Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.
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.
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 that you are proved right when you speak and justified when your judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
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. 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, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, 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. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you do not despise. — Psalm 51:1-17 (NIV)
David. The “man after God’s own heart” has really dropped the ball. In 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25, we get the story that leads us into this Psalm. That story, in a word, Bathsheba.
David, a king who was supposed to have been with his army, stays behind. Neglects his people. Allows selfishness and pride to take over. In a few short verses of 2 Samuel 11, he has broken several of the 10 Commandments.
Things are in a rough place. Nathan, the prophet, comes and tells David exactly how bad things are.
Then comes David’s response — our text for today. “Have mercy on me, O God,” David cries. Psalm 51 takes us through the process of forgiveness.
David realizes the extent of his sin. Not that breaking four commandments is worse than breaking one, rather that David has said to God, “I don’t want to be in relationship with you right now.” He has realized that he is not in that relationship any longer, and he wants to be.
David repents. Yet, his repentance was more than a mere, “I’m sorry, God, please forgive me.” David calls out, “Create in me a clean heart (mind, will, and emotions)!” Clean my mind! Clean my will! Clean my emotions! So often we view repentance as a simple, “I’m sorry.” Yet, repentance is a complete turning away from the thing that took you away from God, and turning toward God. Sin says, “I don’t want to be in relationship with You right now.” Repentance says, “I want to be in relationship with You so much that I will completely turn from that which I left relationship with You to pursue.”
God responds to David’s repentance. He responds by granting David righteousness–right legal standing and right relational standing. God and David are back in relationship. Yet, it’s not just a relationship that says, “David, you are now legally ‘OK’ with Me.” Rather, righteousness goes further than that, and says, “You are now legally ‘OK’ AND we are back in relationship.” As we highlighted a couple of weeks ago, “Righteousness is to be put in both a right legal standing and a right relational standing with God. Right legal standing makes us citizens of the Kingdom. Right relational standing makes us children of the King.”
One more really amazing thing happens in this process. David is restored. Not just his relationship with God, not just his pure heart, not just restored in trust, but also the joy that comes from relationship with His King and His Father. Restoration.
Here’s where we miss the boat on forgiveness. We’re all about letting people who say to us “I don’t want to be in relationship with you right now”, realize that they’ve done wrong. We have no issues when they repent of their wrong. And we’re even pretty well ok with bringing them into “right legal standing” with us.
Yet, our interest in placing the person who has wronged back into a right relational standing is proportional to the level of hurt they caused. And, we have little to no interest in restoring “trust” (we say really ridiculous things like, “You have to earn it”). Finally, when it comes to fully restoring the joy of the relationship, we won’t even put that on the table.
Nevertheless, we will pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Thankfully, Father says, “I don’t work that way.” Father says, “I will completely restore you in righteousness, in joy, and in trust.” Imagine with me a world that works in the way of the Kingdom. Imagine a world that says, “I will forgive in EXACTLY the same manner that David was forgiven.” Imagine a world where forgiveness is not conditional, and where trust is not negotiable.
The law breaker. Realizes his state of being out-of-relationship. Repents and turns himself completely back toward relationship. He is placed into a right legal and relational standing with His Father. Finally, he is restored in trust, joy, and position.
And, then, he has a testimony and an obligation to share it. Just as we do! When God has done something as wonderful as this, we are compelled to shout it from the rooftops!