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Survive Epic Moral Failure
As we open to the 51st Psalm tonight, we’re about two thirds of the way through the life of David. We’re getting into probably some of the richest veins of a treasure that is to be found. This 51st Psalm in itself is magnificent. As you turn there it’s a map, it’s how to find your way back home. I think about that every time we rent a rental car. You notice that, almost all of them, nowadays have that never lost little box there because people can’t figure out how get back to the rental place. They flew in, to a new place, and they rent a car. They take off and they can’t find it back, so they put these little boxes in. If you push it, it tells you how to come home to the rental place, the home for the car at least, and how to get back. The 51st Psalm is very much like that. It’s David telling us, all of us how he found the way back to God from the ditch that he had gotten into. It’s a roadway for anyone, anytime in life that we get away from the Lord. It’s His pathway back. It’s such a beautiful, beautiful beacon that clearly captures for us the landing strip, the pathway, the way to return.
David, as we have looked at… because remember he wrote three penitential psalms. The 32nd that we’ve looked at several times, the 38th which is a recap of the 32nd, and then now the 51st. These three penitential psalms are just three of seven. The middle one is this 51st Psalm. The 51st Psalm, of the seven, is right in the middle because it’s the peak of all of the psalms of sorrow over sin and returning to the Lord.
David fell so far so fast that he didn’t even know he’d fallen until the dullness of his soul overtook him. David with every inch of his spiritual life had loved the Lord and that growing declension, that growing coldness that he felt soon began to grip every part of his soul. Soon his cold and lonely heart was combined with his tormented soul. That’s what we saw in Psalm 32, torment. The life being just sapped, and drawn, and drained from him. He, during that time of chastisement as far as we can tell from the text, stayed away from the Lord, from being restored to the Lord for almost a year. It’s amazing how God allowed him to stew for so long. What’s amazing to me is almost a year. Almost a year? To think of David getting that deep in a ditch that he could go month after month. The depth of the ditch was very deep.
If you think about who we’re talking about, David had known God’s so closely, so warmly, so completely that Psalm 51 just stares at us as we think about how much he longed to come back. David was one who talked directly with God through inspiration. The Spirit of God spoke through him, and he spoke for God, and wrote God’s words. It’s amazing to think. David knew the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit. That’s what it says in 2 Samuel where he says, “the Spirit of the LORD spake by me.” He knew the indwelling presence of God the Spirit. He had a direct line to God’s throne by way of the prophets. If he wanted to know, he could ask the Lord and get direct linkage of what he should do in battle, what he should do in the next step. He had a direct line, a helpline as it were, to know God’s will.
He could enter the very tent that was built from the Lord’s specifications, we read about it now but he could go in. He could see the tent of the meeting place and he was allowed as God’s king. He probably had gotten to hold the very scrolls that Moses wrote. Boy, wouldn’t that be amazing to hold the original autography of the actual word of God. He probably was able to see those stone tablets where the finger of God had written in stone. He had known God’s supernatural protection month after month for all the past, perhaps as many as 35/ 40 years of his life. Since he had been a shepherd boy. Since he had first seen God spare him from the lion and spare him from the bear. Then he had gone from Goliath to all the armies of all God’s enemies. In hand to hand combat, arrows and spears, flying stones, he had known God’s protection. There’s no record of him ever even being wounded in any battle. To go through that much is unbelievable.
David was a man who knew God, who experienced God’s presence, who loved God, who sings scores of songs inspired by God, who wrote chapter after chapter of the eternal word of God. Yet he lost touch with God for almost a year. That’s astounding to think about. Amazingly, David hid it so well. He went through all the motions of being king. After all, he was still God’s leader. He was still known by people that weren’t close to him as the sweet psalmist of Israel. He was the head of the family line that would never end. He was actually, the forebear through whom the very Christ the Messiah would come. Like an engine without fuel or an electronic device with no power, those blessings and benefits meant nothing when he walked away. Though he had the position, it was empty. Though he had all of the people’s admiration, there was nothing on the inside, like we saw this morning, those empty words. David fell so far for so long.
To a casual observer, that maybe had been a servant and had seen David slip away with Bathsheba, it might’ve looked like David had gotten away with his sin, but David was God’s man. God never lets His choice servants get by with sin. In reality, in the interval between David keeping quiet and his exposure, which is if you look down at the 51st Psalm, if you have the superscript it’s the first verse in the Hebrew manuscript, it says, “To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone into Bathsheba.” In the interval between the sin and Nathan’s arrival, David had been immensely tormented from within and without. In that nearly year of hidden sin and torment, we would have seen David longing, miserably, but longing to get out of that ditch.
It reminds me of driving down the highway and seeing people when they first spin out. They get in the ditch, and they just sit there. They can’t believe how fast it happened. After they sit there for a while they wonder how they’ll ever get out of there, especially if they’re headed the wrong way or they’re on a steep incline. That’s what you can think about David. David had to come back and only God could relieve David’s cold, distant, lonely, tormented heart. No matter how many steps we take away from God, no matter how far those steps take us, the way back is just one step. David had to repent and return to the Lord. One step back, many steps away, one step back. In the 51st Psalm, we watch how David laid bare his soul as he took that one step back. That instantaneous return is laid out in 19 incredible verses as the Spirit of God inspires an intensely personal offering of gratitude for God bringing him back.
As we read the psalm, I’m going to emphasize the first person that shows up all the way through, as David repeatedly 32 times in 19 verses says, mine. He just talks about how much he had personally experienced coming back to God. Let’s listen to this prayer of repentance as we stand together. Follow along in your Bibles, whatever version you have, notice these inspired words as we see the pathway back to God.
Verse 1, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight. That you may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.” Verse 5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.” Verse 7, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice.” Verse 9, “Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Verse 12, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.” Verse 15. “O LORD, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For you do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burn offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart. These, O God, You will not despise. Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.”
Let’s bow together. Father, thank you for capturing this song of relief and this rejoicing of restoration to you. Thank you that this 3,000 year old, wondrous overflow of praise, has been flawlessly captured. Not only for us, but it is eternally recorded in Heaven. Oh Lord, how I pray that we will hear Your voice through Your word tonight. That we will understand even more of this truth of Your word. Then, Dear Father, how I pray that we will apply Your truth to our hearts and make choices like David. To take that one step back each time we drift away from You for any reason. Thank you in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.
You may be seated. As you’re seated, David has so much for us to see here. This psalm was packaged as part of the worship of the temple. The tabernacle, then the temple, and then of the early church as one of the psalms. It’s primarily for public reading and worship. It’s perhaps, theologically, one of the most treasure laden psalms of all. It was part of the regular songs that they went through as they rotated in the tabernacle and through the synagogue. Ezra set up that structured worship time and of course now in the church. These 19 verses were inspired by the Spirit of God, written down by David. This song has been lifted up before God as a Memorial. Every time we study and read it, it’s a reoffering of that memorial of thanks to God for His great forgiveness.
The structure of the 51st Psalm was intended to communicate. It was interesting, I was out in the lobby between services, and someone wanted to show me something. He said, oh, wait a minute it’s the NIV. I said, oh what do you mean? They said, it’s not as good. I said, don’t worry about it. I said, the NIV has the finest rendering of the Hebrew poetry of any version of the Bible. For some reason they exactly followed Hebrew poetry, which is structural poetry. It’s not, rhymey stuff that we like. Most of our poems have to have a little rhyme. Hebrew poems have no rhyme. They’re structured. Built by parallelism, by repetition, by having structural elements that are preserved in the language. You don’t have to hear a rhymey sound, you can see it’s poetry by the structure.
David uses that structure to communicate. Let me show you what I mean. David asks for forgiveness in the first two verses, six different ways but they’re all parallel. In six different ways, if you read those first two verses, David is saying, God forgive me. He asked for it each time a little differently. If you look, they’re all parallel concepts. They’re just like amplification. It’s like a thesaurus. That’s the first section and it effectively communicated in the public assembly, those first two verses, what it was all about. It was about David saying, I need to be forgiven.
Secondly, starting in verse 3 down through 9, David takes the blame. In verses 3-9 David says, it was totally my fault eight times. You say, why not six, why not seven? Because, remember, structurally to a Jewish person seven was a complete set. When you got to the eighth one you were starting the set over again, like the notes in the scale. After you go through the seven notes, you repeat the “Do” and that is starting over again. All the way through the Bible it would say this. Like, Noah on the eighth day. That means it was a starting over again. It was the beginning of a new set of seven. These eight times, David is talking about this new beginning that he experienced because he acknowledges his sin.
Look what he did eight times in verses 3 through 9. David acknowledges it’s completely his fault and he doesn’t mention, if you look starting in verse 3, he doesn’t mention all the way down through verse 9, the name of God. Isn’t that Interesting, it’s all replaced with pronouns. Against You, verse 4. That You, verse 4 again. Verse 6, You desire. Verse 6 again, You. Verse 8, the bones You have broken. He never calls Him Lord God or anything. He just puts the emphasis on, it’s totally me. He doesn’t even name the Lord, he just refers to Him in a pronoun. He says, I am guilty, guilty, guilty.
If you look, starting in verse 10, the holy God against whom David sinned is emphasized now 20 times, but the sin and the sinner are only mentioned once from 10 to the end. We don’t even notice that.
Structurally, these people are seeing this: first of all, ask for forgiveness. Then, take the blame. Then, focus on God. That’s a good lesson, even for testimonies. In fact, we work with our baptismal people on this. We say, you were born, that you were convicted that you were a sinner, and the Lord saved you. This is what He’s done, we don’t need to keep hearing about the machinations of the sin. You were born a sinner as God declared, you showed up and you got convicted of that, and then God saved you. Let’s hear about the Lord. That’s the structure.
It’s structurally communicating that the primary lesson of this psalm is that all sin is against God. It’s not simply a personal defeat. Remember we’re trying, our culture is trying, to remove the notion of sin and just make it a little setback or a personal defeat. If you believe that your sin is only a defeat you experience, sin becomes manageable and thus something just to learn to live with. Sin becomes like pain. You have pain management, so you need sin management. No, it’s not something we live with. It’s not a defeat that we experience. That’s a serious misconception. When the church has a superficial view of sin, this attitude affects everything the church believes and does.
I was just talking with someone and they were mentioning that they were church visiting. They ask about whether this church was good, that they went to. They said that they noticed that this church, that they went to, never used the three-letter word. S. I. N. They talked about our struggles and about our defeats now and then, but they never said this is sin, and you are sinners, and I have sinned. They just didn’t use that wording. If men and women are basically good and not sinners under the wrath of God, then why do we even need to preach the Gospel? Why do we need to send out missionaries for that matter? Why did Jesus even have to die on the cross? If people are good and all they need is counseling and consoling, not convicting then all we need to do is give them encouragement and not evangelism. That is what has happened around the world in Christ’s church.
The content of the churches is becoming like a pep-talk for a direct sales meeting. You can do it, boom. You got great potential. Why don’t you just be everything that you can be? We don’t want to mention that negative word and make people feel bad, so just encourage them. Don’t evangelize. That’s the direction our culture is squeezing the church into.
David however, look at verse 4 of Psalm 51, understood sin is against God. In fact, out of the 327 words of Psalm 51, 35 times he uses I, me, or my, to repeatedly say, I am guilty. Doing so was his acknowledgement of God’s perspective that we’re all sinners, Romans 3:10-23. David agrees with God. I think we need to be cautious that as we look out at Christendom, that we notice that parts of Christendom don’t any longer agree with God, because it’s negative. It’s amazing, in the headlong desire of the visible church to not offend anyone, the only one they’re offending is God these days. They’re so careful not to offend anybody that God is the one that’s offended.
Because David’s sins were forgiven, countless other believers have been comforted that their sins can also be forgiven if they follow the same pathway. That’s why this is written as God saying, this is the pathway back. It’s not saying, oh, it’s not as bad as you think. Oh, it’s not that bad. Yes, it’s the worst thing. All sin, even what we would consider a little sin, is eternally damnable. That’s why to die in our sins is the absolute worst thing that could happen.
I remember one of the disasters of the 2nd World War was when, through the wide use of phosphorus especially in all the different ways they use them in the air force, that men found… and if there are any women in the battle arena back then they would have found too… that once you got phosphorus on you it just burned into you. Once it got on you, if you allowed it to stay on you, it just would not stop burning. Even if you put it into water, it wouldn’t stop burning. Very much like that picture of a person that got this burning white phosphorus stuck to them, that they couldn’t put out is very much like what Jesus said. Once when He was speaking there was a group of religious leaders and it says, the power of God was there to heal them, but their unbelief prevented that. Jesus looked at them and He said, you will die in your sins. That was the worst thing Jesus ever said to anybody. That was consigning them to eternal destruction. The wrath of God is forever going to burn against sin. Any person that dies in their sin when they go into eternity, they will forever be the target of the consuming wrath of God, that never fully is satisfied in the payment of that sin because it was not paid for by Christ. We don’t realize how much Jesus did and how bad our sin was until we understand the theology of the cross.
Let’s look at this pathway back to God and understand a little bit more because David was inspired by God to show four steps that lead us back to God. Again, this is all structural, that we can look at. The reason I’m going to go through this, and you might even want to mark it somewhere in your Bible or somewhere on a piece of paper, is whenever we feel distant from God, whenever we feel defeated, David shows… I say it’s one step back to God, but David would show… the stages that he experienced. David is fully understanding what God had done for him so that he could accept the provision of His restoration.
Step one, we have to realize that all sin is really against God. That’s what it says in verse 1. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.” The Lord is the only one that can renew us. Our sin is against the Lord, and He is the one that can renew us.
He can wash us clean, verse 2. “Wash me thoroughly,” because the sin is against God, only God can renew us, verse 1, only God can wash us clean, verse 2.
Verse 3, only the Lord can remove the roadblocks. Look what it says in verse 3. “I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” The transgressions in the sin, they’re always in front of me. They’re blocking. I can’t see You. Sin is against God and only God can wash us, only God can renew us, only God can remove the blockade.
Then, verse 4. Only the Lord can totally forgive. “That You may be found,” at the end of verse 4, “just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.” The Lord is the one that we sinned against.
These four verses show us, only the Lord can renew our relationship. Only the Lord can wash us clean, verse 2. Only the Lord can take away the barriers that our sin has made. Only the Lord can forgive us.
Not only forgive us, now look at verse 5, the second stage. First, realizing that all sin is really against God, but secondly David shows us, starting in verse 5, we have to take personal responsibility for that sin. This is what’s so interesting.
This week, early at one of the studies, a fella was out in the rain. It was that day that was sleet and rain. He came into the church, and he needed help. We wanted to help him, but the most important help he needed was his soul. We went through the gospel with him. I talked to him. Dan Bowman talked to him. Mark Duncan talked to him. The one hang up he had was, he said, we gave him the gospel, gave him a track, he says, I know all that stuff. He says man, I can quote it to you. I said, have you repented? He said, it’s not that. He said, it’s the government that doesn’t give me enough money. It’s my mother who won’t do that. He just had 50 reasons why he was in his predicament. David says, I’m responsible. That’s the only way back to God. Acknowledging that it’s God that I’ve really sinned against and I’m responsible for my sin. It’s not my mother. It’s not the government. It’s not whoever. It’s not those mean people that hurt me. It’s me. As sinners we show our nature, our choice, and we confirm God’s declaration.
See in verse 5, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” He’s not saying that conceiving a child is sin. He’s saying at the moment of conception, I was a sinner. The Bible says every descendant of Adam, except for one, who was God in human flesh, every other one is born a sinner. Children do not learn to sin going to preschool. They don’t learn to sin in our church nursery. They don’t learn to sin because they watch TV. They sin because they’re sinners from the core, they are just more and more live out the sinful nature that they inherited from their human-ness through Adam, because in Adam all have sinned. David says, it’s me. I’m showing my nature.
As sinners we need truthfulness. Look at verse 6. “You desire truth in the inward parts.” I’m of my father the Devil. He was a liar from the beginning and so am I. All of us were born liars. We’re born sinners. We’re born liars, verse 6, we need truthfulness. David says, I am the one that’s lying.
We need cleansing, we’re dirty. Look at verse 7. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” David says, I’m responsible. I’m the one that’s gone in the ditch. I’m the one that’s muddy. I’m the one that’s defiled. I’m the one that’s soiled. I take responsibility for that.
Verse 8, he says, I’m the one that’s lost my joy. I want to “hear joy and gladness.” You’ve broken my bones. I want to rejoice; I don’t have any joy. In fact, he said in the 32nd Psalm, he was withered and dried up. He says God, I take responsibility for the lying. I take responsibility, verse 7, for my dirty condition. I take the responsibility, in verse 8, for losing all joy.
I take responsibility for, finally in verse 9, he says I take responsibility for breaking the fellowship. “Hide Your face from my sin,” verse 9, “blot out all my iniquities.” He says, I am the one that had sinned and broken the fellowship. It’s my fault.
David says, take personal responsibility for your sin, I did. Realize that all sin is against God.
The third stage, starting in verse 10, we have to believe that only God can cleanse and restore us. This is just like how to lead someone to Christ. The first important thing is to say, have you ever sinned? If they haven’t, they can’t be led to Christ. If they will not acknowledge sin, don’t go any further. Once they do, they have to be directed that sin is not against the person that they hated, stole from, or cheated, or molested. It’s against God. It’s not primarily against the person, it’s secondarily against the person. It’s primarily against God. That’s the whole grid that David goes through. Understanding that first we see all sin is against God and as soon as we do that we back up and stop blaming everyone else. We say, I’m responsible for my sin. Then we get to the part, which is in verse 10, we have to believe that only God can cleanse and restore us. Not that I can do a little good. Not that I can assuage some of His wrath. Not that I can meet Him halfway. It’s only God that can cleanse and restore us. We have to believe that. Verse 10, God wants to wash our hearts. “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” You’re the only one that can give me a new heart. You’re the only one that can create newness. You’re the only one that can give me a new beginning.
Verse 11, only God can give us His Spirit. “Don’t cast me from Your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.” Only You supply the Spirit, only You supply cleansing David says. You’re the only one, my only hope.
Verse 12, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” Remember the fruit of the Spirit is love, what? Joy. Joy’s a by-product of the Holy Spirit being within us. He says only you can renew that fruit of the Spirit in my life, of joy.
Only you, verse 13, can give me future ministry. David says, I want to be able to teach other “transgressors Your ways.” I want to show other sinners how they can come back to you. Only you can give me back ministry. David acknowledged that God was the only source of cleansing, God was the only source of totally being forgiven, God was the only source of the Spirit of God, and the fruit of the Spirit in his life. God was the only one that could bring him back into ministry.
Finally, this psalm has the fourth element and probably the most important. If we realize that sin is really against God, the first four verses. If we take personal responsibility for our sin, down through verse 9. If we believe only God can cleanse and restore us, down through verse 13. Then, we must seek God and repent. That’s where our friend, that came by three times on Tuesday, couldn’t come to that point. He didn’t think that he’d really sinned against God. He didn’t really then think that God needed to forgive him of anything. He didn’t think that only God could cleanse him, so he didn’t ask Him.
David just gives us the beautiful pathway back to God. First of all, in verse 14, David called sin what it was. He said, “Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed.” He didn’t touch Uriah, but he wanted him dead. God says, if you hate someone in your heart it’s just like you murdered them. To David, Uriah was an impediment to his lust and he hated anything in his way. He would trample over anything. He was guilty of bloodshed. He called sin what it was.
There’s a difference between admission and confession. To admit is to say yep, I did it. Confession is saying, I wanted to, I chose to, and I exactly went against Your will. Many people can admit yeah, I killed someone. David says, I’m guilty of blood. Confession is homo, the same. Logeō, to say. Homologeō. Confession is, the same thing God says about sin, I say about it. It’s not a little gray sin. It’s not a little white lie. When I lie, I’m of my father the Devil. He was a murderer from the beginning. When I hate someone, I am just like my father the Devil. We call sin what it is if we want to seek God to repent.
Look what he does in verse 15. David says, “LORD, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise.” He talks to the Lord. He directly comes to him and says Lord, since I’ve sinned against You, and since I’m responsible, and since You’re the only one that can cleanse… cleanse me. A lot of people aren’t soul winners because they never tell the people; hey, why don’t you talk to the Lord? I’ll never forget some of the most wonderful times of leading people to the Lord over the years. Just even recently, I remember someone that came in to me, people always come with another problem. They never come saying I’m lost and going to Hell; would you help me? They come in and they say, I haven’t got a job, or I’m struggling with this, or I’m not nice to my kids or my wife.
One came in and said, I just haven’t loved my wife and I would like to have a marriage renewal. I said oh good, I do marriage renewals. Okay, come on into my office. We sat down and I said now, marriage is the second best day of your life. He looked at me and I said yeah, when you got married, it was the second best day of your life. Most thinking people go second? This is my first marriage. I am not getting remarried. What are you talking about? Second? The day you were saved was the greatest day of your life. Now they realize we pulled out the gun and we’re starting to zero in on targeting their need. I said, so how about before we talk about your marriage renewal, that we talk about the greatest day of your life. How about sharing your testimony when you got saved? They didn’t want marriage renewal after that because it was coming to the heart of their real need.
I’ll never forget going through this very sequence of scripture. I said, wouldn’t you like to call on the Lord right here? I was sitting in my chair, and I was reading my Bible. I turned and looked, and he was gone. I looked down. He was on his knees. A 70 year old man on his knees. Probably had bionic knees, those replacement ones. I couldn’t believe it. I said, what are you doing? He says I want to. I thought, am I going to have to coach him? It was the most precious time.
When you really seek the Lord… Lord! Look what he says in verse 15, “LORD.” He just cries out to the Lord, David does. That’s what we need to do. “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” Amazing. David talked to God, he experienced true contrition.
Look at verses 16 and 17. “You don’t desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You don’t delight in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.” Do you know what it says in 2 Corinthians 7? It says, “Godly sorrow produces repentance.” If you’re really sorry, you’re sorry enough to stop. “But the sorrow of the world produces death.” You know what the sorrow of the world is? I grew up with it. All the drunks from Lansing City Rescue Mission used to come and stay with my parents. They all talked about how much they didn’t like the ulcers they had, and their liver was failing, and they just had no place to go. They were sorry about the effects of sin on their body. About 1 in 20 would come sorry, not that they destroyed their liver, and ruin their stomachs, and everything else, their minds, but they said I’ve sinned and wasted my life God gave me. I am sorry. They had this godly sorrow that leads to repentance. The sorrow of the world leads to death. Just sorry that everything is getting worse and no joy, but no sorrow for sin that leads to death.
Godly sorrow leads us to cry out to the Lord and like David, to have true contrition of a “broken,” verse 17, “and contrite heart. These, O God, You will not despise.” Even old, Ahab, king idolatrous, Phoenician Baal worshiping, horrible Ahab. Ahab, it says in the Bible that he walks softly and wore sackcloth because he realized that he had offended God. The Lord says, look at Ahab. Look at house contrite he is. God is moved by our contrition and sorrow for our sin.
Finally, look at verse 18. David began zealous, renewed, fresh worship in verse 18. Seeking God not only is confessing and agreeing with God about our sin, crying out to God for forgiveness, truly being contrite for our sin, but it instantly leads to energized worship. Remember what Paul says? He says, “For we are the circumcision.” We’re the ones who’ve gotten new hearts and been born again because we worship God in the Spirit. The instant I get a new heart it turns on my ability to worship. That’s what David says in verse 18, he says, “Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness.” He just goes into this whole, I can’t wait to get back in step offering worship to you.
David said, I’m guilty. David felt the spiritual scales that had slowly taken the color and light from his life be removed. His soul was flooded with light and peace. He began to drink deeply from the wells of salvation. His cold heart was warmed. His tormented soul was set free. He was no longer trapped in a painful chastened body. David left the bottom where he had stayed for almost a year. Boy, was he excited? He went straight to the top. David swept beyond all those human and moral considerations. He looked God’s straight in the eye and said, I’ve sinned against you. David appealed to God’s love and compassion. If you want swift, immediate relationship restoring help from God start by pleading guilty.
Our courts, we have the court system. I don’t know anything about legal stuff, but it seems like everybody says they didn’t do it and they get their penalty reduced, whatever. Not David. He walked in and says, I’m guilty. Whatever it takes, I want a punish or whatever you’re going to do to me. He gave a simple, guilty plea. A David type response to God in the New Testament is much like that in Luke 18. Do you remember when the Publican and the Pharisee both came to the temple? The Pharisee said God, I’m so glad I’m not as bad as him. I go through and tithe 10% of everything. I wear white clothes. Look at that wicked Publican.
The publican was over there, if you read Luke 18 verse 13 it says, he could not even lift his head. He was in the temple and the temple represented the very presence of God. He says God, You know and I know what I’m really like. I really am a wicked sinner and all I can say is, be merciful to me the sinner. You know what the Lord said? Probably one of the most amazing declarations in the Bible. It says the publican went away justified. You know what justified means? No record he ever sinned, ever, and all penalty paid forever. That is one of the best things to get. Jesus said, I heard that prayer, he’s justified. Pharisee, you’re going to die in your sin.
Difference one, they were the worst sinner they knew in the universe and they weren’t even worthy of looking up at God. The other one, not as bad as most, might not be as good as some. Totally different. Do you know what I see? I see a lot of religious people in America, like the Pharisee. They’re always saying man, I’m not gay, I’m not one of those lesbians, I’m not a baby killer, I’m not that bad, I tithe. Then, you see the person that can’t even look you in the eye. They say, I know I sinned against God. Which one do you think the Lord hears? Smug, proud? Humble, contrite. That type always gets through. God can’t resist that type of heart cry to Him.
The Greek tenses tell us that the Publican couldn’t stop saying, I’m guilty, I need your mercy. It was an ongoing longing of his heart. The Publican, he couldn’t lift his face toward God but just said, “God, be merciful to me.” We can also come back to God anytime we have that attitude.
Real quickly before we go. The basic essence of the 51st Psalm is we have to come to God just like we are without any whitewash, without any varnish, without any smoke. We just come, fallen, guilty, unable to even look up. Coming just like we are.
I want to close with this. We have just long enough. This humble approach that we need, when we come to Jesus, was beautifully seen in the history behind one of the best known hymns in America. The event took place in 1822. A visiting evangelist was invited by a very large and prominent household in London where a choice musical was to be presented. The musician invited to perform for the evangelist was by the name of Charlotte Elliot. She was born in Clapham, England. As a young person, she’d lived a carefree life. She was very popular, a portrait artist, a musician, a writer of humorous verse. However, at the age of 30, her health had begun to deteriorate and soon she would be bedridden. Finally, an invalid for the remaining years of her life. So came a great feeling of despondency upon her.
The visit that night by the noted Swiss evangelists, Dr. César Malan proved to be the turning point in Charlotte’s life. After Charlotte finished thrilling the audience with her singing and playing, the evangelist threaded his way through the crowd that had gathered around her. When he finally got her attention he said, young lady, when you were singing I sat there and thought how tremendously the cause of Christ would be benefited if you would dedicate yourself and your talents to the Lord. He added, you are just as much a sinner as the worst drunkard in the street and just as bad as any harlot on Scarlet Street. I’m glad to tell you that the blood of Jesus, God’s son, will cleanse you from all sin if you will come to Him. Now, that’s direct evangelism, I might add.
In a very haughty matter she turned her head aside and said to him, you are very insulting to me, Sir. As she started to walk away he said, Lady, I didn’t mean any offense but I pray the Spirit of God will convict you of your sin. That night she couldn’t sleep. At two o’clock in the morning, she knelt at the side of her bed and cried out to Jesus as her savior. Then she sat down and wrote the words, her prayer of repentance.
I have my hymnbook up here. Why don’t you grab your hymnbook. You’ll recognize it because it’s been sung at every Billy Graham crusade for the last 50 years. Just as I am #342. Okay, follow along because I’m going to read it. This is what she wrote that night, in 1822, as she knelt before her God, smitten with her sin, acknowledging that she was as bad as any harlot on Scarlet Street.
She said, Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bid’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I Come! Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot; to Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come! Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt; fighting’s within, and fears without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come! Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; sight, riches, healing of the mind; yes, all I need, in Thee to find, O Lamb of God. I come, I come! Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Throughout the remainder of Charlotte Elliot’s life, Miss Elliot yearly celebrated the day on which her Swiss friend had made her turn and have a personal relationship with Christ through His witness. She considered that to be her spiritual birthday. Though she didn’t publish this hymn until 1836, 14 years after her conversion experience, it is apparent she never forgot the words of her friend for they formed the heart of her prayer in this hymn.
The words of this hymn are a wonderful reminder of the pathway back to God that David found. No matter how many steps away from God we have taken, it’s always one step back to Him. Let’s bow.
Father, tonight every one of us who know Your Son as our savior have come. Every one of us You have received, and welcomed, and put a new robe on us, and put a ring on our finger, and have said welcome, you are my child. Father, any time that we gather, I know that there are always those who are just coasting. They’re just in church because they always have been, or their parents, or their wife or their children. Lord, if there’s even one here tonight who has never come, may tonight be the night that they say to you, God be merciful to me the sinner, I’m guilty. I’ve sinned against you. Only You can forgive and save me. I ask You now, save me. I call on Your name Lord.
O Father, how I pray that even tonight there would be rejoicing in the presence of the angels that surround your throne over one who takes that step back to you in salvation or for others that feel so far away from You tonight that have been saved, that they would take that step back to You in renewal to receive back the joy of their salvation. Thank you for the 51st Psalm. Thank you for David. Thank you most of all for You, O God, a God of mercy who loves us and loosed us from our sins. We thank You in the precious name of Jesus, and all God’s people said, Amen.
God bless you as you go.
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