Psalm 51: Longing for Jesus
It is dramatic anticipation at its finest. It is the best of foreshadowing. Every line drips with the drama of the necessity of what's to come. It's one of those moments when it's very clear that the present makes no sense without the future. If you know your Bible at all, you can't read Psalm 51 without feeling it. If this Psalm has no future, then it's cries are the vain screams of the tormented heart of a desperate man and little more. David's entire hope in the present is tied to an event in the future. No future, no hope. Welcome to the story of redemption.
You see, David's sin, Nathan's confrontation, and the resultant conviction and confession are a mini-chapter in the grand, origin-to-destiny story of redemption. David's prayer for forgiveness cries for more than a God who's willing to forgive. David's plea reaches out for an actual means of forgiveness. You may say, "There was one. God had instituted a system of sacrifices for the atonement of sin." But the sacrificial system clearly was not enough. There was one dead give-away; everyday the offerings had to be made over and over and over again. The repetition of the sacrifices was necessary because the blood of bulls and goats couldn't atone for sin. The whole system of sacrifice itself looked forward to the offering of the ultimate sacrifice that would finally and completely satisfy God's' holy justice and anger, resulting in no further need for sacrifice.
David didn't fully understand it, but the cries he prayed and penned in Psalm 51 were a cry for the final Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the drama of this Psalm. In acknowledging the power and pervasiveness of his sin, David isn't only reaching out for full and complete forgiveness, but for deliverance as well, the kind of deliverance that can only be found in the spilt blood of the promised Messiah, who would someday hang willingly on the hill of Calvary. Psalm 51 is a hymn of longing. Psalm 51 longs for Jesus.
As David prayed for mercy, unfailing love, and great compassion powerful enough to wash away transgression and create purity of heart, he wasn't praying for a thing, no he was praying for a Person. Jesus is the mercy for which David prays. Jesus is the unfailing love that is his hope. Jesus is the compassion for which he cries. Yet, David can pray with confidence because the decision had been made. The end of the story had already been written by a sovereign, Savior God. Jesus would come at the precisely planned time. His whole life would march toward that dramatic moment when he would in agony cry out to his Father, "It is finished!" "Father I have done what you sent me to do. I have offered myself as the final sacrifice. Redemption is accomplished."
Every time you acknowledge your sin, you long for Jesus too. But you're not longing for the final sacrifice, because it's been made. No, you and I long for the final deliverance. We long for that moment when we'll be taken to the place where sin will be no more. We long to see Jesus, to be with him, and to be like him. Isn't it comforting to know that that final deliverance has been written into the story as well? It is our guaranteed future. And so we long with hope.