Sermon Titled “Forgiveness” (Psalm 51) – Sunday 22nd June, 2014
Psalm 51 – “a psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.”
- Psalm 51:1-4 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…….
David, a handsome shepherd boy and youngest son of Jesse, was divinely appointed by Samuel the Priest to be king of a divinely appointed nation. He was a man chosen by God to lead the Israelites, not because of his outward appearance, or his skill as a sharp shooter, but because of his heart for God. Acts 13:22 says that David was a man after God’s own heart and therefore a man who would do whatever God asked of him.
Like many other men who have entered into positions of power with good and honest intentions, David did too. He loved God and he earnestly desired to serve Him well by being a good and upright leader. In turn, God rewarded him generously – David won wars, he earned the respect and following of those under his rule, as well a band of men who became known as the mighty warriors, and he had material wealth beyond any man’s wildest dreams. Yet he craved what was not given to him, and unable to suppress the tiny seeds of lust that were in his heart, they took root and grew.
If you don’t know the story of David and Bathsheba, it’s one that we can all learn from. David was a good king at first, but as he grew in power and stature it appears that he began to lose sight of his values. Its often said that having “just enough” is much better than having “an abundance,” as there is something about extravagance that brings out the worst in some people – perhaps that’s what happened with David.
David’s first mistake was to stay behind and enjoy the comforts of his grand and luxurious home while his men were out fighting on the battlefield. It was during this time that he caught sight of Bathsheba from his rooftop, and was mesmerized by her beauty. He sent servants out to inquire about her, and when he received news that she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite (one of his loyal and mighty men), he still demanded that she be brought to him.
It is obvious by now that the seeds of lust buried deep in his heart had been watered and allowed to grow. An interesting correlation here is the observation of garden weeds. Read the following passage from a gardening website:
Weed seeds “sleep” in your soil all the time, just waiting for sunshine to enable them to germinate. Left underground, many weed seeds remain dormant for years. So the less you disturb the soil, the more likely weed seeds will remain asleep.
David saw Bathsheba, he liked what he saw, and he was unable to turn from and ignore what he was feeling (he couldn’t leave the seeds alone and undisturbed). Thus all the morals and values he had tried so hard to live by were suddenly tossed aside in favor of satisfying his lustful appetite. Once the temptation seized control of him, his sinful nature sprung forth and there was no stopping him from that point. In fact, adultery was only the tip of what would turn into a downward spiral of selfish and evil choices.
When David discovered that his adulterous actions had resulted in Bathsheba falling pregnant, he made arrangements to have her husband killed out on the battlefield. The lesson that unfolds from here on in is one of forgiveness. It is only when David is forced to confront the gravity of his sins, and realize that his greatest sin of all was sinning against God Himself, that he is able to feel a true sense of conviction.
Genuine conviction that leads to a “broken and contrite heart” (Ps. 51:17), is the beginning of spiritual restoration and recovery, and it’s what led David to write Psalm 51. Also important to note, is that one of the things that caused David to have a change of heart was a realization that his sin, and suppressed guilt, had begun to influence his judgment towards others in an overly righteous way.
Guilt does that to people; it makes them feel unworthy, so to justify or bring balance to their feelings they are quick to point out the faults of others. When Nathan the prophet shared with David a scenario in which a rich man stole from a poor man, David erupted in anger and condemned the rich man for showing no mercy. He even went as far as demanding that the rich man be put to death, not recognizing at first, that the rich man Nathan described in the story was actually David himself.
David had to see and condemn his own sin in order to understand what he had done, and what he needed to do to find his way back to God. The great news is that God is a forgiving God, who extends His arms wide open and invites us to go to Him with our confessions. He doesn’t promise to save us from the consequences of our sins (David suffered tremendously as a result of his sins), but He does assure us of forgiveness, unconditional love, and eternal salvation.
David’s psalm is one that believers are drawn to time and time again, not because it gives us a license to sin, but because it shows us the way back to God when we’ve gone astray and lost our way. And don’t be fooled into thinking that you won’t ever go off track – our hearts are like gardens, full of tiny “sin seeds” that are lying dormant but easily awakened if we neglect to stay focused on God’s word or stay in regular fellowship with other believers.
It’s inevitable that we will all, at times, get a little lazy and fail to stay on top of our weed management, but even the most weed-infested garden can be cleaned up, or in other words, even the the worst of sins can be forgiven. Warren Weirsbe points out that David prays three things in his psalm:
- Forgive me
- Cleanse me
- Use me
It took a while for David to feel the full weight of his sins, but once he did he understood that no amount of good deeds would be sufficient to earn God’s forgiveness or quench the guilt that would otherwise forever plague him. A contrite heart, a confession, and a plea to be cleansed by Christ our Savior, is the only way to experience freedom and forgiveness.