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Psalm 51NIV New International Version Translations
1 Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. 2 Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. 3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. 4 You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. 5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. 6 You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors. 7 But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple. 8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies—make straight your way before me. 9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit. 10 Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. 11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. 12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.


The name Psalms or Psalter come from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, where they originally referred to stringed instruments such as the harp, lyre and lute. The author is King David, one of the most important figures in Jewish history. Born in 907 B.C., he reigns as king of Israel for 40 years, dying at age 70 in 837 B.C. This Psalm carries the title, To the Chief Musician. With flutes. A Psalm of David. It shows David coming to the LORD in the morning and receiving the strength and joy he needs to make it through the day against many adversaries.

Biblical Truth2

Verses 1 – 3: David told the LORD that he would pray early in the morning. Christians must pray like David did. It is important to pray every morning. It is also important to look for the answer from God. That is why David said, “I will watch and pray”.

Verses 4 – 6: The enemies of David were really the enemies of God. David says that God will destroy them. Really, they destroy themselves. A man called Hosea wrote part of the Bible. He wrote, “Israel, you destroyed yourself. But your help is in me”. (Hosea 13:9) We destroy ourselves if we do not ask God for help. Even the enemies of God can ask for help. Then they will become God’s friends.

Verses 7 – 8: David did not have a temple in Jerusalem. He had a tent. This was a small house made from goatskins. (Look at the end of Psalm 4 for a note on the Temple.) David met God there. Our God is everywhere. We meet him when we pray to him. It is good to pray the words of Psalm 5:8. A straight path means a good path. The word righteous is a special Bible word. “Lead me in your righteous way because of my enemies” means this: Help me to obey you, God. My enemies are making it difficult for me to obey you.

Verses 9 – 10: An open grave has dead bodies in it. They are not nice. “Their mouth is like an open grave” means “what they say is not nice”.

Verses 11 – 12: The psalm finishes with a picture. The LORD is all round the people that love him. He is like a cover over them that stops people from hurting themselves. This makes the people of God happy, even when their enemies are near.

Items for Discussion

  • Is there a difference between Christians and non-believers as to where they go for comfort and strength when their enemies are near?  Why?
  • Is there a difference among Christians as to where they go for comfort and strength when their enemies are near? Why?
  • What experiences of David’s prepared him to love God so much?
  • How might living in tents affect David’s beliefs as compared to someone who lived in a walled city (castle)?
  • Verses 11 and 12 paint a picture. How would you update this picture to reflect the world we live in today?
  • Love is one of the most frequently used words in Scriptures, much more than negative words like hate. What does this tell us about the character of our God and how we are to live?
  • What does the word righteous mean to you?

In the Bible it means 4 things. The context usually tells us what it means. The context is the verses before and after it in the Bible. Here are the 4 things that it means:

  • It tells us about God. It means that he has never done anything that is wrong. He has never broken his own rules. He has always done what is right.
  • Even though only God is really righteous, he calls his friends righteous. It does not mean that they are good. It means that they have asked God to forgive them. The word “forgive” means “to give away”. God gives away all the sin of the people that he forgives to Jesus. Jesus takes it away. This happened when Jesus died on the Cross at Calvary. By some strange way that we cannot understand, Jesus took our sins away. Our sins are the things that we do that are wrong, the things that we do that do not obey God’s rules. When Jesus died, he took away the sins of the people that lived before him and that lived after him. That includes us … if we ask!
  • The people that God forgives usually try to obey God. They do what he tells them to do. This is also called “being righteous” in the Bible. When they fail, they pray again, “God, forgive me”. God will always forgive us when we ask him.
  • In the Old Testament, the Jews tried to obey the TORAH. This was all the rules in the Old Testament. Most of them were in the first 5 books of the Bible. Later, other books like Isaiah and Jeremiah were also called Torah. Jews that kept these rules were called “righteous”. This meaning of the word is not important for Christians today. They are righteous for reasons 2 and 3.

Righteous people have what the Bible calls RIGHTEOUSNESS. It means that they have asked God to forgive them. It does not mean that they are very good. It means that they are friends of Jesus, because they have asked him to take away their sin.

Discussion Challenges

  • Why is it so hard to pray for the people who hurt us?