Continuing the analysis of Psalm 51 from Part 1 earlier. If you aren’t familiar with this Psalm, I encourage you to check out David Lee’s sermon from Loft City Church in Richardson, Texas. If you want to watch the complete sermon, click below or read the highlights after the jump.
Over 200 days had passed since Bathsheba gave birth to King David’s illegitimate child. During that time, David’s heart had grown hard and he continued to live his lie. But in the mercy of God, the prophet Nathan was sent to convict David of his sins (2 Samuel 12).
In this meeting, Nathan told him a story instead of outright confrontation. Makes sense too, because if we were in Nathan’s shoes we would probably be too scared to confront such a powerful man who could just as quickly kill us, especially given his state of mind at the time. The tale told to David touched upon David’s heart and tripped him up, no matter how messed up he was. David exclaimed that the sinner in the story must die as a result of his actions, unaware of the parallels to his own actions.
It was here that Nathan finally revealed to David that the sinner in the story was in fact, him. Lee makes a great point here. How often do we quickly jump to accuse other sinners before we look at ourselves?
“Don’t look at how messed up I am, you are the sinner, not me!”
When you come to God with your sins, He can forgive you. But the consequences are always given that line up with the crime. In the case of David, He made his newborn son perish and all of his wives commit adultery.
David’s Four Responses to Sin
There are 4 ways that David responds to the guilt of sin in Psalm 51. Let’s look at it section by section. Lee suggests using “a genuinely repentant believer” instead of “David” so that is what we will do too.
1. A genuinely repentant believer places his only hope of forgiveness on the loving-kindness and Mercy of God.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
David placed his only hope on God. He didn’t list off a bunch of things he did right in the past or say he’ll get right the next time. He also didn’t compare his own sin to someone else’s sin. “You see that guy over there, you should be judging him instead.”
And instead of first addressing his own sin, David first addresses God’s character—loving kindness (This is the Greek word “hesed” which talks about a loyal love, a love based on a covenant.) God is faithful not according to what YOU say He will do, but what HE says He will do. David knew this (Exodus 34:5-6) and he knew that God prepared a way for people like him to be forgiven from wickedness, rebellion and sin.
The words “blot,” “wash” and “cleanse”—these might refer to the cleansing process that Jewish people did at the temple. The words “transgressions,” “iniquity” and “sin”—these might refer to David emphasizing the importance of his sin. He said it three different ways, but was merely expressing his understanding.
We stand on the other side of the cross with Jesus as New Testament believers. At that time, David did not know this. He had just thought there was a mysterious way that God forgave people. Yet despite this concept, we often put all the weight on our own shoulders to rectify our transgressions (through doing good works), yet we should be putting that weight on the Lord instead.
This is why a lot of Christians are often burned out, argues Lee. They are putting too much weight on themselves instead of coming before God with that weight to take it off of them. And God has promised those who come before Him to be forgiven.
2. A genuinely repentant believer acknowledges the full responsibility for his sins against God, and God’s right to judge.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Before you can get changed, you have to acknowledge you messed up. Oftentimes, we try to minimize and downplay our faults and sins. “I’m sorry, but…”
Instead, David goes “I’m sorry.” Period. No “but.”
Often the devil will try to make us remember that past sin so we stay down in regret. It’s hard to forgive and forget. Sin is by definition first and foremost against God, not against people. That is why David said what he said in verse 4. He’s not ignoring his transgressions, but had been seeking God’s forgiveness first and foremost, before he went out talked to others.
He was also expressing the fact that he has a right to be condemned. Lee brings up the question, “have you ever owned your sin like that before?” Like “even if you condemn me to hell God, you are right and just in that decision.” That’s deep ownership right there.
David is also not trying to downplay his sin by blaming it on his birth. He is just acknowledging it and intensifying it. The wisdom part plays into the concept of integrity—that God is trying to teach that.
Who are you in the secret places of your life? What are the thoughts that run through your mind when no one is around? Is it holy integrity? Lee reminds us never to believe a preacher who doesn’t believe what is being preached.
3. A genuinely repentant believer runs to God to wash away sins.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
Sin has a way to make us feel dirty, and is also a crushing weight on our hearts. David was looking to God to alleviate this. He felt the shame of everything he had done in his relationship with God. Hyssop was a leaf that Old Testament priests would use to sprinkle blood on an unclean place to cleanse it. David was saying that he could not look to a human priest to cleanse him, only God could properly cleanse him. Some of us struggle with shame (by hiding ourselves for example). The Gospel allows us to have honor before God, not shame. Jesus’ blood covers us and declares us clean. But if we are cleaned once then why do we have to keep asking for forgiveness?
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
We are right before God, but functionally we are a mess. That is why it is vital for us to repent continually as David does. In confessing, we are drawing near to God. We can’t change ourselves, but He can come and cleanse us. But as Lee emphases, “Our forgiveness in Christ is not an excuse for us to NOT come to the Lord.” The cross is not an excuse but it is our confidence that the answer when we ask for forgiveness will be YES!
4. A genuinely repentant believer is passionately committed to a life-transforming spiritual renewal that is only possibly by drawing near to the Spirit of God.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Lee relates in his own sin—he usually feels bad, then runs away for a couple days being apart from God, then comes back in repentance after that. But in this tactic, Lee admits he is just losing time.
King David doesn’t want to just be forgiven, he wants to be transformed and renewed by God. He asks for 5 things in this passage, as outlined above…
1) A clean, steadfast heart (v. 10). He doesn’t want to sin. But as long as it keeps looking appealing, he’ll keep going back to it. David asks for new tastebuds and a new appetite.
2) The continuing presence of the Spirit of God (v. 11). As New Testament Christians we know we can’t lose the Holy Spirit because of Christ. But David understands that without the presence of God he cannot change and not by his human effort, so he prays for this close relationship to continue.
3) A restoration of joy in God’s salvation (v. 8, 12). David did not lose his salvation in God, but he lost his joy in God. Just being told not to sin is never enough to keep ourselves from sinning. We need to be actively pursuing Christ and then our previous actions will start to lose its appeal. I can attest to this in my own life! John Piper once said, “Every sin is symptomatic of the absence of this joy.” We need God’s joy to sustain us. Lee once gave me great advice by telling me to continue to pray for the delight in serving Christ.
4) Open lips, the overflow of joy leading to praise and evangelism (v. 13-15). Have you ever been to a church where everyone is singing and you just can’t sing along and mean it? That’s where David was at. Here he was being so honest with God, essentially stating, “look I don’t want to sing so I need You to put that motivation in me, Lord.” Some of us think that our sins are so bad that we cannot be used by God. Lee wonders if maybe it would be more effective in our own evangelism to share with others how badly we messed up. Then our testimony of how God transformed us and used us even at our worst moments to do something awesome for His glory might be more effective in preaching the Gospel.
5) A broken and contrite heart (v. 16-17). David models for us what it looks like to come broken and with feelings of remorse. God doesn’t delight in offerings or actions, but rather in repentance first and foremost. It doesn’t matter how much you serve the church or how much you give to the church, God wants you to come before Him broken and genuinely remorseful. Honesty. Every day we need His mercy because there is never a moment we don’t need His grace.
Thank you David (both King David and David Lee) for helping me to understand these concepts of true repentance.