Tuesday, September 10, 2013
By Colleen Podmore
“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
There is a note at the top of the psalm that explains the reason David wrote these words. It says that it was about the time David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then contrived to murder Uriah, her husband. If you don’t know the story you can read about it in 2Sam11.
Briefly, David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba. Then when she became pregnant, David tried to cover his sin by recalling Uriah from the front-lines of battle so that he would sleep with his wife and think that he was the father of her child. But Uriah was an honourable man and he would not go to his wife while his men were at war – so David arranged to have him killed in battle and then David married Bathsheba and their son was born.
How old do you think David was when this happened? 20? 30? 40? 50? Probably in his 50’s. What were the sins David committed? Coveting, adultery, lying, murder – 10th, 7th, 9th and 6th commandments. Who had he sinned against? -Bathsheba, Uriah, Community, his body, God.
It’s hard to believe that a man like David, a man after God’s own heart who had suffered so much in his life could get it so utterly wrong and furthermore be blind to his wrong-doing. It’s a bit scary really because are we so different to David?
In this psalm we see the initial petition David makes – vs1. Straight away we see a man taking responsibility for his actions. He does not say, ‘Have mercy on me because I’m the King, or because I have worked all my life to serve God and I’m a pretty good person!’ He admits his wrong-doing and cries out to a God whom he believes is all these things - merciful, loving, and compassionate.
In these first two verses we can see some of the beauty of Hebrew poetry. These are the first three triplets of three triplets in these verses –‘merciful, unfailing love, compassion’, ‘blot, wash, cleanse’, and ‘transgressions, inequities, sins’
David goes on with his petition – He says, ‘Blot out, wash and cleanse’. These three words are quite interesting if we look at them. Blot – this is a legal term and means to expunge a record so that there is no longer any trace of the wrong-doing. David knows his sin is recorded somewhere (Ps 56:8; Jer18:23; Is 43:25). But his request is to have it completely removed from the record. Wash – this is a laundering term. It means that the garment is so clean that there is no stain left. Cleanse – means to make clean. Perhaps to remove a guilty conscience compare to the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:14).
Finally we have the last of the three triplets - transgressions, iniquities and sins
These are the three most common words the Bible uses for offences. Transgressions and iniquities are used in the OT and mainly sin in the NT
Transgression once again is a legal term for breaking the law, Iniquities are immoral or unfair behaviour like injustices. Sin is just missing the mark.
Transgressions and iniquities may be words or actions pertaining to the law – very relevant to the Jews who lived by law, but we who live by grace don’t break any specific laws- we just miss the mark. There are no laws for us to live by except the perfect law – ‘to Love the Lord our God...’ (Matt22:37)-there are no ‘do this’, ‘do that’, ‘go to church’, ‘don’t swear’, etc. Just the requirement to live in such a way that we don’t stumble anyone (1Cor 10:24).
David sinned – but it was not until Nathan confronted him that he was convicted and realised the state to which he had fallen. And Nathan was able to reveal to David in such a way that it reached into his soul.
King David wrote down this psalm and it has become a model of repentance. Even though we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, we have one who intercedes for us. This does not give us license to sin however, no we should never abuse the grace of God. And if we see a brother or sister in sin then we should try to ‘gently restore them’ (Gal 6:1).
Finally, David wrote a sequel to this plea for mercy - Psalm 32. ‘Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven....’ Amen.