Psalm 51: Mercy!

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Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot 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 what is 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 hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
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.

13 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.

18 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.

Neighborhood Trees #11 | Cypress, TX | January 2023

It was pleasing to the eye. Good for food. Desirable for gaining wisdom. The forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was not some maggot-infested, half-rotten piece of fruit lying on the ground. It was appealing in every way…except for God’s prohibition: You shall not eat of it…lest you die. 

She was beautiful. Her husband was out of town. He was powerful. She might have gone willingly. But David called for her and she came. And that night when the men went out to war, and David stayed behind and saw Bathsheba bathing was a night that would bring great woe and sorrow to David’s soul. We don’t hear from Bathsheba, but I believe she carried grave pain about the events of that night. Adultery. Murder. Deceit. Every sort of entangling iniquity wound its way into their lives and the lives of others.

It was too easy. The bookkeeping methods, controls, checks and balances, procedures, and oversight were either simply bypassed, or completely overlooked. No one would know. Until the trail led to mis-balanced bank accounts, irreconcilable bank statements, and a complete meltdown of financial juggling schemes. The money was all gone. The perpetrator was found out. Trial. Jail. Family break-up. Ruined lives. Shipwrecked faith.

Surely you have a story of temptation insufficiently-seen for what it was, weakly-fought against, and too-quickly-given into. We all do. It may not be a whopper like the examples above. But we’ve all taken the bait of one kind or another. And we’ve discovered the sharp barbed hook hidden in the temptation’s delight.

We should have fought harder. We should have seen the lie. We should have believed God. We should have kept the faith. We should not have given in. We should not have had such a high opinion of ourselves. We should… We should not… But we didn’t. We did.

This psalm is for us all. It was David’s psalm of confession. We don’t treat the titles of the psalms in the same way as we treat the psalms themselves, but this title is important: A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. 

This Psalm is a cry to God for mercy. If grace is receiving something we do not deserve. Mercy is not receiving what we do deserve. And we deserve condemnation, judgment, and every evil consequence for our sin. But God in his mercy withholds more than we know from us in those areas. He does not treat us as we deserve. He relents, and does not willingly bring suffering or grief to anyone (cf. Lamentations 3:33).

Rather than giving us what we deserved (judgment, condemnation, and hell), God in his mercy gave us Jesus, his gift of grace, forgiveness, and life. God not only withholds his wrath from us, he forgives. He saves. He gives life. This psalm has been answered, is being answered, and will be answered whenever we pray it. Thanks be to God for his mercy!

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