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A Deeper look at Psalm 51

Written by Elizabeth Avallone. Posted in

Stubborn, chronic health problems led one of my doctors to suggest that the root might be unresolved trauma. As I considered that, I was led to Psalm 51. This psalm is often recited as a personal prayer of contrition, and vs. 10-12 have become a popular Christian song. But I was not sent to this psalm for those reasons.

Many lessons are hiding in Psalm 51. Vs. 5 has been a problem for literalists over the centuries. “Behold, I was brought forth (born) in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me”(Ps. 51:5). Genesis 1:27 and 5:3 clarify the meaning. First, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them”(Gen 1:27). However, “When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of (a son) in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth (Gen 5:3). In the beginning, man was made in God's image, but after Adam sinned, man was made in Adam's image. A correct understanding of this verse makes vs.10 much more meaningful. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me”(Ps 51:10). The word 'create' is the same word used in Gen. Ch. 1 describing the Creation of the world. It carries the idea of creating something brand new that had not existed previously. David, the psalmist, acknowledged that his moral failure derived from his heritage – he was born in the image of Adam – and thus he needed a brand new heart (vs. 10) – one that had not existed previously. It's a beautiful way to describe that glorious event of being “born from above” (Jn 3:3-7).

Vs. 6 says, “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom”. I was curious about the difference between 'innermost being' and 'hidden part'. 'Innermost being' comes from a word that means to cover over, to be hidden, thus meaning the place of one's deepest thoughts. 'Hidden part' has a similar meaning but with a different nuance. The first seven times this word is used in the scriptures it refers to a well or spring that has been deliberately stopped-up. That is a good description of unresolved trauma. This verse has two parts.
a. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, – our responsibility
b. and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom – His responsibility
Vs. 6b is a precious promise from our Father. Contrast a stopped-up spring with something Yeshua said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water'”(John 7:38). We assume He was referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit, but perhaps He was also thinking of Isaiah 58:11.
“And the LORD will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”
Rivers of living water are certainly a contrast to a plugged-up well or spring.

Vs. 8 says, “Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.” How can one rejoice after his bones are broken? Lamentations 3:4 and Jeremiah 50:17 provide the meaning of 'broken bones'. This phrase is hyperbole (not to be taken literally). It is a powerful way to describe our Father's discipline. He does not literally break bones, but because He loves us, He has ways of making His children very miserable in their rebellion and stubbornness. What do 'broken bones' have to do with unresolved trauma? Trauma which is not brought to Father but rather is 'hidden' or 'plugged up' deep inside will not just go away. It will fester. Eventually it will manifest physically, emotionally, spiritually, or a combination of these. It is the myriad manifestations of buried trauma that lead to situations which our Father uses to make us unhappy and miserable, not to punish us but to send us back to Him.

My journey to resolve hidden trauma continues. Thankfully, I have companions on that journey – the Holy Spirit, the Word, and Sisters and Brothers.

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