4/7: Lent 2019
For the choir director. A Davidic psalm, when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone to Bathsheba. 1 Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion. 2 Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge. 5 Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me. 6 Surely You desire integrity in the inner self, and You teach me wisdom deep within. 7 Purify 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 Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt. 10 God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You. 14 Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness. 15 Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. 16 You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart. 18 In Your good pleasure, cause Zion to prosper; build the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on Your altar.
The 51st Psalm is one that I am sure many of you are very familiar with. This is a very humbling psalm and one that we cannot take lightly. In reading it, we are convicted by the pleas from David and can all relate to it in one way or another.
Matthew Henry commented that “it is the most eminent of the penitential psalms, and most expressive of the cares and desires of a repenting sinner.”
Augustine, in preaching on Psalm 51, commended it as a great example for all believers. He said, “But if any that hath already fallen heareth these words, and that hath in his conscience any evil thing; to the words of this Psalm let him advert; let him heed the greatness of the wound, but not despair of the majesty of the Physician.”
He continues in saying, “This Psalm then, while it maketh heedful those that have not believed, so doth not will them that have fallen to be despaired of. Whoever thou art that hast sinned, and hesitatest to exercise penitence for thy sin, despairing of thy salvation, hear David groaning.”
Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers spoke of this psalm like this, “Such a psalm may be wept over, absorbed into the soul, and exhaled again in devotion; but, commented on—ah! where is he who having attempted it can do other than blush at his defeat?”
And so, this morning we consider this great Psalm. A psalm that ought to be approached with humility. But also one we come to with an openness not to try and hear something new. But an openness to let this text expose the sins we have. To bring us to repent from our sins. But also to realize that there is victory over sin and restoration from our Lord. The victory does not come from behavioral modification or pure grit as though we just need to try harder. It does not come from just ignoring it or redefining what we consider to be sin. A broken and contrite heart is how forgiveness is received.
Last week, we spoke about how we are to guard our hearts lest we deceive ourselves into somehow thinking that the good things that we are doing has somehow earned us salvation or the favor of the Lord. About how we are to have hearts that have been washed. Because it is not religiosity that saves, we see that truth reaffirmed in this 51st psalm of David.
16 You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.
We have been saying this throughout our entire series,
Lent brings us to repentance and repentance produces sanctified and grateful lives.
And we understand that the event, the occasion and season of Lent that we are in as a church, is not what makes us repent. But the reminder of the idols and sin in our hearts and lives that we dedicate time to expose in our selves in order to reorient ourselves back to Him. To see the rebellion we have against God.
But of course, we also understand that just because Lent is accentuating or highlighting these idols within us, it does not make us repent rightly. David, in this psalm, shows us what true repentance looks like. God is not looking merely for outward obedience. David reminds us that we ought to have truly broken and humbled hearts. Even Paul understood this truth.
10 For godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death.
No, instead we are to come to him in humility and brokenness before our God and only then will...
19 Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on Your altar.
And so it is with humbled hearts we approach this beautiful word of God. Let’s consider it carefully and handle it appropriately as we consider the truth that it is proclaiming for us this day.
Now, before we dive into the passage for this morning I want us to dig into the context and frame up this pericope, this section of Scripture. And this psalm is rather helpful because like some of the other psalms (52, 56, etc) it provides us with a bit of history and context for this psalm before it even starts. So we let’s read it. It says “For the choir director. A Davidic psalm, when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone to Bathsheba.”
And we all have heard this story, especially those who grew up in Sunday School. David seems to have had a very faithful walk with God, especially when he was younger, but unfortunately he does not follow through does he? It seems like when he gets older, the less righteous we see him.
And this event is referencing what we read in 2 Samuel 11, where David is walking around his palace when he was supposed to have been at the war. But instead of leading his army into war, he is strolling the palace and he sees Bathsheba, bathing herself on her roof, and he lusts after her. He is in the wrong place and lacks self-control and he sins and he calls her to him. Bathsheba seems to be complicit in the sin of adultery and becomes pregnant she returns to David. And the story just continues to get worse. Because what we see is sin piled on top of more sin.
David instead of repenting of his sin upon his sin, attempts to do what? He tries to cover it up. He calls Uriah back from war and encourages him to go to his wife. He does not and so he gets him drunk but Uriah is a man of honor and does not return home. And so, now David is in a situation where clearly he needs to repent. He has done what he can and failed. And so he repents and the story ends there....no. it does not.
What happens? That’s right, he sends Uriah back to the war and has him deliver a message to Joab,David’s nephew and commander of his army. The message is to place him on the front lines and to pull away from him so that he dies. How evil is that? He has Uriah deliver his own death note. Then we read in...
26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband Uriah had died, she mourned for him. 27 When the time of mourning ended, David had her brought to his house. She became his wife and bore him a son. However, the Lord considered what David had done to be evil.
And throughout all of this, months have gone by and nearly a year and David has not yet repented. Which brings us to note at the beginning of this psalm which references the event that happens afterwards in the 12th chapter of 2 Samuel. Nathan the prophet exposes David’s sin before him by giving him an analogy.
1 So the Lord sent Nathan to David. When he arrived, he said to him: There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one small ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up, living with him and his children. It shared his meager food and drank from his cup; it slept in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man could not bring himself to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest. 5 David was infuriated with the man and said to Nathan: “As the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 Because he has done this thing and shown no pity, he must pay four lambs for that lamb.” 7 Nathan replied to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.
Sin is not Forgotten
You know the temptation for many of us is to think that God has forgotten about a sin we had committed. Maybe it was so long ago and you have done so many good things in the meantime that God has given you a pass. And what we read and come to understand is that sin is offensive to God and that it is not forgotten.
A lot of time had gone by, David is free and clear! His guilt is no more. Not at all.
1 Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion. 2 Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me.
It was not removed from him, because he had not repented. And even though he may likely have brought sacrifices before God in those months it was not of any profit. He pleas to God be act in accordance with His own nature. But not just to escape punishment, but he comes to him in real and true repentance. He expresses a reality that we all could do well in growing deeper in our understanding of. The truth that it is through God, and God alone, where we can find grace. We can search for many things or try and do many good things, but they do not merit us grace. And we learned last week in Isa 58 how God Himself does not desire these vain and superficial acts of worship.
Our Lord, Jesus, even expresses this truth that offerings given without first having a heart that understands our sin is truly a great thing is not what God desires.
23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
We must understand that we do not overlook sin when we come to the Lord. But we recognize it where it is present and we humble ourselves and we repent. And so, if you think you are free and clear, you are not. we are guilty and need to be cleansed.
2. Sin is against God
4 Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge.
David was not in any way suggesting that his sin was not also against Uriah and Bathsheba. But he understood that the worst part of sin is that it is not just against another sinner, but it is against the most holy God. Our primary problem when we sin is that we sin against the God who created us and has provided us with a means of salvation through His son. It is deeply egregious, horrific, and detestable.
Do we approach sin in this manner? Do we understand that it is not just against flesh and bone that we have wronged. We have rejected God! The one who we sing songs about, the one we say we dedicate our lives to, the God we say we worship. He is who we sin against. Does that not cause us any remorse. Some of us feel more remorse when we hurt our own pets than when we sin against God!
David understood it rightly, and he prays to God to because he knows who he has sinned against and he knows who it is that he needs to be reconciled too.
7 Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Why hyssop? What is that? I am pretty sure that no one here has gone to an HEB or Kroger and purchases hyssop. Well we know that in the context is used for cleansing. Hyssop was a small plant that, because of the way it was shaped and formed, could be used as a small brush. And so the priests would use hyssop to brush, or sprinkle, blood over a sacrifice or offering. It was a device used for ritual cleansing and sprinkling of blood. In Exodus 12, we read of its use as part of the Passover regulation. God says, “Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it into the blood in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin” (Exodus 12:22). Also in Leviticus and Numbers both describe how hyssop was used to sprinkle blood on people or sacrifices in cleansing ceremonies. So when we hear David pray, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean,” David is referring to the process of sacrifice, and specifically the sprinkling of blood.
3. Sin is not unforgivable
In a NT context, we no longer sprinkle animal blood with hyssop, instead, we are spiritually sprinkled by the blood of Christ.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh ), 21 and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.
We have sinned against God and we need cleansing and it is freely given. Our sin is not unforgivable, but it does not mean that it is automatically forgiven. We must confess our sins.
The picture of repentance that David lays out in Psalm 51 is a joyful return to the loving arms of his Savior. It doesn’t mean everything was perfect; in fact, the consequences of his sin were plain to see. He recognizes that his sin is an affront against God and His holiness and that he needs God’s forgiveness and grace to change. Above all, he asks God to restore to him the joy of salvation granted by God alone. Salvation was not something earned, but something granted, and in David’s repentant state, he needed to be reminded of God’s gracious gift.
Just like we all need to be reminded of God’s gracious gift of salvation. And that brings us to real and true repentance. With humility we confess our sins. We do not proudly come to Him thinking that He has to forgive us or go through the motions of proclaiming our sins thinking that we have said some magical words that forces God to forgive us. No, repentance and confession always is done with humility. As David put it, with a contrite heart, a broken and humbled heart (Ps 51:17b).
Within our posture of repentance, we can ask God to lift us up with a willing spirit, which is another way of asking for a renewed spirit to do God’s will. We may have moments where we quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), temporarily losing our joy for God. While this doesn’t deny the reality of His indwelling Spirit, it does mean we need to ask the Lord for a restoration of joy. Like David, may we ask the Lord to renew our joy and the recognition of His presence in our life. He is faithful to forgive and to restore us!
Which is the final point I want to leave us with this morning. Yes, we sin. And yes, salvation is of the Lord alone. But we tend to hold on to that guilt for far too long. Have assurance that when we truly repent, He forgives and restores us. And that restoration will lead us to live sanctified and grateful lives. Lives that are full of worship for the grace he has poured out on us.