*Good morning. Today is the first day of school here in Madison. I was able to get Zander up early and he even wore clothes that matches. It's a good day so far. Of course, his mother told him to keep his clothes clean...we'll see how that goes. Today, we continue our look at the Book of Psalms. Today, we will look at the one Psalm that perhaps generates more theological conversation than any other Psalm; Psalm 51.
"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." (Psalm 51:1-2)
This is a psalm credited to David. The understanding is that David wrote this psalm after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan. Of course, David was confronted after his affair with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband. David is praying for God's forgiveness. David confesses: "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." (Psalm 51:4) Is David still not acknowledging what he did to Uriah the husband of Bathsheba? I still find myself asking the question: "Just how sorry was David?" He got the girl, he receives mercy, and Uriah is still dead. David, does understand the depth of his sin. Yes, he did conspire to take the life of an innocent man in order to cover up his adultery, but he is clearly aware that the one he truly let down and sinned against was God. Sin is ultimately against God.
David then makes a statement that has been incorporated into theology and doctrine. "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:5) The King James Version (which many are more familiar with) reads: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." What is David saying? Many have taken this to form an understanding on original sin (sin transmitted through the fall of Adam. We are all born into sin), but I do not think that David is making a statement toward original sin. No, I think he is only making a statement as to the depth of his own sin. The KJV can even be interpreted to say that David's mother committed sin when she conceived him. I think David is simply saying: "This is how bad I am, and how much I need God." *This is not a statement on my part regarding original sin. It's just my interpretation of David's statement. I don't think we can use this statement to support doctrine, because it was an expression of remorse on David's part.
David then prays: "Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirt from me." (Psalm 51:11) Just as the previous verse we looked at should not be used to support doctrine, neither should this one. This is David's response to God. In an argument for or against eternal salvation this verse could certainly come into play. However, David is most likely remembering the fate of King Saul, his predecessor. If you recall, when the Spirit came upon David, the Spirit of God left Saul and was replaced by an evil spirit. David realizes the danger of his actions. David is also realizing the consequences caused by his actions. His house has been in turmoil since he "got" Bathsheba. Is he associating all this with God leaving him? When bad things befall us does that mean that God is no longer with us?
What does it look like when God leaves a person? And what about God's promise not to "leave you, nor forsake you?" Then there is another question to ponder: What would it take for God to leave us? All we know is David's example of God leaving a person was Saul. If you recall Saul was driven by jealousy and anger. He couldn't think of doing anything except killing David. David is fearful of becoming so distraught that he ends up like Saul.
David then prays: "Restore to me the joy of your salvation..." (Psalm 51:12) While David is fearful, he is also hopeful. But, this raises a question for me, and one that I have discussed in various settings: How long has David's joy been gone? Let me ask the same question in a different way. Is it possible that David is saying that his joy has been gone even before he sinned with Bathsheba? Could it be possible that he is saying that the reason he did what he did was because the "joy of Your (God) salvation was gone? The response to my question (in Bible Studies) is often: "No! He doesn't feel the joy after he did what he did and is praying that God give it back." Well, I would agree that he does not feel what he once did, but I would argue that there is more to it. I would argue that David's joy has long been gone and led him to take the actions he did with Bathsheba and against Uriah.
If you recall, it all began when David stayed at home while his army was off fighting the war. This was uncharacteristic of David. The way it is written even hints that this was not normal for David: "David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army...But David remained in Jerusalem." (2 Samuel 11:1) It was then that David spotted the bathing beauty. (Who was doing only what was normal for her. She was not asking for it as some have argued) David is not the same David in this story. If you recall David was able to kill the giant because he knew that God had delivered him from the lion and the bear and God would deliver him from the giant. But, when David eyes Bathsheba, David isn't aware that God can deliver him from the monster of lust. In fact, once he sins, and Nathan pays a visit, David isn't even aware that God recorded the whole thing. It would appear that from the time (at some point) before David stayed home and the time Nathan confronted David, God was not on his mind.
There is so much more that can be said about this Psalm and about the verses we have dealt with. I do believe that it is vital that we feel the joy that salvation brings. David understands God to be the giver of this joy. Tomorrow we will look at my favorite psalm, Psalm 100. Please join me it you can. God Bless! -Pastor Rick