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Summary: PART OF A BIBLE STUDY ON THE PSALMS

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DAVID’S PENITENTIAL PRAYER

PSALM 51

INTRODUCTION:

WHEN WE STARTED THIS STUDY I TOLD YOU THAT THERE WERE FIVE MAIN CLASSIFICATIONS OF PSALMS. WITHIN SOME OF THESE CATAGORIES THERE CAN BE SOME SUB-CATAGORIES. WITHIN THE PSALMS OF LAMENT, WE FIND ONE SUCH SUB-CATEGORY CALLED THE PENITENTIAL PSALMS. THERE ARE SEVEN OF THEM, PSALMS 6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; AND PSALM 143.

JOHN CALVIN CALLED THE PSALMS AN “ANATOMY OF THE SOUL.” FOR CALVIN AS FOR BELIEVERS THROUGHOUT THE AGES, THE PSALMS GIVE EXPRESSION TO EVERY MAJOR ASPECT OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE.

THE PENITENTIAL PSALMS HELP US CONFESS OUR SIN TO GOD AND ASK HIM FOR FORGIVENESS. NOW THE QUESTION COULD BE ASKED, “WHY DO WE NEED TO BE TAUGHT HOW TO ASK GOD FOR FORGIVENESS?” WELL WE CAN LOOK TO CHILDREN FOR THE ANSWER. WE SHOULD BE TRAINING THEM THAT WHEN THEY DO SOMETHING WRONG TO SAY THEY’RE SORRY. WHAT THEN BECOMES THE PROBLEM? THE PROBLEM HAPPENS WHEN THE CHILDREN FEEL THAT FORGIVENESS HAPPENS WHEN THEY SAY THEY ARE SORRY, NOT WHEN THE PERSON THEY HURT SAYS I FORGIVE YOU. I SAY I’M SORRY AND THAT’S IT. THERE ARE NO CONSEQUENCES, THERE IS NO DISCIPLINE.

WE’RE THE SAME WAY WITH GOD. IF I SIN I SAY I’M SORRY AND THAT WIPES THE SLATE CLEAN. BUT IT DOESN’T. THE SLATE IS WIPED CLEAN WHEN GOD SAYS I FORGIVE YOU. BUT EVEN A FORGIVEN SIN HAS CONSEQUENCES AND DISCIPLINE.

IN EACH OF THE SEVEN PENITENT PSALMS THE WRITER ACKNOWLEDGES HIS SIN TO YAHWEH AND ASKS FOR FORGIVENESS. THESE PSALMS VOICE THE REPENTANT ATTITUDE OF THE SPEAKERS AND DEMONSTRATE GOD’S LOVING FORGIVENESS WHEN SIN IS RECOGNIZED.

AS BELIEVERS IN JESUS CHRIST TODAY WE HAVE THE NEW TESTAMENT TEACHINGS ABOUT SIN AND FORGIVENESS TO GUIDE US IN DEALING WITH SIN.

JOHN GIVES US THIS TEACHING ABOUT SIN:

1 JOHN 1:8-10:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

THERE ARE THREE REASONS FOR PENITENTIAL PSALMS:

1. THE FIRST RELATES TO OUR EXPERIENCE OF GUILT AND FORGIVENESS. KNOWING WHAT TO DO WHEN WE SIN AND DOING IT ARE OFTEN TWO DIFFERENT MATTERS. IT IS SOMETIMES VERY DIFFICULT TO CONFESS OUR SINS TO GOD. IT IS SOMETIMES EASIER TO CONFESS TO OTHERS THAN IT IS TO CONFESS TO GOD.

FORGIVENESS IS BY IT’S NATURE FOR THE UNWORTHY. WE CANNOT REPENT UNTIL WE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT WE DO NOT DESERVE FORGIVENESS. WE KNOW WE NEED TO CONFESS OUR SIN BEFORE GOD, BUT SOMETIMES THE WEIGHT OF THOSE SINS ARE OVERWEALMING AND WE DO NOT KNOW HOW TO EXPRESS OUR REPENTANCE ADEQUATELY.

THE PENITENTIAL PSALMS WALK US THROUGH THE EXPERIENCE OF GUILT, CONFESSION, AND FORGIVENESS, THEREBY HELPING US TO PARTICIPATE EXPERIENTIALLY IN THE PROCESS OF FORGIVENESS

2. THE PENITENTIAL PSALMS SHOW US HOW NECESSARY GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HIS UNFAILING (HESED) LOVE ARE FOR CLEANSING HUMAN SIN. GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS IS NECESSARY FOR FORGIVENESS BECAUSE, IF HE WERE NOT ENTIRELY HOLY, HIS JUDGMENTS WOULD BE ARBITRARY AND EVEN UNJUST. IT IS ONLY BY GOD’S GRACE IN US THAT LEADS US TO CONFESS OUR SINS.


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