Summary: David, Pt. 15 of 15
CONFESSION IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL (PS. 51)
The young preacher thrilled his congregation with his first sermon - a challenge to “gird their loins” for Christian service and living. (The sermon was the topic of conversation among parishioners after service. It was practical, straightforward, and inspirational.)
Then, to their surprise, the preacher preached the same sermon the following Sunday, and to their dismay, for a third week. After he confronted them with the same ringing message on the third Sunday, his flock (specifically the leaders) felt something must be done.
“Don’t you have more than just one sermon?” blurted a spokesman to the pastor. “Oh, yes,” he said quietly. “I have quite a number (of sermons). But you haven’t done anything about the first one yet. (Adapted from Tan # 7462)
The rise, the fall and the restoration of David is one of the greatest stories in the history of world literature, putting to shame the best and greatest of Greek and Shakespeare drama. More than one thousand references to David’s name are recorded in the Bible. David was the central character of the Old Testament, the greatest king of Israel, and the ancestor of the Messiah.
However, a question still persists: Why did God still retain and restore David in spite of his many weaknesses as a husband, father, king and neighbor. Psalm 51 is the place to go in Scriptures to understand why God gave David and sinners like him a second chance. It was written after Nathan had chided David for adultery with Bathsheba. The psalm is a masterpiece in confession.
What kind of confession is acceptable to God? How do we know if one is remorseful and penitent? What should a penitent sinner say, how should the person feel and think?
KNOW THE SCOPE OF YOUR SIN
51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
For a long time, I had refused to get rid of the old washing machine I bought used for $100, but the machine was on its last legs after we moved. The movers had bent one of its legs while laying it down. I had try putting cardboard, plastic and wood to prop the machine but nothing could stop the violent shaking when the machine was on its ending spin cycle.
So, my wife and I finally gave in and shopped for a new washer. I intended to get the smallest one with the simplest functions at the least cost, but my wife had a mind of her own. She hunted for a larger capacity washer that could clean the bed sheets, rugs, and other heavy items.
After a visit to Sears, we finally settled for a Kenmore Three-speed with speed control washer that has various functions, including speed control for handwash, delicate, normal or heavy duty; small, medium, and large load laundry; cold, warm and hot water temperatures. Doris is most pleased with the handwash function that saves her working clothes from the battery and stress of a normal wash. Most of all, we were relieved that we did not have to endure the house-shaking and earth-moving violent and furious clatter generated by the old machine the last two or three minutes before the washing was complete.
Sin breaks down our relationship with God, and we cannot hope for restoration or begin the restoration we know the extent of the damage.
“Have mercy on me” is an old plea from Job that David adapted into a moving prayer to God. Job appealed in vain for his friends’ understanding, saying “Have pity on me, my friends, have pity” (Job 19:21). On the other hand and unlike Job, David realized only God could help him. Up to this point, theological declarations such as “God has been gracious to me” (Gen 33:11) or “the LORD was gracious to them” (2 Kings 13:23) and general prayers such as “God/the Lord be gracious to you (Gen 43:29, Num 6:25) were popular and in common use. David was the first one and the only one to use the phrase “Have mercy on me” in prayer to God (Ps 6:2, 9:13, 31:9, 41:4, 10, 57:1, 86:3, 86:16). All other prayers for mercy end with the personal pronoun “us” instead of “me.” The verb “have mercy” has the connotation of a superior bending or stooping in kindness to an inferior. When David prayed for God’s mercy he was not asking the Lord to lower Himself to his level, but to be present with him or to be by his side in his lowliness, and possibly to lift him up. It’s been said that mercy is asking for what we do not deserve.