Psalm 51:1-9, we’ll be taking the next couple of weeks to work through this psalm. It’s one of the most well-known of the Psalms of confession, one that we have sung about in many different ways. Again, very familiar, David’s Song of Confession. As we look to the reading of God’s word, though, if you would join me in prayer. Father of all mercy, you have promised never to break Your covenant with us. And amid all the changing words of our generation, we ask that you would speak your eternal words that do not change, that we may respond to Your gracious promises with faithful and obedient lives. And this we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Beginning in verse 1, Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy, blood out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin, for I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only have I sinned and done one as evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth, in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hisp, and I shall be clean, wash me, and I shall be wider than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness. Let the bones that you have broken, rejoice. Hide your face from my sin, and blood out all my iniquities. The word of the Lord, you please be seated. I’m sure like you, with the advent of streaming and such, that you’ve watched TV or film from other countries. And one of the observations I’ve had in watching some of these, or at least reading the subtitles, I observed that countries where Christianity has not been a major influence, they do not have a ready way to deal with shame and forgiveness. Probably the indictment on Western Cinema, they were far more moral in their overall viewing. But the removal of shame and guilt were problematic. That shouldn’t surprise us. There’s also no secular way to deal with guilt either. Guilt is at its center. It’s a religious problem. And since we are religious creatures, whether we like it or not, our own guilt and shame can only find resolution through a religious answer.
But once we enter to the arena of religious answers, we find the field to be very lacking as well, except for one. This is the big three, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. They do not give us a way to remove our guilt and shame. It’s usually try harder or work out your bad karma through reincarnation, unless you mess up and you’re starting all over again, or you simply just do more good things so that you tip the scales more good than bad. The only true solution is found in the person and work of Jesus. We come to the Lord to know Him and to know His standards. When we know His standards, we do not judge ourselves by our own hearts anymore. We need this for we make a mess of our lives all the time. We easily justify our sins and we turn a blind eye towards them. When our hearts weigh us down, nothing we can do is going to lift them up on our own. Because the Lord alone can cleanse us from our sins, we must come to Him in confession and receive his forgiveness. This Psalm is good news for you and I.
How so? Look at the title. To the choir master, a Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him after he had gone in with Tashiba. It is good news for us, considering who David is. David is the gold standard. We hear in 1 Kings 13, The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, referring to David. 2 Kings 13, speaking of King Joash, Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not like his father, David. 2 Kings 8, Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah for the sake of David, his servant. That is repeated through these books. Not like David for the sake of David, he’s the gold standard. David, the man after God’s own heart. David, the psalm writer and singer. David, the blessed king of Israel. David, the covenant maker with God from whom the Messiah would come. David, the giant killer. David, and on it goes. If David, then so you and I. See, David, at this point in his life, is just driving down Easy Street. Things are going really well. He’s driving along and he decides, Oh, I’m going to pull the pin on the Grenade and drop it at my feet.
He blew up his life. But that’s not the end of the story. That’s good news for you and I because we are a pin-pulling bunch of idiots, too. You think about who messes up your life the most, it’s us. Usually not somebody else. We’re the ones who caused the damage. How do we go on from there? You look at David, this is catastrophic. Most of us haven’t come anywhere near this level. Just a quick recap of what happened. 2 Samuel 11, instead of going off to war with the Amonites, David is lounging in Jerusalem, and he sees a beautiful young woman, and he sent messengers to go get her. And he knows she’s married. He knows her husband. Uriah is in a list of the 30 mighty men of David. It’s also a strong possibility that Bathsheba is the granddaughter to his trusted advisor, Ahithothel. You may recall that when David’s own son, Avson, revolted against him, Ahithal-Fabricad and Phil also turned against David. Probably a connection. David knew these people. And in gross abuse of power and sin, David sleeps with her. The plot thickens. A little while later, she sends back word that she’s pregnant.
David goes into problem-solving mode and recalls Uriah from the front lines. Calls him back and said, How goes the battle? Good, good, yeah. It’s getting late. Why don’t you just go home and we’ll take this up in the morning? He sleeps at the door of David’s house. When he’s asked why, Uriah responds, The Ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my Lord, Joab and the servants of my Lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing. Uriah is a righteous man, a noble soldier with great integrity. David is in his mind, his next solution, get Uriah drunk. It doesn’t work. He still doesn’t go home. The next thing he can think of is write a letter to the commander to Joab. He says, Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him that he may be struck down and die. Guess who carries this letter to Joab? His faithful servant, Uriah. This is awful. Besides adultery, David kills Uriah through a devious plot.
Don’t forget that the other soldiers who were involved, some of them were also killed. It wasn’t just Uriah. They went up to the wall and then they reined down on them and they pulled back. There were several who were killed. There’s a lot of blood on David’s hands. He then marries to Tashiba and no one’s the wiser. No one but God. We read this, The thing that David has done displeased the Lord. And the Lord sent Nathan to David. Very familiar story to us as well, the short version. Nathan comes to him with this story. He says, David, there’s this rich guy with a lot of sheep. He took this poor guy’s precious and only lamb and fed it to his guests. David is enraged. What a horrible and despicable person who’s worthy of death. He shall pay back four times the amount to the poor man. Of course, the famous spin-around, Nathan. David, you’re the man. Now David finally sees, and what he says right there is, I have sinned against the Lord. This Psalm is an outflow of his repentance. Now, keep in mind, this Psalm, like all the Psalms, are about corporate worship.
It’s not simply a private confession that we get to listen in on. It’s for our benefit. David’s particular sin is the occasion, but it is for all of God’s people to be able to join in with in confession. In this confession, have mercy, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy, blood out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, cleanse me from my sin. This appeal is made to God who is rich in mercy and loving kindness. It’s an urgent cry of the Lord. David speaks of his transgressions, his iniquity, his sin. He covers it all with these three words. And now he asks the Lord for his three-fold renewal, blood out, wash, cleanse. Those are things only the Lord can do. His shame and his guilt can only be removed by God taking action. He says, verse 3, For I know my transgression, my sin is ever before me. David’s hard heart has now given way to a real contrition and an awareness, a mourning for his sin. He hates it. Now, verse 4, it can catch us a little bit by surprise. Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
Well, wait a minute. He certainly sinned against Uriah and Bathsheba, not to mention Joe Abba and the soldiers and their families. How could he only speak about sinning against God? Well, there are several ways to see this. Sin is, by definition, something done against God. It’s God standard that he’s violated. We can commit crimes against society, but is only against God that we sin. And anything we do against someone else is done against God and whose image they’ve been made. If you went up to Jeremiah Peterson and you pushed him down in front of his dad, Ryan, you wouldn’t say to his dad, Hey, stay out of this. It’s between me and Jeremiah. No, you have offended Ryan by hurting his son. You’re going to contend with Ryan. Any wrong done to someone else is a wrong done to God, and you’re going to contend with him. There is no one person who could bring David relief. It’s God alone. And when we have seen our sin, first and foremost, as a sin against God, it gives greater force to our confession to the people that we have wronged. Far from forgetting about people that you’ve hurt, a real confession to the Lord will deepen your sorrow towards them.
With David, if we start with, I have sinned against the Lord, that’s the start. It’s not the end of the matter. If you end where you’ve started, you really haven’t confessed your sin. If you’re like, Well, it’s just between me and God. No, it’s not between you and God because multiple other people may have been involved. It certainly was the case with David. What’s missing, if that’s all the further you go, is contrition. Contrition is that inner wounding you have for your own sin. You own it. It’s the deep sorrow and regret that comes from the Holy Spirit bringing conviction to your heart. Contriction is ownership. My sin, my transgression, my iniquities. He said, verse 5, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Here David sees that he’s not only committed a terrible sin, but he is a sinner. He’s not blaming his mom or anyone else here. He’s acknowledging his sinful state. I am a sinner, not just I did a sinful act. As Charles Spershan said, he said, The fountain of my life is polluted as well as it streams. I naturally lean to forbidden things.
We get that. We naturally lean to forbidden things. David goes on, Behold, you delight in truth and inward being. You teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Given his sinful state, David’s repentance, it comes from the Lord. David has tried to spin his image. He’s tried to wash up the outside. Now he realizes the inner heart from which all of this has flowed. He needs the Lord to lead him even in his own awareness of his own sin. That’s how dependent we are, how blinding our sin is. We need God to show us our own awareness of the things we’ve done wrong. Then he says in verse 7, Purge me with hissep. That’s a plant that was used, and they dipped either the sacrificial blood in it or the water purification, speaking about the right of cleansing. He said, Then I shall be clean, wash me, and I shall be wider than snow. Again, these three great acts of God’s complete restoration and renewal, clans, wash out, blood out, all works of God. And then he says, Let me hear joy and gladness. Let the bones that you have broken and rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blood out my iniquities.
There’s a gap between a holy God and a sinful people, and we need the Lord to bridge that gap. And given what David has done, it seems an outrageous thing to ask for joy and gladness. Think about it. Here the family or friends of Uriah, Bathsheba, and you’ve now finally caught up with what actually happened as this story gets leaked out. And you’re thinking, How dare he ask for joy and gladness? How dare he’s not. That’s the heart that would want David to pay deeply for something so heinous and grievous that he’s done. How could he even ask for this? It takes us back to verse 1, According to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy, we have an outrageously generous God. He’s not asking God to hide Himself from David. He is asking him that God would hide His sin. When we have done wrong, we want to hide ourselves. That’s usually the first thing that we do is go and hide. The last thing we want to do is to step into the light of God’s holiness. David here knows he can’t run from God. He’s asking the Lord not to see his sin.
The fact that he is crushed and he feels the weight of his conviction is a kind gift of God. That where he’s at is a gift of the God that he has sinned against. Repentance brings restored relationship, first and foremost, to the Lord. We’re going to look at the rest of the Psalm next week as we follow that progression. But these first nine verses show us David’s confession and contrition. They instruct our hearts as well. As I said at the start, our shame and our guilt is first and foremost a religious problem. There’s no secular way to deal with it. And outside Christianity, there’s no other religious way to get rid of it either. Why is it religious? It’s religious because it’s God’s standard and not ours. David said that his sin was a violation of God’s law, but that’s not enough either. You see, the fear punishment is not enough. It’s not nothing. It is a good thing. We’re very grateful for that in society. It does restrain evil when people are afraid of punishment. But we don’t stop there. We continue forward because fear of punishment will never transform your heart. Love a God will.
What he needs is a renewed love for the Lord. Because God’s law is the image of God. We did not say something that God does loving things as if love is something that God puts on and that God does. Scripture tells us that God is love. Not just an act, it’s who He is at His core, and He is the standard for our judgment. When we know His standard, we know Him. That is so contrary to the world in which we live, to the culture from which we drink. Disney helps us see our cultural current really well. What are we consistently told in almost every Disney film you’ve ever seen? Be true to yourself. Follow your heart. Do what feels right. No, we are not our own standard. We are not the judge of ourselves. David could have easily said, Well, look, I didn’t do anything to Uriah. That was the Aminites on me. Technically, I didn’t murder anyone. Yeah, I was involved a little bit, but I didn’t. It wasn’t me. Not on it. And David also got there to a process of the heart of justifying his sin, how easy it would be to be able to look, it’s tough to be the king.
That’s a lot of responsibilities. None of you know what I’m going through. I’m the only king. You don’t know what it’s like to be in my shoes. No one knows how I feel. I know that the Lord doesn’t want me to live a miserable life. God wants me to be happy. How easy that is, that self-focus, that turn of everything. Follow your heart. Do what’s right in your own eyes. You become the standard. That’s the world in which we live. David looks to God and he now conforms to God’s standard. He says, Against you have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. When we start here with a vertical towards God, we are now in a position where we can go horizontally with one another. In doing that, it keeps us from resentment and bitterness towards others who have wronged us. I appreciate how authorJerry Fisher put it, I put it in your bulletin, she said, Resentments like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Resentments like drinking poison, waiting for the other person to die. How you can sit on that and just be, I can’t believe what they’ve done to me.
How wrong they are and how that actually brings death to your own soul because you’re not dealing with your own guilt and shame, which can only be done and dealt with through God. Once you have done that vertically, you now see people differently to where you can be a family member of Uriah. Hate what David did, but have room in there for forgiveness. We’ve seen those stories. Many of us have lived that. Terrible wrongs done to us. Unable to extend forgiveness. Why? Because of the forgiveness that we received from God. It’s first and foremost a problem with God that then gets lived out with one another. When you’ve seen your sin and you’ve felt its weight, you see then others in a new light, a gospel light. From Spurgeon, again, he said, To seek joy for a sinful heart, music for crushed bones is a preposterous prayer anywhere but at the throne of Jehovah. And it is preposterous there, most of all, but for the cross where the Lord Jesus bore our sins in his own body on the tree. We Grenade our lives. We are pen-pulling bunches of idiots. Where do we go when we blow things up?
We go to God. Who has gone to us. We go to the one who can restore our souls, cleanse our hearts that our failures there are not the final word. His mercy, His loving kindness, His goodness. Yes, consequences in this life, and David lived those out, but restored relationship to the Father, enabling him to restore relationships to others. We are a self-focused bunch of people. We see this. We produce narcissists like dandelions going cross the field. That’s a part of our culture. Self-focused people do not repent, but they resent. Self-focused people do not repent, but they resent. They resent the things done to them. Have yourself focus, everything is done to you. It’s what’s been done to me. I can’t believe this happened to me. I can’t believe, and we’re all about our rights, our privileges, our entitlements, what we deserve. And anything that stands in the way of that is a sin that someone else better atone for. And we can’t see it. We blind ourselves. Our self-focus blinds us to the world around us. This is David was blinded to the fact that he justified adultery and multiple murder. He couldn’t see it.
It was God who interjected in mercy to shift the focus off of himself to around him. That’s what we come in and worship to do, is to take the focus off of us, to go vertical. As we do that, then to go horizontal. All of us are just little me monsters. We want to feed us. Scripture is constantly pushing us out, going, Go vertical. The more that you know of who God is, His character, His delight, His word, His law, it changes us to be like Him, that we truly then can have an impact in our society. A hunger and a thirsting of people dying in selfish, miserableness. The doors out are through confession and repentance, acknowledgment of God, I have sinned against you, and you only have I sinned. And as that drives us, we then see that our relationships with one another. Oh, you’re right. I need to go to that person because in sinning against you, this is how that lived out into this other person’s life. And that’s the good news. Jesus sets us free from our self. Jesus sets us free from our sins that we have received His righteousness.
We have been washed clean because of His blood. Brothers and sisters, that is worth rejoicing. That is worth communicating. That is worth living and dying for. Pray with me. Father, we are so thankful for Your abundant mercy, Your overflowing kindness, and Father, thank you for your faithfulness. And Lord, even as we look at the life of David in awe of what you have done, we ask Father that you would also open our eyes to see what you have done for us. Father, that you would help us to take our eyes off of ourselves, to focus them on you. And Lord, we are are so thankful and grateful that it is your kindness that leads us to repentance. And Father, we pray that you would continue to show us who you are, that our hearts would be trained in your righteousness, your holiness. Set us free that we would be able to live fully for you. And this we pray and ask all through Jesus, our ascended savior. Amen. Amen. We pray to you.
Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription