Week 17: Psalms 51-53


Reading: Psalms 51-53

           Click on the link for the reading to read the Psalms for this week.  As we read, let us not do so in haste.  Take time to read each Psalm at least three times:  once to understand the content, once as a poem or song to feel the meaning, and once as a prayer to appropriate the Psalm into your life.   There will often be a hymn attached at the bottom of the page that helps bring meaning to one of the Psalms for the week.


PSALM 51: I Have Sinned

            Luther said of Psalm 51, “Here the doctrine of true repentance is set forth before us.”  The psalm is a prayer of unrelieved intensity and eloquence.  Its theme is stated in the opening words, “be gracious to me, O God,” and the rest of the psalm unfolds that basic appeal.  The Apostle Paul knew Psalm 51 and quoted it in Romans 3:4 as part of his argument for the universality of human sinfulness.  Paul’s argument concludes with his proclamation of justification of the sinful by God’s grace in 3:21-31.  As a testimony to the pervasiveness of sin and as a call to e reconciled to God, Psalm 51 is clearly appropriate for its assigned use on Ash Wednesday and during the season of Lent.  As a powerful proclamation of God’s grace, it is clearly also a psalm for all seasons.


PSALM 52: Trust in God’s Unfailing Love

            Psalm 52 has three parts.  Verses 1-4 describe a destructive person in the style of a direct address.  Verses 5-7 warns the addressee that God will destroy him in a way that instructs the righteous in the fear of the Lord.  Finally, in verses 8-9 the psalmist confesses his trust in God and offers God thankful praise for vindicating the trust of the righteous.  The faithful are assured that they will see the downfall of the wicked as confirmation that the righteousness of God does prevail.  Contemporary culture confronts us with the save alternatives that we find in this psalm.  We can choose to live for ourselves, or we can choose to live for God.  We can trust ourselves and our own resources, or we can entrust our lives and futures to God.  The choice is not an easy one.


PSALM 53: No One Does Good

            Psalm 53 and Psalm 14 are slightly different versions of the same poem.  What both psalms call foolishness is essentially what our culture teaches people to be—autonomous, self-directed, self-sufficient.  To live among “the company of the righteous” is to trust that the reality of God’s grace is the ultimate reality, the final work about our sinful human existence.  Thus, we are to live not by what we see so pervasively around us, but by what we believe and what we hope for.




This is the Psalm in hymn form.  Read or sing it through with melody to give the Psalm another dimension. 


PH 195-Have Mercy on Us, Living Lord

Here is a video clip of Psalm 51 in another style.









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