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Friday, September 25, 2009

Was Psalm 51 performed in public?

Psalm 51 sets forth David's confession of sin, related to his actions concerning Bathsheba. He committed adultery with her, with or without her consent, and ordered that her husband, a good soldier, be placed so that he would be killed in battle. Thus he also committed murder, by proxy. He also tried to cover up his adultery, so that the husband, Uriah, would think that he was the father of Bathsheba's child. In spite of all these sins against Uriah, David recognized, in Psalm 51:4, that only one sin really mattered:

4a Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,

After reading this for decades, it suddenly occurred to me that Psalm 51 may have been a confession made publicly. The Bible doesn't say that it was, but apparently most of the Psalms were designed to be sung in public worship by the Israelites, and the heading of the Psalm, in the ESV, begins with "To the choirmaster," indicating that perhaps David expected that the Psalm would be performed as part of the worship of Israel. It is unlikely, with the palace servants (and perhaps some jealous wives), the prophet Nathan, and Joab, head of David's army, knowing the facts of the case, that David's actions could have been a secret. More likely they were public gossip. I understand that we can't know this for sure. The story may have been known only to David, Bathsheba, Joab and Nathan. David may have written Psalm 51 as his private confession to God, and some later writer saw to it that the public heard and read it, after David's death. But it's interesting to think about.

The application, of course, is that whether or not our sins are public knowledge, we need to confess them. No matter who else might have been hurt, God is the first person we should seek forgiveness from.

Thanks for reading.


Keetha Broyles said...

Oh yes, Dr. LaBar - - - I stayed UP and watched the game! Go Gamecocks!!!

They made me really nervous in the fourth quarter, though.

PS - - - can you figure out who Mr. Blind was?????

Keetha Broyles said...

Bingo - - - I always KNEW you were a brilliant man.