October 7, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Psalm 51)

Submitted by William S. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

What characteristics of God give David the confidence to appeal to Him for mercy?
David has committed sin because he has committed adultery with Bathsheba. Nathan has confronted him about not just Bathsheba, but also with the blood of Uriah the Hittite. David is sharply aware that he is covered in sin and yet he appeals to God for mercy.

In David’s appeal, David first turns to God’s unfailing love. David appeals to God’s love – His care, his ability to watch over him, the kindness and protection that God has shown David over the years. David is appealing to God’s decision to love and bless David.

In examining this aspect of God’s character, one thing that strikes me is the fact that David calls God’s love unfailing. This is a very interesting word that is used to describe love. Growing up in our culture, love is one of those words that gets tossed around and used so often, and so often incorrectly, that it has, in many ways, lost the true power of its meaning. Love can now mean something that is fickle, dependent on circumstances and performance. Love can fade, disappear and change directions as quickly as it first arrives. But David is referencing another love – the love of God. David is establishing that God’s love is different; it is unfailing. God’s love is sure, God’s love is consistent, and God’s love wins out.

God’s love for David can handle the sins that David has committed. It’s not a love that is blind to the fact, but it is a love that remains in spite of the reality of David’s sin.

David also appeals to God’s great compassion. David is here recognizing that he deserves a penalty for his actions. David is recognizing that what he has done deserves punishment of some sort; wherein he should not get off without paying some sort of price. But despite the fact that David has done such a wrong, He is appealing to God’s compassion – the ability to suffer on behalf of. David understands fully that he has sinned against God first and foremost (v.4). Therefore, the wronged party, in order for there to be forgiveness, needs to absorb the blow of the wrong. David is asking God to suffer his wrong on his behalf. David is saying – Lord, I’ve sinned against you, but now I’m asking you to take that sin against yourself and look past it, for my sake.

Truly, as David understands his sin, as he understands why the thing he has done is such a great offense to God; the only way he can ask for mercy is to appeal to God’s unfailing love and His great compassion. It is only through love, and the willingness to suffer the offense on behalf of David could there be mercy in this situation.

How does my sense of the centrality of my sinfulness compare with the psalmist’s? What might account for the difference?
David’s understanding of the centrality of his sinfulness stands in quite stark contrast with mine. There are certainly times when I feel utterly defeated by my sin, by my offenses before God, and I certainly feel the weight of the transgression. There are times when these things are abundantly clear to me, and thus, I am able to come to God, appealing to His unfailing love and great compassion. But I’m not sure that I can honestly say that in those situation, that things are crystal clear in terms of my sense of the centrality of my sinfulness before God.

I believe there are two main reasons why there is this difference. The first and foremost reason would have to be the psalmist’s clear understanding of the Holiness of God. David is very clear to show that the Lord is pure and holy. Our sins, therefore, are wretchedly dark and obscene to the Lord. When we come before God in our sin, it is a blight before God’s holiness, and thus, the contrast between sinner and God is highlighted and that sense of sinfulness for David is highlighted. As we understand God’s holiness that much more, our understanding of our sinfulness increases.

The second reason, as related to the first, would also have to be the clear understanding of our sin. For David, there is no sugar coating going on. David understands and labels things correctly – his sin is evil and it is enough for God to be justified completely as he judges. David does not argue the fact that God has every right to remove him from his presence and take his Holy Spirit from David. David understands that sin has dire consequences that are real.

In this way, I find that these two areas are the key reasons why there is that difference in the sense of centrality of my sinfulness. I find that I do not often dwell upon the reality of God’s holiness. I sing the songs of praise, I understand and recognize God’s holiness, but do I actually live out my life as if God’s holiness were truly central to my understanding of life? I don’t think I do as much as I need to.

Additionally, I don’t think that I treat my sinfulness as seriously as David does; adding to the sense of difference in the centrality of sinfulness as compared against David. I find that I often will try to give a reason why things were how they were. “Yeah, I got mad, I lost my temper, but there was a reason why I got mad, have you taken that into account yet?” “Sure, I should not have done that, but I was feeling tired, it’s not right, but you understand what I’m getting at right?”

As I think about it, I am too well-versed in explaining my own sin away. But David here does not even attempt to do such a thing. He calls it as it really is – wicked, evil, needing to be washed. And there is that power in that understanding of sin. As he understands his sin and the true nature of that evil; as David understands the holiness of God, then the centrality of sin becomes far more deeply rooted. It is to this kind of degree of understanding that I am called to go back to, daily, as I confess my sin before the Lord.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response