Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Psalm 51

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.


This is truly one of my favorite psalms.  That may sound strange because it’s David’s song of repentance after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband.  Real stand-up kind of guy, huh?  Yes, he was called “a man after God’s own heart”.  Clearly, if David can be forgiven his sin, I can be forgiven as well.  I love the hope that I get from reading this.

From the beginning of the psalm, David makes no bones about his sinfulness. He confesses that he has sinned against God and God alone.  But, he knows the heart of God.  In verse 10, he asks (expectantly, it appears) for God to forgive him and give him a clean heart.  He goes on to say that he will teach other sinners to follow God and that he will continue to praise God.  And he ends by saying that he knows that the sacrifice God wants from us are “a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” before the traditional burnt offerings.

When I read this, I think of Martin Luther’s admonition to “sin bravely”.  Luther wasn’t telling us to go out and sin, but rather to expect that we would sin and that no matter what the sin, God’s grace is greater.  Luther was also acknowledging that we can do nothing good without the power of God – and His power is great enough to cover any and all of our sin.

This is not to deny the importance of our perseverance toward holiness.  Rather, we can know ourselves and that our human nature wants to sin.  Then, we can come back over and over (albeit less often as time goes by, I would hope) in repentance to God and for more renewal in His love.

Let us go forward living a life of repentance and praising God for his awesome grace!

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