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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, March 3, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
   blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
   and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
   and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
   and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
   a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;
   therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
   wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
   let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
   and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
   and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
   and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
   O God of my salvation,
   and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

O Lord, open my lips,
   and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
   if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
   rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then you will delight in right sacrifices,
   in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
   then bulls will be offered on your altar. (NRSV)

The heading above the text of Psalm 51 in my NRSV Bible reads “To the leader: A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” If you read the whole story of David, you will learn that as a boy God selected David to eventually become king. He was anointed by the prophet Samuel, and he went on to become a devoted servant of God and a national hero. Many years later, David had an affair with a married woman named Bathsheba. As if in a scenario right out of a Hollywood movie, she becomes pregnant, and David arranges a convenient death for her husband. The prophet Nathan found out and accused David of having committed, among other sins, adultery and what could be construed as murder. King or not, David was in big trouble. He had forgotten his promises and duty to his nation and, more importantly, to God.

Taking the text of Psalm 51 at face value, we can see that David is indeed contrite. Rather than make excuses, he confesses his transgressions and sin while acknowledging that God would be justified in condemning him. He appeals to God’s love and mercy as he pleads for God to “restore me to the joy of your salvation.”

My transgressions and sins may not be as dramatic as those of David, but it would be embarrassing if my friends and family knew of my own misdeeds. If God could forgive David, I have hope that he will forgive me.

In the words of the psalmist, “hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” Amen.

Written by Andy Costello, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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