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Meditations on Psalm LI
The Historical Setting of the Psalm.
pp. 139, 140
While the Psalms have their primary interpretation and dispensational setting which
must ever be the first and fundamental approach to their study, there is something so
personal, so true to the experience of believers in all ages, that it is not surprising to find
in the record of the N.T. itself continual reference, quotation and application of the
Psalms, from Matthew's Gospel to the Book of the Revelation. Even where the actual
quotation of any specific Psalm already written in the O.T. is not applicable, the spirit or
Psalmody will be found. Consequently, though Paul when writing to the Ephesians or the
Colossians does not say `as David said', or `as it is written in the book of Psalms', he
nevertheless includes the singing of the Psalms as a real part of that melody of grateful
worship which flows from the heart of those who being `filled by the Spirit' (Eph. 5: 18)
and in whom `the word of Christ' dwells richly (Col. 3: 16), sing with grace in their
hearts to the Lord.
In the course of our exposition of the Scriptures under the heading `Fundamentals of
Dispensational Truth' we had hoped to deal with the Psalms as a whole. In this article we
have a lowlier aim, yet we trust none the less blessed and helpful. We desire to ponder
the experiences that are recorded by David in Psa. 51: in order that we may gather
comfort and encouragement as we too, walk through the wilderness of this world.
The way in which this Psalm is printed in our A.V., has in effect blotted out the first
verse of the original and relegated it to a note, which is practically never read or
understood as an integral part of the Psalm. When I open my Hebrew Bible, I discover
that the verse numbers do not agree with those in the English Version, and that the words:
"When Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bath-sheba",
constitute the opening verse of the Psalm.
Hengstenberg says, "We swim in mid-air so long as we do not perceive the reference
to the discourse of Nathan". We must therefore acquaint ourselves with that passage of
II Samuel which records the occasion when Nathan the prophet became instrumental in
bringing about the repentance of David the king. The passage is II Samuel 12:, which
follows close upon the record of the death of Uriah at the instigation of David, and upon
David's taking of Bathsheba, Uriah's wife. II Sam. 12: 1-14 tells us how Nathan, by
means of the parable of the two men, the one rich, the other poor, led David to condemn
himself by saying, "As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die"
(II Sam. 12: 5), and reveals the dramatic moment of David's conviction as Nathan replied
to David's outburst of righteous anger, "Thou art the man . . . . . Thou hast killed Uriah
the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife" (II Sam. 12: 7-9).