Representative text cannot be shown for this hymn due to copyright.
Versifier: Stanley M. Wiersma
Pseudonym: Sietze Buning
Stanley Marvin Wiersma (b. Orange City, IA, 1930; d. Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 1986) was a poet and professor of English at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, from 1959 until his sudden death in 1986. He attended Calvin as an undergraduate and received a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1959. His love for the Genevan psalms is reflected in the two books of poetry for which he is most widely known: Purpaleanie and Other Permutations (1978) and Style and Class (1982), both written under the pseudonym Sietze Buning. He also wrote More Than the Ear Discovers: God in the Plays of Christopher Fry and translated many Dutch poems and hymn texts into English, including the children's hymns publ… Go to person page >
A fervent prayer for pardon, renewal, and reconciliation with God.
st. 1 = vv. 1-5
st. 2 = vv. 6-9
st. 3 = vv. 10-13
st. 4 = vv. 14-17
st. 5 = vv. 18-19
Tradition ascribes this prayer to David on the occasion "when the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba." No other psalm matches the frankness and fullness with which Psalm 51 faces the problem of human sinfulness. Sin is first of all sin against God, and no animal sacrifice can effect reconciliation. Only a heart "contrite and broken" can expect God's forgiveness. Moreover, sin springs from a heart so defiled that it must be recreated, made new, to be clean.
The psalm offers an unparalleled confession of sin and a fervent plea for pardon (st. 1); a prayer for forgiveness and restoration to joy (st. 2); a prayer for a new, undefiled heart and for reconciliation with God (st. 3); and a vow to praise when God grants pardon to a "contrite and broken" heart (st. 4). Added to this is a prayer that God's mercy will extend to the whole city of Zion (st. 5)–in Christian terms, to the whole church of Christ.
Stanley Wiersma (PHH 25), who prepared this unrhymed versification in 1980 for the Psalter Hymnal, often spoke of this psalm sung to GENEVAN 51 as the "Calvinist Kyrie" (see PHH 258 for information on the Kyrie). Psalm 51 is also one of the traditional penitential psalms (along with 6, 32, 38,102,130, and 143). Other settings of Psalm 51 are at 167 and 255.
Traditionally in the service of confession of sin; also appropriate for the liturgy of the Lord's Supper and during Lent.
GENEVAN 51 first appeared in the 1551 edition of the Genevan Psalter and is attributed to Louis Bourgeois (PHH 3). Claude Goudimel (PHH 6) composed the harmonization in 1564; the melody was originally in the tenor. One of the longer and more difficult Genevan tunes in the Psalter Hymnal, this Phrygi…
Display Title: Be Merciful, Be Merciful, O GodFirst Line: Be merciful, be merciful, O GodTune Title: GENEVAN 51Author: Stanley Wiersma, 1930-1986Meter: 10.11.11.10.10.11.10.11Scripture: Psalm 51Date: 2012Subject: Biblical Names and Places | Jerusalem; Biblical Names and Places | Zion; Broken-hearted | ; Church Year | Ash Wednesday; Church Year | Good Friday; Church Year | Lent; Church Year | Pentecost; Church Year | Transfiguration; Cry to God | ; Daily Prayer | Morning Prayer; Elements of Worship | Assurance of Pardon; Elements of Worship | Baptism; Elements of Worship | Confession (Individual); Elements of Worship | Lord's Supper; Elements of Worship | Offering; Endurance | ; Forgiveness | ; God | Trust in; God as | Refuge; God as | Spirit; God's | Face; God's | Forgiveness; God's | Goodness; God's | Justice; God's | Love; God's | Protection; God's | Wisdom; Grace | ; Guilt | ; Humility | ; Joy | ; Judgment | ; Lord's Prayer | 5th petition (forgive us our sins as we forgive…); Mercy | ; Offering of Sacrifice | ; Renewal | ; Servants of God | ; Sorrow | ; Suffering | ; Ten Commandments | 7th Commandmnet (do not commit adultery); The Fall | ; Year A, B, C, Lent, Ash Wednesday | ; Year B, Lent, 5th Sunday | ; Year B, Ordinary Time after Pentecost, July 31-August 6 | ; Year C, Ordinary Time after Pentecost, September, 11-17 |