Week commencing 10th September 2017   With a PDF found here

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Psalm 51 “Compassion to blot out transgressions.”

Next Sunday we continue our new series simply titled “Compassion”. In this new series, we explore God’s compassion and the call on us to be people of compassion. Each Sunday we’ll unpack a Bible passage which speaks clearly on God’s compassion and what it means for us. Here again is the series outline.

SEP 10 Our compassionate and gracious God          Exodus 33:12-34:7

SEP 17 Compassion to blot out transgressions         Psalm 51

SEP 24 Compassion which annoys                               Jonah 3:10-4:1-11

OCT 01 Compassion which never fails                        Lamentations 3

OCT 08 Compassion for the lost                                  Matthew 9:35-38

OCT 15 The Father of compassion                               2 Corinthians 1:3-7

OCT 22 Clothe yourselves with compassion               Colossians 3:12-14

DAY 1: Read 2 Samuel 11:1-27

Probably one of the best known “Penitential Psalms”, Psalm 51 is an expression of great remorse from David after Nathan the prophet had confronted him for his sin. But what sin had this “man after God’s own heart” committed? 2 Samuel 11 tells the story. While resting in his palace, David sees the beautiful Bathsheba sunbathing and summons her to his home. Though she is married to Uriah, a faithful soldier in David’s army, David’s lust gets the best of him. He commits adultery with Bathsheba.

His transgressions, however, do not end there. When Bathsheba becomes pregnant, David calls for her husband Uriah and weaves a deceptive and diabolical plan: he encourages Uriah to go home to his wife so that her pregnancy will look like it is his. But the loyal soldier does not; in fact, his resolve to remain loyal frustrates David who then orders Uriah’s commander to put him on the front line of battle, knowing he will be killed there. He does and, David is responsible for Uriah’s murder.

“But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” David’s moral failings cost a man his life and a woman her dignity, both of which were abhorrent to God. And both happened because David looked away from God himself, the One who had rescued him countless times and provided more than he could have imagined. David gave into his own lusts, but God’s heart toward him remained compassionate. In what ways might the eyes of your heart be looking elsewhere besides the Lord?

DAY 2: Read 2 Samuel 12: 1-14

“And the Lord sent Nathan to David.” 2 Samuel 12 begins with these words of grace, that God provided for David an opportunity to recognize his great sin, admit it and be restored to the Lord. Through Nathan’s parable, David realized his sins; he’d broken the tenth commandment (coveting), then the seventh (adultery) and the sixth (murder), while the Lord watched his behaviour. Yet by sending the prophet Nathan, the Lord called David to account for standing above the law.

The parable Nathan told addressed many of David’s genuine concerns, that of justice (when he was not blinded by his own passions) and the poor or marginalized. Yet it also revealed how David had despised the Lord and his word, even though God had proved faithful and compassionate time and again. As a result, David was humbled by admitting his sins against God, and then realizing the consequences of his behaviours would not be avoided. Violence and sorrow would come to him, just as he had inflicted both on Uriah and Bathsheba. But it was against God only that David had sinned and this was the basis of his genuine repentance. Even in the midst of his sinfulness, David knew God was a compassionate God, able and willing to blot out his many transgressions! If he confessed, he would be forgiven. So, too, are we given this extraordinary opportunity to face our sins, confess them and receive God’s gracious forgiveness through the blood of Jesus!

DAY 3: Read Psalm 51: 1- 19

According to the title, David composed this psalm as a direct result of Nathan’s parable convicting him of his sins, both in committing adultery with Bathsheba and in arranging the murder of Uriah. At the same time, this psalm is more than David’s personal prayer; its instructional elements show us that, though the situation that led to the psalm was intensely personal to David, the psalm in its current form calls members of a worshiping congregation to confess our own sins. The psalm enables us to appeal to God’s compassion and grace as the grounds on which we cry for forgiveness. Likewise, it reveals the deep humility that comes from a broken and contrite heart, a far more pleasing offering to God than sacrifice. Little wonder many congregations use Psalm 51 regularly in their liturgical confession during worship services!

So in many ways, Psalm 51 is every Christian’s psalm, guiding us to acknowledge our deep transgression and need for God’s grace. Yet rather than completely despairing over his unholy behaviour, David also returned to what he knew in his heart of hearts to be greater than his sin: God’s character. He began the psalm by appealing to God’s attributes of mercy, steadfast love, and His ability to cleanse David from his sin. In that context—and only because he understood God’s mercy—David was able to admit, “my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.” He did not put the blame anywhere but on himself and recognized that it was against God only that he sinned. Yes, David had done what was evil in God’s sight, and understood the extent of his depravity: he’d been born in iniquity and sin. Any good in David was because of God alone. Yet he knew that because of God’s great mercy he could move beyond his sin to restoration. Certainly, that’s good news for all of us “fellow sinners”—God loves us too much to let us stay in our sin. Instead, he gives us the gift of confession so that, through Christ’s sacrificial blood, we may receive a clean heart!

DAY 4: Read Psalm 51: 1- 19

Though the context of this psalm is part of King David’s personal journey, its content applies to each of us. How many times have we sinned against God only because we thought we were above the law? Or acted out because we thought we could control our own lives doing what we wanted when we wanted? Yet the burden of our choices and displeasing behaviours became too much to bear, moving us to cry out for God’s mercy and seek his presence. And he heard us.

Because God desires faithfulness and restoration, we can be assured that he hears us still each day when we pray, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” He will not cast us away from his presence because of our sin, nor will he take away his Holy Spirit from us. Instead, God will restore us to the joy our salvation, and will grant us a willing spirit to sustain us in even the most difficult situations. He alone is the source of our joy and forgiveness.

How can we know for sure? Because he provided the ultimate offering for our sake, Jesus Christ, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God! We know that because of his sacrifice we can offer to him our broken and contrite hearts, and God will not despise our broken spirits. But we must honestly admit our failings, acknowledge his great compassion in Jesus Christ and then ask him to renew us for his purposes. As we do, we will open our mouths and declare his praise!

(Some notes are taken from the ESV study bible commentary.)