Psalm 51: Three shades of…

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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.

Soon to Burst Forth in Leaf | Cypress, TX | February 2023

It was a mess! The fishing line was tangled around itself on the reel. I couldn’t get it unsnarled. I had to call the deck hand to come and help. He managed to get it fixed after some effort.

The ball did not hit the green. It did not hit the fairway. It did not hit the rough. It went into the water. That’s pretty much the story of my golfing expertise. I’m a hacker. And I often miss the mark when I hit the ball. And still I play.

The gravel bar in the middle of the creek looked like a good place to drive the truck. But I definitely should not have driven onto it. I got it stuck. And I mean stuck! It was so stuck that the wrecker that went out to retrieve it got stuck as well. It took a nearby farmer’s tractor to pull them both out.

Sin is missing the mark. It’s not just missing the green, it’s missing the target of God’s goal for our lives. In Hebrew the word for sin is hata, meaning to go astray.

Transgress has to do with going where we ought not go. It’s a violation of a “Do Not” of God. When we go where God has prohibited we transgress. Transgression refers to presumptuous sin. To transgress is to choose to intentionally disobey; transgression is willful trespassing.

Iniquity is like a tangled fishing line. It’s twisted in upon itself. It’s knotted, and fully enmeshed in itself. Those endless loops of false thoughts, distracting ideas, snarled imaginations all turn in upon themselves. We lose sight of God and his goodness. We are stuck in the mess of our own making.

In the opening verses of this psalm David mentions all three. He missed the mark when he took upon himself the idea of having Bathsheba for himself – even though she was married. He sinned against her, Uriah, and God. He also transgressed when he willfully took her for himself and sought to cover up that evil by bringing Uriah back home for some time with his wife. And when Uriah wouldn’t go in with Bathsheba he entangled himself completely in a snarl of his own making by having Uriah killed on the battlefield. The entanglement was complete. Sin led to transgression. Transgression led to iniquity.

We need God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness for all three. And it’s not just the acts of sin and transgression, it’s the condition of our hearts. Fallen, broken, sinful beings that we are, we have no hope of gaining God’s favor on our own. But God is rich in grace, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. This is the good news we believe and share. Jesus came to redeem us from the penalty of our sin, forgive us for our transgressions, and rescue us from our self-inflicted entanglements so all manner of sin.

Just as we are not sinners because we sin, God is not gracious because he forgives. We sin because we are sinners. And God forgives us because he is gracious.

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