Summary: 4th in a Lenten Series on Psalm 51
Psalm 51:3 2/21/18 (Create in Me a Clean Heart #3) MY SIN IS ALWAYS BEFORE ME
Edgar Allen Poe was kind of a morbid American author in the mid 1800s. He had a short and troubled life and wrote a number of troubling short stories and poems. One of those is called “The Tell-Tale heart”. I was going to give you a partial dramatic reading tonight but I decided not to. It’s just too creepy. It’s a story narrated by a murderer describing how he killed an old man and how carefully he worked it all out and covered it up – literally - by stuffing the old man’s dismembered body under the floorboards of the man’s own bedroom. Only later, when the police come and he invites them to search the house and he is sitting over the very spot, he begins to hear the dead man’s beating heart, louder and louder and louder and he can’t get away from it and finally he confesses everything to the police.
It’s a story similar to what happened to king David, except that before the prophet Nathan confronted him with his sin, he had covered up it all up with the burial of his friend Uriah the Hittite and apparently had developed such a calloused heart himself, that he did not hearing the beating heart of his friend. He was not troubled by his murder, let alone his adultery with Bathsheba. And God let him sit on all that for a while to see if it would begin to trouble him - all through Bathsheba’s pregnancy and the birth of their child before he sent the Prophet Nathan to tell him exactly what he had done and remind him that nothing is covered up with God who knows everything. And he realized that the real slavery was in trying to keep his sin a secret instead of bringing it to God in the first place.
And that’s what the Holy Spirit does when he starts to work in your life. He won’t let you bury your sin and stuff it, because that’s not what you need. What you need, and what we’ve been seeing in this series, is a clean heart before God. And that’s never going to happen when you’re holding on to sin instead of bringing it to Jesus Christ for cleansing.
And so he wrote this Psalm and made his repentance public to his people and to us, that we might learn from his mistakes instead of having to repeat them all ourselves. And today he says:
Slide: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Psalms 51:3 NIV)
It was before him with Bathsheba, and it was before him in the grave of his betrayed friend Uriah and in the grave of his son. Because as a consequence of his sin the Bible says
Slide: “After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill.” (2 Samuel 12:15 NIV)
And the Bible says that David fasted and prayed for the child. He desperately desired that his own sin wouldn’t hurt others. But sadly, that’s too often what happens. And sometimes God does not say “yes” to those prayers, but allows judgment against sin to play out, and the child died. And David would have to deal with that all his life. But he learned, so in this prayer of repentance he brings that to God as well, letting God know that he sees it all and he admits it all, no more covering up, no more excuses. He uses for instance in this prayer of repentance, multiple words for his wrong-doing.
The origin of that word is similar to the word we use in the Lord’s Prayer: “Trespass”. It means there was a clear line of law which you knew you shouldn’t cross, but you did anyway. It wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t a mistake, it was a deliberate rebellion against God’s law and an attempt to write your own laws for your behavior. Doesn’t that sound familiar today?
Earlier, David used the word
That means doing what is not just, not right. And doesn’t that fit when you think of what David did to Uriah, and Bathsheba, and to his country and to God?
Then he used the more generic word
Which has the connotation of “guilt” and basically covers all wrong-doing. In other words, David was covering all the bases and making sure that everybody knew that he knew he was without excuse, and falling completely on the mercy of Almighty God… which is exactly where all of us need to be – and which is exactly where our world is not.
There are some interesting tools out there today, and one of them is an online dictionary that actually tracks the usage of words from the 1800s to today. Let me show you those words we just looked at: