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Psalm 51: Building the Walls

Paul Tripp
Paul Tripp
2012 15 Mar

It's always the fruit of true repentance and it's captured in these words, "In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem." When my heart turns from sin, it turns to concern for what God wants and what others need. In repentance, my heart turns from the love-of-self driven purposes of my kingdom of one, to the transcendent purposes of God. And what is God's purpose? He calls me to love him above all else and to love my neighbor as myself. What does this have to do with praying that God would "build the walls of Jerusalem?" Everything!

David's sin wasn't just a sin of the eyes and the body. No, all the wrong that David did was rooted in the sinful thoughts and desires of his heart. David allowed himself to think things about Bathsheba that he should have never thought and he allowed himself to crave what didn't belong to him. Then he permitted himself to plan what he should never have planned. With a heart now captured, David committed adultery and murder.

The war of sin is not first a war of the body. The battle ground on which the war of sin rages is the heart. There's a war of thought and desire that rages in every situation and relationship of daily life. It's a war between the desires of God and the desires of the sinful nature. So, is true repentance just about letting go of wrong behavior? No, true repentance begins with the heart. In true repentance, I confess to my selfishness. I confess that my problem isn't just that I do bad things, but that I do bad things because I'd rather have what I want than what God has willed for me. What does this have to do with building the walls of Jerusalem? Everything!

So, not only is the battle of sin a matter of the heart, but because it's a battle of the heart, all sin is against God. Sin is rooted in worshipping the creation more than I worship the Creator. Sin is about loving myself more than I love God. Sin is about desiring to be sovereign and constructing my own kingdom rather than finding joy in the greater purposes of the Kingdom of God. Sin is about forgetting God and living as if I were at the center of the universe. In my sin I exchange God's holy will for my selfish desire.

But, because I've replaced God's will for what I want, in my sin I not only don't love God, I don't love my neighbor either. David didn't love Bathsheba, he wanted to possess her. His lack of love is powerfully portrayed in the fact that he murdered her husband! The very fact that sin is about self-focus and self-love, guarantees the fact that I'll not love you the way that I should. Here's the principle: If you and I are ever going to keep the Second Great Command, we must first keep the First Great Command. It's only when I love God above all else that I'm free then to love my neighbor as myself. Now, what does this have to do with building the walls of Jerusalem? Everything! Let me explain.

Having confessed his sin and having rested in God's forgiveness, David's heart now turns toward the Lord and toward his neighbor. Jerusalem was the epicenter of the national and spiritual life of the people of God. It was the City of God, the place where the great temple of Solomon would be built. For Zion (Jerusalem) to prosper meant that God's blessings of grace were on his people. You see, in this prayer, David is no longer thinking of himself. No, he's praying that the riches of God's grace would be on the lives of all of those around him.

But there's more. When he asks for the walls to be built, it's very clear that David is praying for the building of the temple in Jerusalem. You know that because he says (in v.19) "Then there will be righteous sacrifices...to delight you." Rather than his mind being dominated by his own purposes, his heart now goes to the purposes of God's kingdom. He's praying that God would receive the worship he deserves and the glory that's due his name. No longer is David's vision dominated by a woman he wants. No, now he finds joy in envisioning hundreds and thousands of people making their pilgrimage to Zion to worship the One who alone is worthy of the adoration of their hearts.

Here's real personal transformation, the man once captured by dark and evil lust is now filled with love for others and a deep excitement with the glory of God. Only grace can create such a fundamental transformation.