unforgivable. But oh, today and every day, let us thank Him; for although He is the One Who has every right to hold such an attitude, He has chosen mercy to triumph over judgment (James 2:13).

Oh, may we never get over it, that we would live in brokenness and gratitude; for He has not treated us as our sins deserve, but He has saved us according to the Greatness of His Compassion.

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, (Titus 3:5-6),

Let’s Grow Together!

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