Summary: After David's confession of his sin, he asks God to purify and renew him.
The cross is such an ironic symbol. In context, 2000 years ago, a cross was a horrible instrument of torture and death, it was feared and reviled, it was a punishment so dehumanizing that it was to be a major deterrent to crime, and those sentenced to death on a cross were humiliated and debased. It was, quite literally, the worst that the Romans could come up with (and they were well practiced in war and death).
And now we sing of “the wonderful cross”, we sing “simply to the cross I cling”, we sing fondly of “the old rugged cross”. We wear it as jewelry. We put it on buildings. The “Red Cross” is known everywhere in the world as an organization of peace that seeks to bring healing and emergency relief to war zones and disaster areas. People tattoo it in permanent ink on their bodies. What changed?
Jesus embraced the cross, gave His life willingly on the cross for you and me, and through the cross defeated the power of sin and death and rose again victorious.
We are on a journey towards the cross, and then through it to the empty tomb. I’ve been using very specific language this year, we remember the cross and celebrate the empty tomb. Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent, Passion week begins in two weeks on Palm Sunday, and Good Friday and Easter Sunday follow at the end of the month. Are you ready for Easter? Ready to confront the reality of what our sin caused, ready to be renewed in desire to live a life of holiness and joy and love for God who has done so much for us, ready to celebrate life over death, forgiveness over condemnation, freedom over slavery, hope over despair, fellowship with God over separation from God, and the empty tomb over the cross? There is so much to celebrate!! And it is coming soon.
Our Lenten journey this year has been one of confronting sin in our lives, so that we can live in victory. We’ve been studying Psalm 51 as a guide, and here is a quick review of the steps on the journey thus far:
• step one was an orientation to Lent and introduction to Psalm 51. We talked about how God’s hatred of sin is because of His love for us, and we talked about the background to the Psalm of David’s sin with Bathsheba.
• step two looked at the experience of conviction of sin, and how in verses 1-2 David begins his confession within the security of his relationship with God and then pleas for washing and cleansing from sin.
• step three we took last week, verses 3-5, and they are hard verses. They constitute a fearless look at our sinful old nature, and give words to the grief and agony that each follower of Christ should have over the presence of sin in our lives. If we don’t have that grief and agony, there is something seriously wrong with our love for Jesus.
• today we take the next step, and the road becomes a little easier. The focus turns from the ugliness of sin to the incredible beauty of God’s forgiveness.
Psalm 51 (NIV): (read together)
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 You desire truth in the inward being;[a]
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.(NRSV)
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,