Psalm 51 – Lord Have Mercy
Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – Feb. 10th, 2019
- If you know your psalms, Psalm 51 is one of the psalms that sticks in your memory. Why? Because David wrote it in response to the lowest point of his life, when he fulfilled his lust by abusing his power and had a man killed in the attempt to cover it up.
- When people think of us, they usually do so in terms of our greatest triumphs and our worst mistakes. When you think of King David, you may think of many things: how he was chosen out of obscurity, how he defeated the giant Goliath in battle, how he was on the run from a jealous king, how he spared Saul’s life twice when he could have easily took it, how he gathered an army together, unified the country, built a great capital, won great battles, was given a promise by God, wrote beloved psalms, survived a coo, made preparations to build the temple, was called a man after God’s own heart and also chose to give into lust, abuse his power and position, sleep with another man’s wife (Bathsheba), try to cover it up and eventually had her husband (Uriah) killed.
- The heading of this psalm says this:
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
- These events are recorded in 2 Samuel 11 -12. There are a number of significant things that are seen in this incident. The first is that it was not left out of the Bible. The Bible tells the truth about a person’s life and includes not just the positive details, but the negative ones as well. We should be thankful for this because it gives a true picture of what life looks like and it is a point of validity in the word itself, as a book that tells the truth vs. a book of propaganda.
- The second is that every one of us is vulnerable (even those who have hearts for God) to give into sin and abuse our power to get what we want. Don’t think you are above it or you deserve it; we must be wise, vigilant and on guard against our sin nature. It usually looks like this: not being where we should be, or doing what we should be doing, desiring something that is not ours to have, moving to commit the act, and then working to cover it up, which usually leads to more sin.
- The third is that in God’s eyes, no one gets away with anything, for He knows everything, and all sin is ultimately against Him. There will be an accounting and there are consequences for our behavior. He convicts us, confronts us, and gives us consequences because he loves us, both personally and corporately.
- David did the deed, and was called out by Nathan the prophet (bless the man for responding in obedience and wisely and courageously confronting the king). This psalm was written by David in response to these things. This should also be our pattern of response to our sin as well.
Cry for mercy
Ps 51:1-2 ESV
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
- After David was confronted with his sin, he responded by saying “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13). Most of the time when I am confronted by my sin, I make excuses and try to worm my way out. And when I have had to do this with others, this is usually their response as well. David responded, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Even though David sinned greatly, he still had a heart after God. When we sin, our best and the right response is to acknowledge it, and then turn our face toward God and cry for mercy (mercy is not getting what we do deserve).
- David appealed to God’s nature of having steadfast love and being abundantly merciful. He asked him to blot out his transgressions – don’t hold this against me, forgive me and wipe this from my record. He asked to be cleansed thoroughly from his iniquity and sin.
- We are all hardwired with the knowledge of good and evil and we know by our nature that evil deserves to be paid for and reconciled. We know we will be accountable for it and we should desire to be cleaned because of the dirt of our sin.
Own your sin
Ps 51:3-6 ESV
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 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.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
- Again, there is a statement of ownership of what has been done. There is a “well formed conscience” about right and wrong. Then there is this statement “against you, you only, have I sinned.” Ultimately, all sin is against God, because God is the standard in which all things are measured against. He is the one that told us what to do and not what to do. All sin is rebellion against Him expressed in our choices and actions with all.
- David also confessed that God is right, and God is justified in pinning responsibility on him. He acknowledges that God is blameless and His judgment is right.
- David then returns to confessing that the whole race of us are steeped in sin. The thing that pleased God and gives Him delight is that we are truthful in our heart. God will teach us His wisdom in our secret heart, the core and essence of who we are so that we will be truthful.
Plead for cleansing
Ps 51:7-12 ESV
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
- In the plea for cleansing there is a call to be “purged with hyssop.” Hyssop branches were used in sprinkling the doorposts of the houses with the blood of the lamb so the angel of death would “Passover” their house while they were slaves in Egypt. It points to that event and also point to Christ and being cleansed by His blood, that we will be “passed over” from the wrath of God because of Jesus taking the wrath for us. His blood indeed makes us whiter than snow.
- Because of our sin, we feel guilt, broken and burdened and it is all we feel and hear, and we should desire to hear joy and gladness again. In order for us to feel these things again, God has to give us a new heart, and give us a new spirit within us. We cannot do this on our own. This is something that only God can do.
- God’s empowering presence can be lifted from us (i.e. Saul). David makes a request to have joy again stemming from his salvation and a spirit that willingly follows God. When we have joy from the fact that we are saved and have a future in the resurrection our desire for joy is satisfied, keeping us from the desire to find joy in other things.
Pledge to teach
Ps 51:13-17 ESV
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
- Next, pledge that you will teach others from what you have experienced so people will steer clear from sin and show the path for others to return to God. (And this is a real problem for some, having a desire to go back but not knowing the way.) We now have the responsibility to use what we have done and what we have gone through to help guide others. (Our testimony does this as well.)
- In deliverance from the guilt of your sin, give praise to God who has delivered you. Knowing what delights God, is not our praise, but our heart, that we would have a broken spirit (vs. a proud or hard heart) that we would be contrite (sorry, remorseful, repentant) heart – God will never turn away the person with this kind of heart.
Pray for blessing
Ps 51:18-19 ESV
Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
- The last step for us to take when we are dealing with our sin, is to ask for a blessing, that God would “do good” to us and those who are connected to us (what affected David also effected the people he led); that God would protect us (build up the walls) and that He would take delight in us, our worship and are work.
- This is the prayer that David offered to God, and this is the same prayer you should pray when dealing with your sin. Cry for mercy, own your sin, plead for cleansing, pledge to teach, pray for blessings.
- Even though David was a man after God’s heart, there are consequences for sinful behavior and there are consequences for ours as well. (In the case of David, he paid a high penalty for his sin, the sword never left his house, evil came up from his house, his wives slept with another in broad daylight – what David did in secret would be done to him in broad daylight – and the child born to Bathsheba would die. All these things came to pass.) God willhold people accountable for their sin. If you think you will get away with it, you will not. If you think others will, they will not. Keep a right account of yourself to the Lord and trust the Lord for holding others accountable for their sin as well. Others may get away with it for a time, but they will not get away with it for alltime.
- Next week, we are looking at Psalm 73 which gives us perspective when we compare our lives to the lives of those who are not following the Lord.