************ Sermon on Psalm 51 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 13, 2018
Lord's Supper Sermon
We need to spend a moment looking at the heading to Psalm 51. We are told it is a psalm of David when the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. If you remember, David broke several of the Ten Commandments at this time.
The message of Psalm 51 is that the worst sinner among God's people can appeal to God for forgiveness. Believers are comforted to know that since David's sins were forgiven, theirs can be too. As we look at Psalm 51 on this Lord's Supper Sunday we want to look at five words: mercy, my, cleanse, heart, and joy.
A Our first word is "mercy." David starts off with a cry, a prayer, for mercy:
(Ps 51:1) Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.Notice, David doesn't ask for justice. David doesn't pray, "Give me justice, O God"! David doesn't dare ask for justice. Because in this case -- after committing adultery and murder and false witness -- justice means he deserves judgment, punishment, condemnation, and even death. No, David does not ask for justice. Instead, he asks for mercy. He asks that his sins be blotted out rather than judged.
You all should know the difference between justice and mercy. Justice means we get what we deserve, what we have coming, what we have earned. Mercy means we get the opposite of what we deserve. Mercy means we get what is unearned, unmerited, undeserved.
David's cry is also our cry: "Have mercy on me, O God. Have mercy, not judgment."
B "Have mercy on me, O God ..." Notice the basis for this request: "according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion." David appeals to the fatherly kindness of God. This reminds us of the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. This father was filled with compassion for his son; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Lk 15).
In Christ, our God is a God of love and compassion. He can hardly wait to throw His arms of mercy around us. He wants to be gracious to us. No need to be hesitant or awkward in His presence. I invite you this morning to be like the Prodigal. I invite you to come to the Lord's Table and enjoy His compassion and His love.
A The second word we want to look at is the word "my." Listen to how the word is used:
The sin David confesses is "my sin." David knows he is a sinner. He knows he has earned judgment and condemnation. He knows he deserves justice and not mercy.
The word "my" teaches us we can bring God no excuses. We can't blame the woman, as Adam did in the Garden. We can't blame environmental factors. We can't blame a lack of education. We can't blame Trump. We can't blame a lack of money or a lack of opportunity. We can't blame a difficult childhood. We can't blame our parents. We can't blame genetics. We can't blame pollution or toxic waste.
We come to the Lord's Table as sinners. We come confessing our sins. We come knowing we are like David.
B We need to pause for a moment at the cry, "Against you, you only, have I sinned." From a human point-of-view we would say David sinned against Bathsheba by forcing himself upon her. Or, he sinned against Uriah by taking his wife and having him killed. Or, he sinned against Nathan by refusing to heed the prophet. Or, he sinned against Israel by failing them as leader.
"Against you, you only, have I sinned." David admits he has betrayed the Lord. Unless we see this and understand this, we miss the whole point of the Psalm. Whose commandments did David break? God's. Whose standards did he flout? God's. Whose word did he despise? God's. Whose image did he violate? God's. Whose good name did he bring into contempt among the heathen? God's. Whose purpose of peace did he mar by the violence he had chosen? God's.
"Against you, you only, have I sinned." So, it is God's forgiveness that David needs more than anyone else's. It is God's mercy and love and compassion that David needs.
"Against you, you only, have I sinned." David first of all sinned against God. Similarly, our sin is also first of all against God. Which means we need to be made right with God. Before anything and everything else, we need to be made right with God. We come to the Lord's Table knowing we have also sinned against God and need His love and compassion.
A The third word we need to look at is the word "cleanse." The word shows up two times in our Bible reading (vs 2,7). Cleanse. This is a vigorous Hebrew word for washing a garment by treading it and pounding it in the water. My washer at home has a delicate or gentle cycle. No gentle cycle for dealing with my sin.
Listen to how and where David uses "cleanse" in our text of verse 7:
(Ps 51:7) Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.Do you realize what David says about sin? David says sin makes him impure. David says sin makes him as defiled as a leper. Let me explain this.
B In Leviticus, God commanded His people to use hyssop in the ceremonial cleansing of people and houses. God tells the priests to use hyssop to sprinkle a person recently healed from leprosy. This act would ceremonially cleanse the diseased person and allow him to reenter the camp (Lev 14:1–7). The same method was used to purify a house that had previously contained mold (Lev 14:33–53).
Hyssop was also used before Israel's last night in Egypt. If you remember, God instructed the Israelites to use a bunch of hyssop as a "paintbrush" to mark their doorposts with lamb’s blood in order for the angel of death to pass over them (Ex 12:22). This signifies that God marked His people as "pure" and not targets of the judgment He was about to deal out to the Egyptians.
C Hyssop also appears at Jesus’ crucifixion, when the Roman soldiers offered Jesus a drink of wine vinegar on a sponge at the end of a stalk of hyssop (Jn 19:28–30). This was Jesus’ last act before He declared His work on earth finished and gave up His spirit. Telling us what? Telling us Jesus completed His work of purification so that we can be forgiven. Telling us that just as in the Old Testament blood and hyssop purified a defiled person, so Jesus’ shed blood purifies us from the defilement of our sin.
The result of all this washing and cleansing? The result is the best washing possible: whiter than snow. I can't imagine anything whiter than snow. Dazzling white. Pure. Holy. Imaging the glory and purity of God Himself. That's the message of the Lord's Table this morning: in Christ we are whiter than snow.
A The fourth word is "heart." Listen to what David says in verse 10 of our Bible reading:
(Ps 51:10) Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
All David did was look over the roof of his house. He spied a beautiful woman taking a bath. The sudden temptation swept him off his feet. What he needs, what you need, what I need, is a pure heart and a steadfast spirit.
A pure heart is a heart that looks away instead of panting with lust. A steadfast spirit is one that trusts in God and stands upon God and His commandments. David asks for eager obedience. It is when David is not walking with God that he becomes easy prey. When we don't walk with God, our hearts also are easily led astray into sin.
B And, of course, David also needs the Spirit of God. David's predecessor, King Saul, quenched or grieved the Spirit (1 Sam 16:14). David prays the same thing does not happen with him.
(Ps 51:11) Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.Like David, we need the Spirit. It is the Spirit of Christ Who renews us and equips us and conforms us to the image of God in Christ.
A We end with the word "joy." David has gone through a host and range of emotions. It started with silence and suffering. Psalm 32 mentions bones that waste away and groaning day and night. David was not able to praise God in worship. Prayer was difficult. Sacrifice and offering meant nothing. David participated in all of the religious rituals, but none of them meant a thing. David's mood was sadness and guilt and distress.
B However, once David has been assured of God's compassion and kindness and love and mercy, once David has been cleansed and washed by the blood of the Lamb, his mood becomes joyful. He is once again able to rejoice in the Lord. His is the joy of salvation. His lips declare God's praise. And, he is able to tell others about God and His ways.
As we come to the Lord's Table we have the same range of emotions. We, too, are sad about our sin. We, too, are disappointed in our wayward hearts and minds. But, but, we are also and especially able to rejoice. Ours is the joy of salvation.
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