I never cease to be amazed at how some of the more simple truths of the Bible are hidden from my view because of my sinful heart. After twenty plus years of walking with the Lord, I am only now coming to understand the nature of sin and its impact on our relationship with the Lord. Even in the Old Testament, I always assumed that sacrifices were to make us right with God. However, the more I read of the OT, the more I am realizing that ultimately, we can do nothing to deal with our sin other than throw ourselves onto God’s mercy.
The Lord reminded me of this yet again this morning as I was reading Psalm 51, David’s classic confession after his sin with Bathsheba. Every line of his confession is a beautiful testimony to God’s mercy, further proving that forgiveness cannot be earned by works or sacrifice. Notice how the Psalm breaks down:
In vv. 1-2 David begins by pleading for mercy from God. Interestingly enough, he never uses God’s covenenat name. I’m not really sure what can be read into this, but it’s an interesting insight. David’s request for mercy is based on God’s covenant love, His character. We should request forgiveness based on the character of God, not our pentitence or our attempts at atonement.
In vv. 3-6 David acknowledges and fully confeses his sin, and two unique things struck me here. First, while David seemed to sin against Bathsheba and Uriah, he realized that ultimately he had only sinned agianst God. Too often in my own life I am burdened about the people I have sinned against, and I only think about my sin against God as an afterthought. That was the first thought on David’s mind. Secondly, David recognized that it wasn’t so much his specific sins that were the issue as it was the nature of his own sinfulness. He confesses he was conceived in sin and that God wants not so much righteous action as “truth in the inward being.” God is not so much concerne d with our specific sins as He is with our sinful hearts.
Vv. 7-12 are a cry to God for cleansing. David brings nothing before the Lord to acheive forgiveness but rather throws himself on God’s mercy, recognizing God alone can cleanse him from his sin. In fact, God’s cleansing would be so complete as to allow David to have joy where at the time he was only broken. He considers the shame and despair he is feeling to be conviction from the Lord, and he asks that this conviction be replaced with joy in God’s salvation. He realizes the fault resides within his own heart, and thus he asks God for a clean heart and a steadfast spirit that won’t turn aside to sin in the future. He concludes this section by continually relying on God, asking for His upholding through His generosity (again appealing to the character of God).
In vv. 13-17 David begins to move beyond his sin to his response to God’s forgiveness. Whereas I would make a deal with God that if He would forgive me I wouldn’t sin anymore, David on the other hand, tells God that if He will forgive him, then he would teach other sinners about God and they too would come to God for forgiveness. David promises praise to God. Notice there isn’t the typical “if you get me out of this mess, I won’t get into it again” kind of negotiation. Rather there is the “if You change my heart I will work to bring others to know how awesome You are” promise. This is what God is interested in anyway, so this is naturally the best way to gather God’s attention. David concludes this section by reiterating to God again that there is nothing he can do to attain forgiveness by God. Rather God only desires an upright heart, and that comes from Him alone. In short, there is nothing David or we can do to merit any favor from God.
This line of thinking would lead us to think that there is no point in doing anything from God since He must do eveyrthing in our lives. The last two verses set this thinking straight instructing us that once God has done good to us, we can respond in thanksgiving to Him with sacrifices in which He will delight. If we believe our sacrifices will earn us favor with God we are deluded. We must first gain favor with God by casting ourselves on His mercy, and then and only then, will He be pleased with our sacrifice of worship.
Again, this psalm hit me hard this morning as I considered how totally helpless I am before the Lord. He and He alone can forgive, and that forgiveness is not based on anything I may bring to Him. In fact, I can only bring Him satisfactory offerings after He has already forgiven me and I am living in light of His glorious grace and mercy.
Thank you Lord for Your awesome provision and character. Be glorified in my life!