Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 51-53; Romans 2
Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!
2 Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
purify me from my sin!
3 Because I know my wrongdoings,
my sin is always right in front of me.
4 I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
completely correct when you issue your judgment.
5 Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.
7 Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and celebration again;
let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.
9 Hide your face from my sins;
wipe away all my guilty deeds!
10 Create a clean heart for me, God;
put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
11 Please don’t throw me out of your presence;
please don’t take your holy spirit away from me.
12 Return the joy of your salvation to me
and sustain me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach wrongdoers your ways,
and sinners will come back to you.
14 Deliver me from violence, God, God of my salvation,
so that my tongue can sing of your righteousness.
15 Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will proclaim your praise.
16 You don’t want sacrifices.
If I gave an entirely burned offering,
you wouldn’t be pleased.
17 A broken spirit is my sacrifice, God.
You won’t despise a heart, God, that is broken and crushed.
18 Do good things for Zion by your favor.
Rebuild Jerusalem’s walls.
19 Then you will again want sacrifices of righteousness—
entirely burned offerings and complete offerings.
Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar. (Psalm 51:1-19, Common English Bible)
Psalm 51 is the Psalter reading from the lectionary for Ash Wednesday. It is also one of my favorites in the Psalms. The imagery to me is extraordinarily vivid. The pain the psalmist feels, the pain of guilt should remind us of the pain our sins can bring to others and to ourselves.
When I was in seminary, the consensus opinion of the faculty at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology was, David, didn’t write this Psalm and even if he had it would not have been following the Uriah/Bathsheba fiasco. As I have told you before, most scholars believe those words that follow the “chapter” number are believed to be a later edition.
The psalmist’s words do point to a sin that occupies his heart and mind. “My sin is always right in front of me.” “…I was born in the guilt of sin.” “I’ve committed evil in your sight.” “I’ve sinned against you, you alone.” While the psalmist doesn’t confess specifics, it is clear he is laying it all out on the table.
As he clicks off his words of sin, it is clear the psalmist wants God to absolve his sin. He wants to be free of the guilt in his heart and in his soul. He wants to have joy again. He wants God to wash him whiter than snow.
It is good for the psalmist that God is in the forgiving business. If we take the credits for this Psalm, the sins of the psalmist, David, at least in his own eyes were severe. I also think, with 21st-century sensibilities, we would probably agree. At least at that moment the psalmist really wasn’t a very good guy.
The good news for us is, God is still in the forgiving business. Regardless of what we may have done, it may have even been the sins of David but it doesn’t have to be, God will forgive. John reminds us of that when he writes, “If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”
I want that kind of forgiveness. I want God to wash me clean of my transgressions. I am convinced God did it for David. God will do it for me if I confess. If you confess, God will wash you clean. Thanks be to God.
Have a great day in the Lord.
With Joy and Thankfulness,
Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved