Summary: In the face of death, there is hope. David knows it. Do we?
Edith Rockefeller McCormick, the daughter of John D. Rockefeller, maintained a large household staff. She applied one rule to every servant without exception: They were not permitted to speak to her. The rule was broken only once, when word arrived at the family’s country retreat that their young son had died of scarlet fever. The McCormick’s were hosting a dinner party, but following a discussion in the servants’ quarters it was decided that Mrs. McCormick needed to know right away. When the tragic news was whispered to her, she merely nodded her head and the party continued without interruption.
Is this strange? I’m guessing most of you think so. It’s not your typical reaction to a death in the family. It’s certainly not the reaction that David had either. The subtitle to this psalm tells us that it was written when the prophet Nathan confronted David with the sin of his adultery with the wife of Uriah and with the death of the son she was carrying in her womb. 2 Samuel 12 tells of the anxious pleading David made before the Lord in the face of impending grief. It tells how David fasted. He spent night after night in tears upon the ground over imminent death of this child, pleading before God. Psalm 51 is but a small sampling of his prayers. It’s quite clear that in the face of death, joyous celebration is the furthest thing from his mind.
Nevertheless, it’s not to be missed that David knew that a cause for joy could yet be found. And that joy was not in memories. The child was hardly even born. There was no time for memories, no time for the child to accomplish anything memorable or to cherish. No, the joy wasn’t found in the memories, or the child or in anything David could find in this world. “O Lord, you open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise.” The Lord, is the one in whom he found cause to rejoice – the Lord who had called him, the Lord who had forgiven him and the Lord in whom he found hope, even in the face of his sin and the death of his son.
It had to come from there. It had to come from the Lord because David saw his human flesh and life for what it was worth in the eyes of God – nothing. He had nothing to offer before God in himself that could bring him hope – not his works, not his wealth (though he had plenty), nothing.
Unfortunately, too many never figure this out until it’s too late. Our Lord does “not delight in sacrifice;” he does “not take pleasure in burnt offerings.” Our hope is not in the reputations or glory that we attain in the sight of others, for as Paul states in Romans 3, “we all fall short of the glory of God and are held accountable before Him.” Our hope in the face of death is not the things we do. As Isaiah points out in ch. 64, “even the righteous things we do are like filthy rags in the sight of God.” Our hope is not in the personal sacrifices we made, nor is our hope today in the sacrifices that (Name of Individual) made throughout her life, sacrifices that we might well remember today.