Our text, Psalm 51:1-12. This psalm talks about the whole of sin, about the root of sin, about the fruit of sin and about the devastating effect of sin. However, it speaks clearly of the forgiveness of sin and the joy and peace received. It leads the listener to recognition of sin, the wrath of God and the mercy of God. At the beginning of this psalm we see a sinner (David) troubled by the knowledge of his sin and the burden of his conscience.
The roots of stress (sin) began in the Garden of Eden when Satan deceived Eve in partaking of the forbidden fruit. So, what is self-inflicted stress? Its stress brought on my unsound thinking and unwise choices that we make in our lives. Stress can be self-inflicted through ignorance, impatience, intolerance, stupidity, lack of common sense and willful sin. Some likely outcomes of self-inflicted stress could be pain, injury, depression, defeat or failure, accidents, broken relationships, guilt and sorrow to name only a few. However, in order for a believer to recover from self-inflicted stress, confession and renewal are needed. Then the question must be asked, “Who needs to apply this principle”? Simply put anyone who is living with un-confessed sin in their life.
As an illustration I submit the following story for consideration … She was only a foot long when they purchased their pet and brought her home. However, Sally didn’t stay small. She grew and grew until eventually she reached a length of eleven feet and weighed over eighty pounds. Then one day Sally, a Burmese python, turned on fifteen-year-old Carolyn, strangling the unsuspecting teenager until she died of suffocation. Police said the snake was “quite aggressive, hissing, and reacting” when they arrived to investigate the young woman’s death. My brethren, sin is like that snake. When it first enters our lives, we think of it as harmless and almost cute. However, it doesn’t stay small and has a way of growing. We think we can handle it, but then the sin begins to control us. It will always lead to death, sometimes physical death, and often emotional death. At other times it leads to the death of a relationship. And if the sin is not confessed and forsaken, it will bring spiritual death. That’s why James warned us that “sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (1:15). His purpose in saying that was not to spoil our fun but to preserve our highest joys. If you are playing with a pet sin in your life, God urges you to beware, because it is a life-and-death matter.
THE PROCESS OF REPENTANCE
David, one of God’s greatest servants walked on the roof of his home in the late afternoon of a beautiful Middle Eastern day. As he looked from the roof of his home, his eyes came to rest upon a woman who was bathing, perhaps in a courtyard or on a roof nearby. The woman was beautiful, and thus began the story of David’s great sin with Bathsheba; the murder of her husband, Uriah; and the death of an illegitimate child (2 Samuel 12:1-9). David’s sin led him into darkness, misery, despair, disgrace, and defeat. David didn’t resolve to straighten out his life or do better before he confessed his sin and experienced cleansing from his sin. Only after God had forgiven him and had renewed his life did David resolve to serve the Lord anew, once again. As was his custom, David wrote those words in the form of a song, Psalm 51. The first eleven verses contain prayers; a prayer of repentance in verses 1-9 and a prayer of renewal in verses 10 and 11.
Psalm 51:1-9, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. (2) Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. (3) For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. (4) Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. (5) Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. (6) Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. (7) Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (8) Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. (9) Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities”
Forever Mercy … Psalm 136:1 states it this way, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever”
You certainly don’t have to live very long in today’s world before it becomes painfully clear that nothing lasts forever. The car you were so proud of when you bought it is spending too much time in the shop getting fixed. Those clothes you picked up on sale are now in the hand-me-down box. At home, the roof eventually leaks, the appliances break down; the carpet needs to be replaced, and relationships we think will endure forever often fall apart. Nothing on this earth lasts forever, but God’s mercy will last to all generations. Twenty-six times we are reminded of this inspiring truth in Psalm 136. Twenty-six times the writer of Psalm 136 gives us something for which to praise the Lord, and then he reminds us, “His mercy endures forever.” Think of what this means to us. When we sin and need forgiveness; when our lives seem a jumbled mess that we can’t control, His mercy endures forever. When we can’t find anyone to turn to for help when each day is a struggle because of illness, despair, or conflict, God’s mercy endures forever. Whenever life seems overwhelming, we can still praise the Lord, as the psalmist did, for God’s mercy is always new and fresh. No problem can outlast God’s forever mercy! God’s heart is always overflowing with mercy.
(a) A plea or cry for MERCY and for clearing the RECORD … Psalm 51:1, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions”
When the prophet Nathan confronted David and condemned him as the stealer of a woman and the murderer of an innocent man, David’s spirit was crushed within him. Guilt piled upon guilt in his broken heart. David’s approach to God began with a plea for mercy. In the hours that followed, David humbly comes before God with a confession of his complete unworthiness and with a cry of faith looking solely to God as his only hope. Here we see a true and repentant heart which finds no hope or comfort in itself but sees only sin and misery and comes before the eternal God for help. The only plea of a repentant sinner is in the mercy of God. The person who finds any comfort or help in himself cannot sincerely speak these words. The only anchor to which the sinner clings is the unfailing love of God. “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.” Mercy may be defined as God’s withholding from us what we justly deserve Lamentations 3:22, 23. Often when we sin, we feel as though we cannot lift our eyes toward God. We need to understand, however, that God sees us in Christ. In Christ, we enjoy a perfect standing with God. Even when we sin, God relates to us as a loving Father. Our sin does not negate the promises God made to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father does not cast us out of His family. Although He despises our sin, He still loves us. When we confess our sin, He restores us to fellowship with Him, and He cleanses us as stated in 1 John 1:9.
Psalm 103:11 says, “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him”. Here is that great mercy of God as expressed by His Son who remains as stated in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever.” This God of salvation forgives sins not by the merit of the individual but by the merit of the Son of God who wiped out the sins of mankind who removed them “as far as the east is from the west.” David’s sin and our sin, is great, but God’s grace in Christ is greater. “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Romans 5:20. David knew that he had broken his relationship with God because of his sin. In tears he pleaded, that God would blot out his transgressions. The term “blot” means, “to wipe off, remove, erase, or get rid of.” David requested that God would clear the record based on His tender mercies. Tender mercy is like a compassion a parent has for a child. When a child does something wrong, the parent has the option either to forgive and forget or to discipline the child. Many times when the child recognizes his or her sin and repents, parental tenderness carefully erases the child’s transgression. From beginning to end this is the repentant sinner’s comfort and assurance that God’s mercy has blotted out the handwriting of sin, in this case adultery, murder, and a year of hard-hearted refusal to acknowledge the transgression committed. David pleaded for that kind of tenderness.
(b) A request for CLEANSING … Psalm 51:2, “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin”
My brethren, sin pollutes the heart, conscience, and life of a person. That which removes this pollution or in this case cleanses the heart, conscience, and life is the grace of God. “Washed completely” is the cleansing by which God declares the sinner justified by the Gospel of Christ and His redemption. Before God the sinner stands cleansed by the blood of Christ, the sin that was as scarlet became as white as snow. David wanted God to cleanse him vigorously so he would be completely clean. He didn’t want to retain any part of his sin or to become involved in it again. Those who engage in lies, deception, fornication, adultery, cheating, stealing, and murder to reach their own self-centered goals are living in iniquity, as this world defines it. They too need a vigorous cleansing from their warped, sinful way of life. The Hebrew terms used for sin underscore what a wretched thing it is. As “transgressions” it is nothing less than rebellion against God, as “iniquity” it points out the perversion and twisting of moral standards as “sin” it implies that the divinely appointed goal that has been set for man has been completely missed by man. David prayed that God would wash him from his iniquity and cleanse him from sin. David had a strong sense of his own polluted condition and asked God to remove his uncleanness. His repentance was genuine
(c) A recognition of SIN … Psalm 51:3-4, “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest”
Psalm 51 verse 3 begins with a full acknowledgment of David’s transgressions and further demonstrates his genuinely repentant attitude. David didn’t blame anyone but himself. When Adam and Eve sinned, they immediately responded by passing on the blame: Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. Neither one was repentant. The human part of restitution to God after sin is summed up in the first words of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins ….” True confession is not a lifeless acknowledgment of committed sin. It is a vivid consciousness of our sinfulness; it is often accompanied by restlessness, anguish, and a burden of wrong that causes us to cry out to God. David acknowledged his transgressions in the light of their awful significance. So intense was David’s guilt that he could never forget his sin. Regardless of the beauty of the evening or the peacefulness of the hillside, his transgressions loomed before him. He could not escape their haunting presence in his life.
God had used the searing words of Nathan the prophet like a branding iron to impress upon David’s mind the reality that he, like any of his humblest subjects, was a sinner. Sins against God’s people are called sins against God (Numbers 12; 1 Samuel 8:7-8; Matthew 25:37-45). Acts 5 speaks about Ananias and Sapphira lying to God concerning keeping back part of the price of the land which was sold. Furthermore, all sin indicates a denial of God’s right to rule our lives. In verse 4, David concluded that he had sin against God. Certainly in David’s case the sins of adultery and murder were directed against man also. Uriah was dead, and Bathsheba was pregnant; nevertheless, David’s major concern lay with God. He realized that he had to deal eternally with Him. A man may sin against several different people, yet every one of his sins goes against God. We must realize that envy, lust, backbiting, and failures such as neglecting to pray and withholding good deeds 1 Samuel 12:23; Proverbs 3:27 are indeed sins against both God and man. In all aspects of life, man is responsible first to God as Joseph also stated when tempted to commit adultery – Genesis 39:9.
(d) A realization of DEPRAVITY … Psalm 51:5-6, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom”
Why do we commit sin and rebel against God? The truth explained by David – man is a sinner by nature and he was no exception. Man is sinful from his very beginning to say nothing about the thoughts, words, and works that follow. His mother bore him into a world of iniquity. In contrast with his perpetually sinful condition, in verse 6, David presented the high standard God applies. God wants men to be upright. “Ye shall be holy” is God’s will. God loves the inner truth, not the outward piety which may really be a deception of what is in the heart of man. Wisdom or the fear of God is what is humbly desired. This is not to be an outward change, but in the part of man that is hidden, where no human eye can penetrate. God’s requirements reach far into the unseen parts of a man, far beyond the human standard of outward conformity. Such a deep problem as the inherent sin nature (v. 5) cannot be solved by treating only the symptoms. Its solution can be accomplished only by changing the heart.
By way of illustration I submit the following … A man with a nagging cough tried all the over-the-counter remedies he could find, but none worked. Finally he went to a doctor, who quickly discovered he was suffering from pneumonia. The man was trying to ease the symptoms when what he needed was a cure. The doctor treated the deeper, more serious problem and in a short time the cough was gone. When Jesus was in Capernaum, a large crowd came to the home where He was staying. As He was teaching, some men made an opening in the roof and lowered a paralyzed man on a mat. Jesus initially responded not by healing the man but by saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven”. The deepest need of the man was not physical but spiritual. Then, to show His authority to forgive, Jesus healed the man and sent him on his way – not only with legs that moved but with a heart that was forgiven. My brethren, the world is full of pain and problems. It’s tempting to spend a lot of time and resources to treat the surface symptoms and feel we have done our part. Like Jesus, however, we need to deal with the heart issues. We need to tell people that their sins can be forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ. Mark 2:10 states, “The Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”.
Thus there is only one remedy. The Great Physician, Jesus Christ, must supply a “new heart”. He does His work in us as we acknowledge our heart trouble and let Him operate by His grace and give to us eternal life.
(e) A plea for a SOLUTION … Psalm 51:7-9, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities” … Having shown the contrast between his deep-seated problem and God’s high demands, David cried out to God for three things that would rectify the situation.
(1) In verse 8, David requested that he hear the sounds of joy and gladness again. His sin had dulled his spiritual senses. His entire world was painted in shades of blue and black and darkness. His soul, burdened with sin, could not hear the songs of gladness. David recognized that his sin was of the worst kind and needed that which had the greatest cleansing power. This is equally true of all sinners who are in need of that great cleansing power of Christ’s blood. No other power will do, for that alone can thoroughly cleanse. Wash is a word which includes vigorous pounding, stamping, and rubbing in order to get all the dirt out and thus make white. By the blood of Christ a man stands before God truly and thoroughly cleansed. David wanted to hear joy and gladness so that the bones that God had “broken” might rejoice once again. Bones is a figure of speech which refers to the whole, in this case the entire man. Spiritually these bones had been broken. David had been totally crushed by Nathan’s conviction, “Thou art the man!” Once the sinner has heard, “Your sins are forgiven”, deep joy follows. A joy which produces a calm and peace within the heart. Washed and cleansed by the hyssop of God’s grace, this sinner is raised from his knees to a height that only a repentant man can fully understand.
(2) In verse 9, David asked God to hide His holy face from his sins. David was poignantly aware that God had seen every horrible activity of his past. The first part of this verse is a prayer that God would totally disregard what the sinner is guilty of before Him. David desired for God to cover His face so that He would not see the things he had done. But even more, the second part stresses that God would do away with these sins so that they are as completely disposed of as is the writing on a slate that has been gone over with a wet sponge; and
(3) In the last part of verse 9, he asked God to erase, to blot out, all of his iniquities. To have them blotted out was to have them removed from the record. Only God can do this delicate operation. A clean heart, empty of all sin and love of sin is the work of the Creator and His divine power. So, which part of this process is the most difficult and why? I would say it is the recognition of sin.
THE REQUESTS OF RENEWAL
Psalm 51:10-12, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (11) Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. (12) Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. In his prayer of renewal, David asked for four specific things. They form a pattern for anyone who desires to be equipped again for service to God”
(a) A CLEAN Heart … Psalm 51:10a, “Create in me a clean heart, O God”
The Old Testament characterizes the heart as the center of thinking and planning. In effect David asked, “O God make the center of my planning clean once again so that when I am thinking, planning, and preparing to live my life, I will do so without defilement.” He thought that if his plans were right, his life would be right as well. Psalm 19:14 uses the term “the meditation of my heart.” None of us can contemplate, plan, or even daydream evil and still lead a life that glorifies God. David’s great son Solomon, who was born sometime later to Bathsheba, addressed this issue when he wrote, “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” Proverbs 23:6, 7.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence” thus we all need spiritual heart care. By way of illustration … You’re up at dawn, doing your exercises. You’re not going to let your heart get weak! You’ve trimmed the fat from your diet. You get regular cholesterol checks. And you’re exercising four times a week to keep your cardiovascular system in peak condition. However, you’ve let your spiritual heart turn to mush. Preoccupied with the temporary, you’ve neglected the eternal. You seldom read the Bible anymore. Your prayers are lists of requests to God to make your life more comfortable and pain-free. By the time you reach the church door after the sermon, you can’t recall what the pastor said because you were thinking about something else. If this describes you, it’s time to get into a spiritual heart-care program. It begins where David (a man after God’s own heart) was in Psalm 139, by acknowledging that God knows all about your heart. It continues in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” And it results in the prayer of Psalm 19:14, “Let . . . the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord.” Taking care of your body makes sense, but it makes even more sense to gain spiritual fitness by walking with the Lord. That’s an exercise program with eternal value! To keep spiritually fit, keep walking with the Lord.
(b) A GOOD Spirit … Psalm 51:10b, “and renew a right spirit within me”
The word “right” in the term “right spirit” is the Hebrew word for “steadfast.” The sinful king requested the renewal of a steadfast spirit within him. He had planned and carried out his dreadful sin because he had first entertained sinful thoughts toward another man’s wife. He desired to be moral and clean on an enduring basis. He did not want to be ambivalent in his relationship to God and people. On several other occasions David had responded to trials spontaneously and unwisely, no doubt because his heart had not been steadfastly fixed upon God’s truth (v. 6). In one instance David wanted to kill Nabal, Abigail’s husband, in the heat of anger (1 Samuel 25. On another occasion he ordered the Ark of the Covenant to be transported on an ox cart, which led to the death of Uzzah 2 Samuel 6:1-11. In an act of pride, David numbered the people in his kingdom 2 Samuel 24:1-7. Recognizing his leaning to such rash behavior, David asked God for a steadfast spirit.
(c) The PRESENCE of God … Psalm 51:11, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me”
As a part of his renewal, David called for the continuing presence of God with him. He knew that God had rejected Saul because of his sins of rebellion and disobedience (2 Samuel 13:13, 14). As David contemplated the severity of his own sin, he was smitten with the possibility that God might also cast him away. In David’s heart, forgiveness was not enough. Continued fellowship was his compelling desire.
(d) The RESTORATION of joy and motivation … Psalm 51:12, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. In his prayer of renewal, David asked for four specific things. They form a pattern for anyone who desires to be equipped again for service to God”
David asked God to restore to him the joy of his salvation. The word “restore” means “to give back” or “to cause to return”. David had experienced no joy since the terrible days of his secret sin with Bathsheba. The word “salvation” means “deliverance”. David longed for deliverance from bondage. David was bound, not in sin, but by the condemnation of his sin. He pleaded for the joy that would result when God granted deliverance. In no way was David implying that God had snatched away his joy. He knew that he alone was responsible for its destruction. God had not taken it. David had lost it, and in his miserable condition he asked God to tenderly rebuild joy in his life. In verse 8, David had asked God to make him hear joy and gladness.
God had undoubtedly opened his ears, but David had not yet experienced the thrill of fully restored joy because of God’s forgiveness. David went on to request that God would grant to him a willing spirit that would further help him keep the resolutions he would make in verses 13-19. Sometimes a believer who possess heavy feelings of guilt may refuse to work or witness for God. He isolates himself and becomes unwilling to give or to serve. He often finds fault or makes feeble excuses as he shuns the responsibility of serving God. Just so, David was broken by his sin. He had no confidence in himself; he could not stand as a witness for God against the enemies of God. David needed joy and motivation to return to full service to God.
To illustrate the area of restoration, I submit the following example. A woman who restores valuable paintings says an expert can save many works of art that seem hopelessly damaged. Rebecca McLain is one such person. She has brought color and life back to dulled oil paintings by carefully removing dirt and discolored varnish. However, she has also seen the damage done when people attempt to clean their own soiled art with oven cleaner or abrasive powders. Her advice? If you value the art, take it to an expert in restoration. My brethren and friend, the same need exists in lives soiled by sin. Our efforts at ridding ourselves of the guilt and defilement of sinful actions and attitudes often end in frustration and despair. In our attempts to get rid of guilt, we sometimes blame others. Alternatively, we simply give up, thinking that we cannot be any different. However, Jesus our redeemer is the expert who can restore the most damaged, defiled, and discouraged person. Christ died so that anyone who by faith receives Him can be completely forgiven and restored. With His own blood He will cleanse us 1 John 1:7 and make us a new creation, God’s own “workmanship” 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 2:10. When it comes to cleansing the canvas of our souls, we cannot do it ourselves. Only God can transform a sin-stained soul into a masterpiece of grace.
All sin carries a price tag. Its consequences may range from minor to major. However, the bill always comes due and someone always pays. The story has been told about a young boy whose father pounded a nail in the barn door every time his son did something wrong. Soon there were many nails. But then one day the boy accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and began living for Him. To make an impression upon his son the wonder of being forgiven, the father took him to the barn and pulled out every nail from the door. “That is what it means to have all your sins forgiven” he said, “They are gone forever.” The boy was deeply impressed. Then looking at the door, he asked, “But father, how can I get rid of the holes?” “I’m sorry,” said the father, “but they will remain.” The psalmist David paid dearly for committing adultery with Bathsheba and engineering her husband’s death to cover up his sin. Guilt sapped his strength (Psalm 32:3-4). Even though he confessed his sin, and God “removed the nail,” David carried with him a deep sorrow (2 Samuel 12:15-17). But this didn’t rob him of the blessedness of forgiveness. Even though we may have to live with the consequences of sin, we who have trusted Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for our sins can rejoice in His complete forgiveness. In closing I leave these truths which pertain to everyone:
(1) The most deadly sins don’t leap upon you, they creep upon you.
(2) You can’t put your sins behind you until you face them.
(3) Until you see your sin, you will not see your need for a Savior.
(4) Although God heals the wounds of our sin, scares will still remain.
D. L. Moody said this of sin, “There are two ways of covering our sin: man’s way and God’s way. If you seek to hide them, they will have a resurrection sometime; but if you let the Lord cover them, neither the Devil nor man will ever be able to find them again”.