There’s more to “Sorry” than meets the eye
Welcome back to the Psalms! We start back with a famous Penitent Psalm (That means asking for and receiving forgiveness). The background comes from one of King David’s blackest moments of realizing the depths of his depravity, and yet it also uncovers a deep level of trust in the faithfulness of God and His salvation work. The superscription to the Psalm says, “When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba” - you can look at the story in 2 Samuel 11-12 and see what he has done. The sin, the cover up, and the confrontation by a godly man are revealed. Now David writes in shame and hope.
The first thing David does is confess his sin and cry for mercy (vs. 1-2). There is no echo of the cries for vindication that mark some of the earlier psalms. He is not crying foul, he knows he is the one who’s wrong. When we are guilty, and know we are guilty, no other avenue will bring relief to our soul. David cites his bones being crushed (vs. 8), the ever-pervasive awareness of his guilt (vs. 3), and the joy of his salvation that has disappeared (vs. 12).
When we are in these places, whether heavy situations or simply the day-to-day struggle of trying to control our own lives, we need to come back to this place of confession. Of course, we can try other ways, like rationalization or blaming others, but here is the path for restoration of peace and spiritual sanity. It’s not easy, but it’s the only solution.
David clearly recognizes his offense is primarily against God (vs. 3-4), not against the husband, the wife or the nation he has been a poor role model for. God sets the standards, and when we violated His laws we are defying him. It is primarily a heart situation and it reveals that David’s heart is corrupt and he prays that his heart would be made pure (vs. 5-6, 10).
The key to this restoration is trusting that God is doing the work. The rest of the week’s readings lead us to this. Psalms 54-55 calls us to trust, “Save me by your name...I will call to God and the Lord will save me.” The foundation of all this trust roots itself in the cross and resurrection (Mark 15-16). A famous theologian, John Stott, wrote, “The essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us. We…put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God…puts himself where we deserve to be.” That’s something we can trust today as we walk after Christ in confession and restoration.
Tips for Reading- (Interpretation tip #11)
Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It has been building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over past weeks to get the whole picture.
Instead of our normal examination of Bible study methods, I would like to encourage all of us to spend sometime in reflection and confession in light of the reading this week. Go back over Mark 15 and the grace of God offered to us. Then go to Psalm 51. Examine the precise manner in which David names his sin, confesses his sin and receives forgiveness. It really doesn’t matter how much of the Scriptures we are reading if they are not getting into our hearts. This is a key to Bible Study. If you want to read more extensively on confession and forgiveness, two books I have read recently that deal with these topics are; Tim Keller’s newest book, “The Reason for God” (Chapter 12) and John Ortberg’s book, “The Life You Always Wanted” (Chapter 12). Lastly, visit Psalm 54-55 and replay all the ways we are called to trust God and His faithfulness.
Notes from David’s Journal
Psalm 51 is written after Nathan the prophet confronted King David with his sins of adultery with Bathsheba and murder against her husband Uriah. It must have been a scary moment for Nathan, confronting the King of Israel. Yet he did. He was faithful to God.
David did not react defensively. He did not “kill the messenger” because of the message. Indeed, David showed why he is described Biblically as “a man after God’s own heart.” He internalized the message. He let God’s Spirit show him the truth. And he repented. Read the words closely. They were written by a man convicted of his sin, but also very knowledgeable of God’s kindness, mercy and forgiveness. The joy of his salvation was restored. He was forgiven.
Psalm 51 is for all of us who have missed God at one time or another. It’s a psalm of God’s care for people who have sinned.
It doesn’t matter what you have done. It’s not beyond God’s forgiveness. David knew it. I pray you will too.