************ Sermon on Psalm 51:1 ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on March 12, 2017


Psalm 51
Psalm 51:1
Lent & Lord's Supper

Introduction
"Of course God will forgive me; that's his job." This quote is attributed to German poet and journalist Heinriche Heine. This is the answer he gave on his deathbed in 1856 when he was asked if God would forgive him for his sin. "Of course God will forgive me; that's his job."

There is a modern ring to this defiant quote. Most today view it as God's job, even God's obligation, to forgive. People today want a God of grace, but not a God of wrath. They want a God of mercy, but not of justice. They want a God of heaven, but not of hell.

As we look at Psalm 51 on this Lord's Supper Sunday and second Sunday of Lent, we discover that the forgiveness of sins is not merely wiping the slate clean. It is not merely cleansing. It also involves the wrath of God being satisfied in the death of Christ on the cross.

I Who Needs to be Forgiven
A Psalm 51 is a psalm of David. The heading informs us David wrote the psalm when the prophet Naham came to him after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Let me read the account to you:
(2 Sam 12:1-7,13) The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. (2) The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, (3) but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. (4) "Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him." (5) David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! (6) He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." (7) Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!" ... (13) Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD."

Who needs to be forgiven? David. David needs to be forgiven because -- as David admits to Nathan -- he has sinned.

Who needs to be forgiven? You and I need to be forgiven. We need to see ourselves in David. Because we also sin. Every day we sin. Every day we add to our guilt and our debt. So we need forgiveness.

B Nathan forces David to peer into his soul. Sad to say, it is like peeling an onion because he finds one layer after another. As David peels back the layers he discovers transgression, iniquity, sin, evil. These words all express different aspects of sin and tell us that David crosses the boundary, misses the mark, twists the standard, fails to do good; and, we are no better.

When he is confronted by Nathan the prophet, David does not minimize his sin -- "What I did is no big deal." David does not deny his sin -- "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." David does not rationalize his sin away -- "Every other king does this and more." Instead, David owns up to his sin.

C How did David get this way? Was his father Jesse a bad example? Did he pick up bad habits in the court of King Saul? Was it because of the Canaanite influence in the land? Can we blame the ancient serpent, the Devil? Notice what David points to in verse 5:
(Ps 51:5) Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
We have a theological word for this. We call it original sin. Original sin is not the phrase used for the first sin of the human race; rather, it is the phrase used for the effects of the first sin on the human race. With David we are all conceived and born in sin. With David we all inherit a sinful nature from our parents that can be traced back to Adam and Eve. With David we all have a sin nature. With David we all have a natural tendency to hate God and neighbor. With David we are all born guilty. It is part of our make up; it is in our DNA!

Meaning what? Meaning every single person of the human race needs forgiveness. Not just David. Not just you and me. But every person -- except for Christ.

On this second Sunday of Lent, who needs to be forgiven? Everyone. On this Lord's Supper Sunday, who needs to be forgiven? Everyone.

D When David became aware of his sin -- both the sin he committed as well as the sin he was born with -- he threw himself on the mercy and compassion of God.
(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 did not ask the Lord for justice, for then he would be destroyed, but he asked God to show him mercy. He asked God to clear him of all guilt, and to cleanse him from all sin. David recognized that he needed to be washed thoroughly of his sin.

On this Lord's Supper Sunday, on this second Sunday of Lent, the words of David in our text ought to be your words and my words and the words of everyone who has ever lived:
(Ps 51:1) Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

II Who Needs to Forgive
A When David committed adultery and murder, he sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah. But he also sinned against the soldiers that put their trust in him as commander-in-chief when he arranged to place Uriah in mortal danger. He sinned against the prophets and priests by ignoring their words and their sacrifices. He sinned against his parents; they raised him to be holy and pure. He sinned against the people who looked up to him as a godly example. He sinned against the Gentiles who got turned away from Israel's God because of his sin.

Our sins, like David's sins, also have an impact on others. When we gossip about someone, we sin against them. When we steal, we sin against those from whom we have stolen. When we commit pre-marital sex, we sin against our partner and ourselves. When we drink and drive and cause death and destruction, we sin against the victims. When we refuse to forgive or be forgiven, we sin against the people we are estranged from. Like David, our sins are also against one another.

B Yet, when David talks about his sin he acknowledges the primary person he has offended is God. This is why he addresses God in our text:
(Ps 51:1) Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Whose forgiveness does David need? God's! Who needs to do the forgiving? God! Because it is primarily God that David has sinned against. Listen to how David puts it in verse 4:
(Ps 51:4) Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

Likewise, our sin is against God. We need to hear that on this Lord's Supper Sunday, on this second Sunday of Lent. God is perfectly holy, all sin is an offense to Him, and all sin needs to be dealt with. It cannot be ignored by God. It cannot be forgotten by God. It cannot be overlooked by God. We need to recognize that the first person we have offended is God Himself. So, to Him we need to confess our sin. Before Him we need to express sorrow for sin. And from Him we need forgiveness of sin.

Our sin is against God. This means our sin has created enmity between us and God. We are at war and need reconciliation. It is not just that we are at war with God; more importantly, God is at war with us.

Our sin is against God. This means we have a debt with God. A debt that grows every single day. A debt that we are unable to pay.

Our sin is against God. This means it is a crime. It is a crime against God. It is an assault on God's throne. It brings about the legal sentence of death.

David has sinned against God. You and I have sinned against God. David's cry, your cry, my cry is all the same:
(Ps 51:1) Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

III How Forgiveness Happens
A So how does David get this forgiveness he so desperately wants and needs? How do you and I get this forgiveness? How do we experience God's mercy? How do we become objects of His love and compassion rather than His justice?

Let's start with what doesn't bring forgiveness -- either for David or you and me. Look at verse 16:
(Ps 51:16) You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
There is nothing we can do, nothing we can bring, that will result in forgiveness. Not my religious exercises. Not my attendance at worship. Not my prayers and sighs and tears. Not my good works. Not donations to the church or kingdom causes.

B So how do sinners like David and you and me get God's mercy? David gives us the answer in verse 7:
(Ps 51:7) Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Hyssop is a wild shrub whose twigs were used in Israel for sprinkling. Hyssop is first mentioned in the institution of the Passover. Moses instructed the children of Israel to take a bunch of hyssop and dip it into the blood of the Passover lamb and then apply it to their doorframes. "Cleanse me with hyssop." In other words, apply the blood of the lamb to me. David admits and David realizes that cleansing only comes because of the shedding of blood.

We know, of course, that this points ahead to the sacrifice and cross of Jesus; He alone is our Passover Lamb.

Notice the result: "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow" (Ps 51:7). We can't imagine anything whiter than snow -- we are talking about fresh snow, snow that has not been plowed or mixed with salt and sand. Snow that is pure and pristine and pure brightness itself.

When we are washed in the blood of Christ we are clean in God's sight, whiter than snow. When we are washed in the blood of Christ we are forgiven. When we are washed in the blood of Christ, the relationship between us and God is reconciled so we are no longer God's enemies. When we are washed in the blood of Christ, our debt of sin is paid. When we are washed in the blood of Christ, Jesus is treated as guilty in our place and suffers as our substitute.

Conclusion
On this Lord's Supper Sunday, on this second Sunday of Lent, our cry is the same as David's:
(Ps 51:1) Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
We need forgiveness. As the Lord's Supper shows us, we need the forgiveness that comes only through the sacrifice of Jesus.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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