Greetings! Welcome to Lechem Panim. Today we will be taking a look at Psalm 51. Many of you will be familiar with it. It reads…
Psalm 51 (ESV) To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me,[a] 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! 3 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. 7 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[b] 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.
No Sleep After Taxes-- [A couple of weeks after hearing a sermon on Psalms 51: 2-4 (about knowing my hidden secrets) and Psalms 52: 3-4 (about lies and deceit), a man wrote the following letter to the IRS: “I have been unable to sleep, knowing that I have cheated on my income tax. I understated my taxable income, and have enclosed a check for $150.00. If I still can’t sleep, I will send the rest.”]
When were you guilty?— When was the first time in your life that you can remember experiencing feeling guilty about something; I mean really guilty about something? Maybe you realized that something you did was wrong or you began to feel guilty for something you already knew was wrong when you were doing it. What emotions went along with that guilt? A feeling of dirtiness? Hopelessness? Fear? Despair? What did you eventually do to be free of that guilt? Or maybe you are still wrestling with guilt. If so, then I hope this message will be an encouragement to you.
A Heavy Superscript-- Our passage today (Psalm 51) begins, interestingly, not with verse one but with a short comment about what time in the life of David this Psalm was written in. It says: To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Now that is very interesting way to open a psalm, isn't it? It's very direct. It may seem a little bit too direct for us especially when we consider that the heading of this psalm (which is pretty graphic in its laying out of David’s sin) was to be read along with the rest of the Psalm during worship services in the temple of God. And what is more incredible is that many believe that this superscript was written by none other than David himself. And that may lead us to ask the question, "Why didn’t he (or whoever wrote this Psalm) just leave that part out? Why not just focus on the beauty of David's prayer and just kind of skip the heading?” After all, shouldn't we focus on God's grace rather than on sin? And yet what we find when we come to the Bible is that the Bible never glosses over sin. David’s sin is not only laid out in detail in 2 Samuel 11 for everybody to read, but is even included in the worship section of the hymnbook of Israel (the Psalms) as a constant reminder of what David had done. And you will remember what that sin was.
"a man after God’s own heart”-- The Bible calls David "a man after God’s own heart". And yet at the same time we know that he committed some pretty huge sins. He coveted, he had an affair with another man's wife, he tried to cover up that affair, and when he could not cover up that affair he murdered the husband (Uriah). And he thought that he had gotten away with it. Now does this sound like “a man after God’s own heart?” NO!!! I mean he carefully planned these sins and executed them. And not only does he think he has gotten away with it, but he seems to be pretty comfortable with what he has done. Now it is easy to judge him. We may thank God that we have never done anything like that, but the truth is that every single one of us has planned and executed sin. And though we confess our sins to God, sometimes we do not even feel like we have done anything seriously wrong. And to be honest, we live in a culture (even in a Church culture) that is very very lax on sin. We don’t confess our sin to one another (as the Bible commands us to) and we have a plethora of voices ready to make excuses for us (even twisting our understanding of God’s grace to let us off the hook) rather than challenging us to live a different way; to dance to the beat of another drummer (because that would be “judging”). We have fewer and fewer voices speaking into our lives challenging us (as the scripture says) to repent and go another way. But what is interesting to me is that David (when confronted with his sin) does want to repent and go another way.
The Opening of The Wound-- And so this Psalm begins not with Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, or Supplication. It begins with the public exposure of his sin. Why does the Bible (or David specifically) do that? It’s because God knows that for the infection to be cleaned out, the wound first has to be opened. And God used an external source (the prophet Nathan) to uncover that sin. And this is because sin must be exposed if it is going to be dealt with. And that is what the heading of this Psalm does; and then it documents how David feels, and what he prays in response to God’s judgment. And in this we see that David truly has a heart that longs to please God. By the way, this is what (in a huge way) separates him from Saul. Though David’s sin was worse than Saul’s, David’s throne is not taken away because David still had that heart that was ready to repent and seek to please God. And that began with ownership of his sin.
Not The Force-- Now I’m a bit of a Star Wars fan; I have been ever since I was a kid. I enjoy the stories of mighty Jedi Knights who use the power of the force to help bring order to the galaxy. But while I might enjoy the stories, the idea of the force is (if we are going to be honest) very different from the power that we as Christians know is really behind everything; and it comes out of the false pagan far-eastern religion known as Taoism. And I want to explain this to you because it has direct relevance on our concept of sin. The force (the chi in Taoism) is the supposed energy behind the universe. But it not purely good. It has a light side, yes; but it also has a dark side (the Yin and the Yang in Taoism). And order in the universe is found not in eradicating the dark side, but by finding balance between the two. Now what this does is it makes evil a necessity in the universe; an absolute. Evil has always and must always exist alongside of the good, belief system we call Dualism.
Only God is Eternal-- Now the difference in the Biblical view of Christianity is that evil is not co-eternal with good. Only God is eternal. Evil is simply turning away from God. Now what this means for us is that we can no longer blame our sins on our being forced to conform to a higher principle of evil or say we sin simply because “we are human” (which is another way of saying we are mere slaves to an eternal paradox of good vs. evil). The Devil didn’t make us do it. We are not the victims. Rather we are responsible for our sins. This is what David recognizes when he says in…
Psalm 51:4 (ESV)-- 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.
Our Sin-- Now David isn’t saying that nobody else was hurt by his sin, but that the root of his sin was found in his own choice to turn his back on the will and presence of God. And in our own walk, in order for us to experience liberation from sin, we have to acknowledge that our sin is our fault and nobody else’s. We can’t blame God; we cannot blame our parents, our circumstances, or the way in which were brought up. No, it is our sin. He takes ownership of his sin.
And what is so fascinating is that while David writes in many of his psalms about how faithful he has been before God (and he had been), yet here (rather than presenting his own faithfulness, which he has violated) he instead casts himself upon the mercy of God. And he trusts in one of God’s most important attributes: His steadfast love, which in Hebrew comes from the word Hesed, the deepest, most powerful love there is. And he acknowledges his own sinfulness; his filthiness; his uncleanness. And therefore he cries out to God in verse 2, saying: Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! He knew that he needed something more than just bulls on an altar; a hundred bulls on the altar. He needed to truly repent and allow God to wash him clean. He says in verse 7: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. And so he is admitting that he is tainted; he is soiled; he is unclean. And he knows he cannot wash himself.
"Cleanse"-- And in verse 2 [The word cleanse is a technical term for the cleansing of a leper in the OT. David was saying, “Lord, take the leprosy from my soul and make me clean again” (Jer. 33:8; Her. 9:14; 1 John 1:7, 9).] Then he says in verse 7: Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Hyssop-- [Purging with hyssop was an OT ritual—a cleansing prescribed in the law—and what an Israelite did after coming in contact with a dead body. David’s request is for God to take away his sin (86:5; Heb. 9:19).] He wants to be free of it. He feels the full weight of it. And thankfully God did forgive him of his sin, though we know that there were still some very heavy consequences. But God will always forgive anyone who is willing to confess and receive the free gift of forgiveness offered to them in Christ Jesus. But we have to confess and be willing to repent of our sin and be cleansed by the healing touch of Jesus.
Have you experienced that cleansing? Have you allowed God to change your heart, to place His Holy Spirit upon you, and to set you free? You can be a Christian all of you life and never really experience that freedom. Confess to him today; pray to God today; come into His presence. Let Him wash you and make you clean today; free of all guilt and ready to live a victorious life. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.