Guest Speaker, Lynn Stein
Psalm 51 (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 that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost 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, and sinners will turn back to you.
14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips, 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 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
There’s a story about a man who wrote a letter to the IRS saying, “I haven’t been able to sleep lately because last year, when I filed my income tax forms, I deliberately misrepresented my income. I am enclosing a check for $150.00, and if I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the rest.” That’s not exactly an attitude of contrition, is it?
David’s remorse went much deeper for his sins of adultery and murder than the tax defrauder’s sin for cheating the government. David’s guilt was unbearable as Psalm 51 attests.
Psalm 51 is David’s plea to God, not only confessing these sins, but begging for forgiveness and a total heart makeover. David isn’t just saying, “Gee, I’m sorry.” He’s saying, “I did it, please forgive me, and give me the kind of steadfast heart that will keep me from doing it again.” Despite the pain and grief that David pours out from his soul in this psalm, he also has hope for restoring his relationship with God. And as long as there is hope, there is the possibility of salvation.
For those of you who are “over 23” and who may need a little refresher course about the story of David and Bathsheba, here’s the short version. While all of David’s army was out fighting, David elected to stay in the comfort of his home. One night, he got up from bed, went out on the roof, and watched a woman named Bathsheba while she bathed. (Right then, David could’ve used Paul’s advice from 1 Thessalonians 5:6 when he warned, “…let us be alert and self-controlled”.)
Unfortunately, David liked what he saw so much that he sent a servant to fetch her, despite the servant’s subtle warning that she was married to Uriah, a soldier in David’s army. Not only did he have an adulterous encounter with her, David got her pregnant
When he learned of the pregnancy, he panicked because he didn’t want to confess to Uriah and the rest of the kingdom that he had committed adultery. After all, he was supposed to be the spiritual leader for the people. So David sent for Uriah, hoping he could get Uriah to go home to sleep with his wife. But Uriah was a stand-up kind of guy, and essentially he said, “How can I go home and sleep with my wife when my comrades are out in the field, sleeping in tents?” All David could think was, “How do I get out of this?” Consequently, he sent Uriah back to the battle with a note instructing Gen. Joab to put Uriah at the battle’s forefront so that he would be killed. After Uriah’s death and a period of mourning, David married Bathsheba.
How did God feel about this? 2 Samuel 11:27 tells us: “But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.”
The voice that David heard on the rooftop that night was not God’s, even though his life’s habit had been to commune with and worship God on a regular basis. David heard only the enemy’s voice, not God’s.
And so this middle-aged David was a far cry from the young shepherd who had depended wholly on God for relationship, wisdom, protection, comfort, and strength. . Living out in the wild guarding his sheep from predators kept him in “survival” mode, dependent on God and alert to His voice. David’s youth had been a perfect time for God to groom him for the tasks ahead because David was attentive. David had time to hone his skills as a sling-er. His marksmanship came in handy for killing lions and bears, and a giant Philistine named Goliath. Slings and rocks weren’t David’s greatest weapons, however. David’s greatest weapon was God, because he always kept the Lord before him. And so David brazenly told Goliath that “…the battle is the LORD’s”. This was only the first of many victories in an illustrious career as a leader and warrior.
And though David was brave and strong, he was also musically talented, learning to play numerous instruments and composing many psalms and melodies during his down-time in the pasture. His musical skills would prove invaluable to soothe King Saul when he was troubled.
Eventually, Saul would prove to be another enemy, and David would spend years not only fighting for Saul, but fleeing from him as well. God groomed David in the art of warfare, and because he always depended on God for victory, victory was always his.
To his credit, David was always eager to sing and dance in praise and thanksgiving before the Lord! Giving God the glory was a joy to David! Despite some missteps, David was always quick to return to the Lord, confessing his sins with passion and sincerity. God was his guide, his strength, his loving Heavenly Father.
Eventually God would anoint David as king. Thereafter, David’s whole life seemed victorious: two decades of sterling leadership; a military force every foe respected; enlarged boundaries that now reached 60,000 square miles; no defeats on the battlefield; strong national defense; financial health; a beautiful home. David’s was a meritorious life. David had it all.
In Luke 12:48 we are told: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Indeed, the Lord had entrusted David with much, and as long as David listened to and obeyed the Lord, David remained the Golden Child that he was in his youth. Tonight, David wasn’t listening.
What happened to the David who was always gladdened by God’s voice? The night he stepped out of his warm, comfortable bed and stood on the rooftop to watch another man’s wife bathe, he turned a deaf ear to God and only heard a song of deception from a cunning, invisible enemy: lust.
I’ve reminded you of David’s younger life and his closeness to God as a contrast to the life in which he had fallen at the time of his affair. When life is easy, we can be suckered into believing we don’t need God as much, if at all. We put God on the back burner until life throws us a curve ball and we’re without a bat or a mitt. Our relationship with God is usually closer when we’re in “survival” mode, not “comfort” mode. .” Ashish Patel quipped: “Complacency traps people and besieges them. The biggest challenge is to become aware of its existence and stepping out of it quickly.”
Had David grown lax and complacent? Had his dependence on God waned? “Having it all” can do that to you. We tend not to need God when things are cushy.
For all intents and purposes, David was worthy of death for his terrible sins of adultery and murder, according to God’s Old Testament laws. But God loved David too much to let this man off the hook. And God loves us too much to let US off the hook.
We also know that David loved God, too, enough that his sin plagued and tortured him. In Psalms 32, David talks about losing weight, “groaning all day long,” having his strength sapped, and feeling God’s hand heavy upon him.
Can you relate to those oppressive feelings when you have unconfessed sin in your heart? Do you feel totally “out of it,” like you’re carrying a bowling ball on your chest, and you can’t sleep or eat? (Or, in my case, overeat)? Eventually the Lord will force us to our knees if we won’t do it voluntarily, as He did with David. (Be thankful He loves you that much.)
So God sends Nathan, the prophet, to bring David to HIS knees. God didn’t do it right away, though. He let David stew in his own muck for about a year. Not only did he have time to think about his dirty deeds, but he realized he didn’t want to end up like Saul, separated from and abandoned by God permanently. When Nathan tells David a parable about a rich man with many sheep who confiscates the only sheep belonging to a poor man to give to a drifter, David is appalled at this injustice. Then Nathan proclaims: “You are that man!”
Finally, David is ready to purge himself of the sin that has separated him from God. He is a “hurtin’ unit,” we would say today. Psalm 51 so accurately depicts his acute mental anguish that we almost feel David’s pain ourselves. Elie Wiesel once said, “There are victories of the soul and spirit. Sometimes, even if you lose, you win.” At this point, David has imploded in pain, pain only God can remove. There is no more “down” for David; the only way is up if he is to be healed of his anguish caused by sin. And the only way to go up is to go to God in confession and contrition. To go “up”, he must admit defeat. He must lose. But when he loses his pride and self-sufficiency, he wins God’s favor.
The great thing about David is that even though he has terrible lapses in judgment—and this one was a big one—he never forgets Who he can turn to. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” While David never read those lines, he felt the truth of them in his “innermost parts”.
So why did it take so long for him to go to God? Could it be that he felt so ashamed and unworthy and embarrassed that he didn’t know where to start? Have you ever been there?
Sometimes we need to get over ourselves.
Today, Psalm 51 could be titled “A Contrition and Confession Guide for Dummies.” Have you noticed how famous people, after they divulge some deep, dark secret, usually write a book about it? Well, David wrote a psalm about it. It’s a psalm that identifies confession, brokenness, and contrition as the necessary means to obtain God’s forgiveness.
First, David acknowledges and confesses his sin in verses 3 and 4. He says, “For I know my transgressions,” meaning he knows what he did, and he’s admitting it.
Then in verse 10, David acknowledges his brokenness. He asks God to “create” a new heart in him. He doesn’t want a heart that is “mended” or “patched up”. An engine can be rebuilt, but a pane of broken glass cannot. David’s heart is shattered. He wants his heart to be a totally new creation, something only God can do. Just as God created something out of nothing in Genesis, He is asked to create a whole new heart or being for David. Furthermore, David asks for a heart that desires obedience and is “steadfast” so that it resists evil. But, for God to create a new heart in us, we must have an attitude that allows Him to do His work in us.
Therefore, we must also be contrite. David expresses his contrition in verses 16 and 17. Here, David reveals great insight– that God doesn’t want animal sacrifices or burnt offerings. God wants us to offer up to Him our broken and contrite hearts. Furthermore, He doesn’t want a quick-fix “I’m sorry” where we just pay lip service to Him. God wants contrition. Contrition means that our inner self is crushed with a sense of guilt, and that we have a genuine and deep sorrow for our rebellion against God. We are determined, then, to live differently.
Furthermore, a contrite heart does not seek to blame circumstances or other people or God for our own failure. The story of the tax defrauder is not unlike our own stories, or more accurately, our own excuses to God. We rationalize our sin with thoughts like:
- “I wouldn’t have done it if she hadn’t….”
- “Everyone else is doing it…..”
- “What he did was worse than what I did….”
- “If my boss would just pay me more, I wouldn’t have had to cheat on my taxes.”
David doesn’t blame Bathsheba or make excuses for his behavior, because he is not content to live with half-truths or compromise, or to cheapen his accountability by assigning blame for his actions to others. So he simply confesses and then seeks absolution.
David was right in v. 16 and 17. Absolution couldn’t come through animal sacrifices. David and all of mankind needed a more perfect sacrifice, one that could take away the sins of the world once, for all time. And so God sent Jesus, through David’s seed, just as He had promised. Although David didn’t have Jesus as Intercessor to God, his line would lead directly to the One who WOULD be intercessor for us.
The hope in this story is that if we come to God, asking for forgiveness, He WILL take away our sins. For us, Jesus makes forgiveness and salvation possible. Why, then, should we stew in our own muck as David did, or stay doomed by making excuses for our wrongdoing like the tax defrauder, when victory from sin is just a confession and a contrite heart away?