Paul Tripp

President of Paul Tripp Ministries

Psalm 51: Wrecking Balls and Restoration

You know whether a house is being restored or condemned by the size of the tools that are out front. If you see a crane and a wrecking ball, the house isn't being restored, it's coming down. Wrecking-ball responses to the sin of another are seldom restorative. This is one of the things that's so striking about Psalm 51 and the history that surrounds it.

If God had had a wrecking-ball response to the sin of David, there would be no Psalm 51. He had every right to condemn David. David was the anointed king of Israel. He was placed in his position by God. He was put in that position in order to be a physical representation of the one true King of Israel, the Lord himself. All that he did was designed to be representative, that is, making the invisible King visible. So, David's position made the horrible sins of adultery and murder doubly reprehensible. It was right for God to be angry. It would have been just and righteous for God to tear down the house of David forever.

But God's response wasn't a wrecking-ball response. No, God's response to David was the small-tool response of restoration. I live in Philadelphia. It's an older city where much old home restoration goes on. Pretend with me that you wander into one of those grand old stone homes that's being restored. And pretend that we're watching a craftsman remove one of the three pieces of a triple-crown molding that's on the wall of this wonderful old house. The carpenter is motivated by the vision that this house could be restored to it's former beauty, so he's not yanking the molding off the wall with a crowbar. He knows that the wood of the molding is dry and brittle, and therefore, susceptible to cracking and breaking. So, he's using the small tools of restoration. He has a light-weight hammer and an apron pocket full of wedges. He tap, tap, taps a wedge into place, then moves a few inches down and repeats the process. Gently, the wedges ease the molding from the wall. You take a glance behind you and you see three piles that comprise the three types of molding that trimmed the walls. And you're impressed as you look that there's not a crack in a single piece in the three piles.

God's response to the sin of David is the small-wedge response of a Restorer. He uses the small wedge of the sight-giving words of a prophet, who tells a well-crafted story. He uses the small-wedge of conviction, causing David's eyes to see and his heart to grieve. He uses the small-wedge of forgiveness, offering David his unfailing love and mercy. He uses the small-wedge of reconciliation, drawing David to himself once again.

But here's what's vital for you to understand; he didn't respond in that way just for David's sake, but for you and me as well. Why didn't God have wrecking-ball responses to David's sin? The answer is that God had plans for David and his descendants. God knew that from the family of David would come the Messiah who would be condemned. Jesus would take the full brunt of God's wrecking-ball anger against sin. And he would do that so we would never face condemnation, and have the hope of full and final restoration.

So, in his grace, God hammers at you, but not with the sledge-hammers of condemnation, but with the small hammers of restoration. He's constantly tapping the wedges of redemption into place. He's constantly working to separate you and me from our sin. He's refinishing us by his grace so that we can shine with his character. We're forever free from the fear of the wrecking balls of condemnation. He was willing to be condemned so that we may live in beauty and for the purpose for which we were first constructed, the praise of his glory. 


About Paul Tripp

Paul Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is "Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life." Tripp is also professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. Tripp has written many books on Christian living that are read and distributed internationally. He has been married for many years to Luella, and they have four grown children. For more information, visit

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