Summary: David pleads for God's mercy from within the context of God's covenant love.
Last week we began our Lenten journey, towards the cross and the empty tomb, and I introduced Psalm 51 as the text that will guide us along the way. As a reminder, Lent is the season of preparation for our greatest celebration as Christians, that of remembering the death and celebrating the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
I left you with 3 “assignments” for the week; 1. choose something to do/not do for Lent as a way to personally prepare for Easter; 2. read the background texts of David’s sin with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel; and 3. memorize Ps 51. And I apologize. The last assignment, at the very least, is really hard! I’m only part way through, despite working on it at least once a day! But I’m going to keep at it, because I believe it is worth the effort, worth the work, to internalize the Word of God; to have it always available, to have it “written on my heart” to borrow a phrase. And I believe that if memorized, our study of and action out of the Psalm will be much deeper and richer.
We are going to live with this Psalm over the next 4 weeks, tackling verses 1-2 today, but I’m committed to reading the entire Psalm together each week.
Ps 51 (NIV)
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
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 you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
The Space Between:
In last week’s introduction, we quickly rehearsed the story of David’s sin of adultery and murder – and the subsequent confrontation from Nathan the prophet and conviction of sin from the Holy Spirit – as the background for the Psalm. And, as a little aside for those of you who like rabbit trails ; I believe that what broke David’s heart was not the sexual sin but rather the injustice sin - a man with everything exploiting a man with almost nothing – David’s conviction was a justice issue not a sexual issue. Interesting point to ponder…
Regardless, the fact remains that David experienced deep conviction of sin, and out of that deep conviction writes the words to this Psalm.
I want to pause in that space between, and explore that idea of conviction of sin. I don’t see a lot of that today – I don’t see people broken and deeply remorseful and grieving over sin, and I’m really curious about why you think that might be? I don’t even see it often in myself. And I know it is not because there isn’t much sin in me! I see a lot of pain as a result of sin, a lot of enslavement to sin, a lot of examples where people I care about are deeply hurt by sin (either their own or the sin of others), but not much true conviction. Why do you think that might be?