Summary: In a society filled with guilt ridden people, how do we get rid of our guilt?
“Soul Talk: Mercy Me”
It had been a painful time for David. Yes, he had married Bathsheba, but only after committing adultery and murder. He may have fooled some of the people in the kingdom but he had not fooled himself. He was living with tremendous guilt. And he had not been honest with, nor fooled God. So God sent the prophet Nathan to David to tell a story about a rich man stealing a poor man’s lamb. David was irate, ready to severely punish the rich man – and Nathan pointed his finger at David and said, “You are the man I’m talking about!” And David got the message. Psalm 51 records his reaction.
David prayed “MERCY ME.” (1-2) “Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” He began with AN OPENNESS TO HIS SIN. He admitted he not only knew his sin, but that it was also in his mind, heart, and consciousness all the time. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” The reality was that he had never been free from his sin. He knew first- hand the greatness of his sin and wretchedness. So now, before God, he called a spade a spade – he admitted he had sinned. No shifting of the blame, no denial of responsibility, no excuses for his behavior.
He covered all the possibilities: “I know my transgressions…my sin…my iniquity…” Transgression is crossing over the lines and boundaries God has drawn; it is breaking away from and setting oneself against God’s lawful authority. Sin is missing the mark God had set for him. Iniquity means he yielded to his twisted sinful nature. As the New Living Translation puts it: “For I recognize my shameful deeds – they haunt me day and night.” WE CANNOT ASK FOR MERCY UNTIL WE RECOGNIZE WE ARE SINNERS. We live in the presence and under the judgment of a holy God.
That’s who David pointed to as the OBJECT OF HIS SIN (5-6): “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” Or as captured in The Message: “You’re the one I’ve violated, and you’ve seen the full extent of my evil…” “You have all the facts before you; whatever you decide about me is fair.” Every sin is against God. The magnitude of sin is THAT IT OFFENDS GOD, IT STANDS IN UTTER OPPOSITION TO HIM. Remember Joseph when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him? He responded, “How can I do this great sin against God?” The man
Jesus portrayed as the prodigal son came back to his father and said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” The truth is that even if no one else knows our sin, God does – and He’s rightly offended.
That’s why David continued by speaking about the OMNIPRESENCE OF SIN. (5) “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. The older I grow, the more I minister, the more I am convinced of the concept of ‘original sin.’ WE ARE BORN WITH A BENT TOWARDS SINNING. The Message portrays it, “I’ve been out of step with you for a long time, in the wrong since before I was born.” It was the Apostle Paul who went from calling himself – at the beginning of his Christian life – the least of the saints to – at the end of his life – calling himself the chief of sinners. Periodically I share a scene from Pinocchio to underscore the point. Gepetto has taken a wasted old table leg of no use to anyone and is using his best knives to carve a little doll whom he would wish were a decent son. As he carves Pinocchio’s eyes, they snap alive and dart viciously around the room. There is something so mischievous in those newly carved eyes that, if Gepetto would, he’d throw the whole table leg away. But he doesn’t. Instead he carves on until he sets one arm free. And no sooner has he set an arm free that Pinocchio’s free arm reaches up and grabs Gepetto’s wig, pulls it from his head and throws it aside. Gepetto holds the table leg out as a reluctant father and says, “You’re not even made and already you are a bad boy!” As Bob Dylan sang years ago, “Stone cold dead as I stepped out of the womb.” (1) That’s precisely what the Heidelberg Catechism states (Q & A 7): “Then where does this corrupt human nature come from? The fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise. This fall has so poisoned our nature that we are all conceived and born in a sinful condition.”