************ Sermon on Psalm 51:7 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on November 11, 2007

Psalm 51
Psalm 51:7
"Cleanse Me With Hyssop"

I The Need for Repentance
Do you know what are some of the more beautiful words of the Bible? The words of Jeremiah 18:
(Jer 18:7-8) If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, (8) and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.
Why do I highlight these words on this Lord's Supper Sunday? Because God announces through Jeremiah that He will not pour out His wrath upon a people if they turn from their wickedness.

Let's think of what this means. If the people at the time of Noah had repented, God would not have sent the flood. If Sodom and Gomorrah repented of their evil, the Lord would not have destroyed these cities of the plain. If the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah repented, they would not have been scattered and exiled. And, if we repent, we will not be punished for our sin.

We cannot read the Bible without seeing the call to repent – in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is part and parcel of the Gospel. What did John the Baptist preach but a baptism of repentance (Mk 1:4)? What was Jesus' first sermon? It was a call to repentance (Mk 1:14-15). Peter and the other apostles implored their listeners to repent of their sin and believe in Jesus (Acts 2:38).

Guess what is missing in many churches today? A call to repentance! People are told that Jesus loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life, but they aren't told they need to repent. People are told Jesus forgives them by dying for them, but they aren't told they need to repent. People are promised the blessings of heaven without being told the demand to repent. We see the results of this when people answer an "altar call" or say the "sinner's prayer" but there is no change in their life. Celebrities and sports heroes claim to "love Jesus" but engage in sexual immorality, abuse drugs and alcohol, and dress immodestly. Many people think of themselves as being saved though they never attend worship or love their neighbor or change their way of life.

This is a damnable error. Woe to those churches and preachers that don't issue the call to repentance together with the call to believe in Jesus.

The Greek word for repentance means "change of mind." This includes a change of mind about Christ – you accept that He is the eternal Son of God, that He is the Savior from sin, that He rules as Lord. But it also means a change of mind about sin. To repent means to turn your life upside down. To repent means to flee from sin and to follow Jesus. This is more than just saying, "Sorry, Sorry, Sorry!" It is more than offering a prayer and bringing a gift. Listen to how David puts this:
(Ps 51:16-17) You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. (17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
To repent means you feel bad enough about your sin to quit your sin.

Do you repent? As you prepared for the Lord's Supper today, have you repented of your sins?

II The Sin of David
Psalm 51 is a prayer of repentance. It was written by King David.

David was the greatest king in ancient Israel, a leader who presided over a golden age for the people of God. Because of his extraordinary devotion to the Lord, he was called "a man after God's own heart" (1 Sam 13:14). Yet, David is also remembered as a great sinner. We all know the story of David's adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah (2 Samuel 11). It all started so innocently. David was strolling about on the roof of his palace when he saw Bathsheba taking a bath. He could have turned his gaze away, but he didn't. Consumed by lust, he used his position as king to bring her into his house. Then started the lies and the coverup.

David's sin put up a wall of separation between him and the Lord. David's sin kept him from God's presence and God's worship. The only solution was repentance. And, this did not happen until the prophet Nathan confronted him. God mercifully forgave David when he acknowledged his sin; however, he still had to endure the consequences of his sin.

Later, when David thought about his sin, his need for repentance, and the Lord's forgiveness of him, he wrote the words of Psalm 51.

I want to tell you that if David – a man after God's heart – needed to repent, so do you and I. Our sin may not be as big as David's. It may not be as obvious. Its consequences may not be as great. Yet, we too need to repent. We need to hear that on this Lord's Supper Sunday.

In Psalm 51 we find a model of the repentance God desires of you and me.

III God's Mercy
A On this Lord's Supper Sunday what is the repentance that God desires?

When we sin and repent of that sin, God wants us to throw ourselves on His mercy. Listen to how David puts it:
(Ps 51:1) Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
David knows he needs God's mercy. Mercy is something you do not earn. It is something unearned and unmerited and undeserved. It is something God gives out of love and compassion.

B And why does David need God's mercy? Because of his transgressions. David admits this straight out. There is no false sense of guilt here. There is no pretense at shame and remorse. David knows he has sinned. David knows he is guilty. David is full of shame and remorse.

This is how we should be. When we sin and repent of that sin, we need to admit our sin and cast ourselves on the mercy of God. That is what the tax collector did in Jesus' parable. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner" (Lk 18:13). Remember what the Pharisee of the same parable said? This Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get" (Lk 18:11-12). No confession on the part of the Pharisee. No repentance. No guilt. No shame. No remorse. No asking for mercy.

Repentance confesses guilt and throws itself on God's mercy. Repentance does NOT boast about how good it is.

C A repentant David appeals to God's mercy. Notice what a repentant David wants God's mercy to do. First, David asks God to "blot out my transgressions" (Ps 51:1). Repentance wants sin to be blotted out. Before the invention of ball-point pens, people used quill pens and ink wells. Before you could turn the page you either had to wait for the ink to air-dry or you could use a blotter to soak up the extra ink. If you used the blotter too soon, you soaked up all the ink. David wants the Lord to soak up his transgressions. This cannot mean that the Lord forgets sin or ignores it. But it does mean that when God erases our record He no longer holds our sin against us. When God forgives us, out of mercy, it is as if I have never sinned nor been a sinner; it is as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me; it is as if the sin had never happened.

Second, a repentant David asks God to "wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin" (Ps 51:2). David compares himself to a dirty piece of clothing that needs to be washed and scrubbed. David realizes he needs a thorough cleansing – something like a surgeon does before doing surgery so no germs and infections can be passed on to the patient.

David further explains the cleansing with the image of hyssop. Hyssop was first used 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 the 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.

IV God's Justice
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 show disrespect to the elders and deacons and pastors, 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.

Our sins are against one another. So, we need to repent; we need to forgive and be forgiven. And, when we don't, we sin further against the people we have already hurt.

B Yet, when David talks about his sin he acknowledges the primary person he has offended is God. This is not to say that our sin does not impact our relationships with others. But especially our sin is sin against God. Listen to how he 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.

Our sin is against God. We need to hear that on this Lord's Supper Sunday. 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. True repentance recognizes 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.

Let's go back to the verse I quoted from Jeremiah. What did God say through Jeremiah?
(Jer 18:7-8) If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, (8) and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.

On this Lord's Supper Sunday we need to recognize that God has a choice. Either God deals with our sin through repentance and mercy or He deals with our sin through judgment and punishment.

How does He deal with your sin? Do you repent and throw yourself on God's mercy? Are you one of those washed clean by the blood of the Lamb?
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