Summary: David, Pt. 15 (Final)
CONFESSION IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL (PSALMS 51)
The young preacher thrilled his congregation with his first sermon - a challenge to “gird their loins” for Christian service and living.
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 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. 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, leaving in its trail the best and greatest of Greek and Shakespearean 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 helps us understand 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. (Ps 51:1-5)
Two students of the Talmud came to their rabbi and wailed: “Rabbi, we’ve committed a sin!”
“What have you done?”
“We looked with lust upon a woman!”
“God preserve you!” cried the rabbi. “You’ve committed a terrible sin!”
“We wish to do penance, Rabbi!”
“In that case, I order you to put peas into your shoes and walk about that way for a week. Then perhaps you’ll remember not to commit such a sin again.”
The two penitents went away and did as the rabbi told them. Several days later they met on the street. One was hobbling painfully and looked haggard, but the other one was calm and smiling. So the hobbler said to his fried reproachfully, “Is this the way you do penance? I see you haven’t followed the rabbi’s orders. You didn’t put peas in your shoes!” “Of course I did!” insisted the other. “But I cooked them first!”
Sin is serious and must be seriously dealt with. It 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 when he suffered, saying “Have pity on me, my friends, have pity” (Job 19:21). Unlike Job, David realized only God could help him. Surprisingly, 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, usually in Pslams, end with the personal pronoun “us” (Ps 67:1, 123:3) instead of “me.” The verb “have mercy” has the connotation of a superior bending or stooping in kindness to an inferior. It’s been said that mercy is asking for what we do not deserve. 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, possibly to lift him up.
The phrase “unfailing love” in verse 1 is the popular Hebrew word for God’s “chesed” love, which KJV translated as “loving-kindness” 22 times in Psalms (Ps 17:7, 25:6, 26:3, 36:7, 36:10, 40:10, 40:11, 42:8, 48:9, 63:3, 69:16, 88:11, 89:33, 89:49, 92:2, 103:4, 107:43, 119:88, 119:149, 119:159, 138:2, 143:8). The most distinguishing characteristic of God’s chesed love is that it endures forever (1 Chron 16:34, 16:41, 2 Chron 20:21, Ps 100:5, 106:1), as popularized by Psalms 118 and 136. The third word “compassion” is the Hebrew word for “bowels,” which the KJV has affectionately translated as “tender mercies” (Ps 25:6, 40:11, 51:1, 69:16, 77:9, 79:8, 103:4, 119:77, 119:156, 145:9, Prov 12:10). God is not interested to penalize, shame or hurt us when we sin, but to correct us. He does not chastise us according to His anger, but according to His mercy, love and compassion.