HAVE MERCY ON ME, O LORD
The Grace of Repentance
The psalms teach us how to process our sin and think about God
- This psalm shows us that God wants to help us change through the grace of repentance
- When we sin, how do we respond to God?
- How do we think about our sin, how do we repent and forsake sin, how can we receive God’s complete cleansing?
- This psalm will help us to see that its God’s grace that leads us to repentance
- That true repentance is actually a gift of grace from God’s hand
- I would commend Paul Tripp’s book of reflections on Psalm 51 entitled “Whiter Than Snow” as its benefitted me in preparation
What do we know about the backstory of this Psalm?
- Underneath the title Psalm 51 in my Bible it says this:
“To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba”
- So we know this psalm is a Holy Spirit-inspired reflection of David, written shortly after David’s sin with Bathsheba, recorded for us in II Samuel 11-12
- There we read of David’s sin with Bathsheba, the murder of Uriah, and Nathan’s confrontation of David
- And ultimately, here we see the mercy and grace of God on display, leading David to repentance
- Repentance is truly a gift from the Lord, because He wants to make us more and more in His image
I. Grace Turns Us to God for Mercy – v.1
- David begins by turning to God for mercy – v.1
- He knew that the Lord wants to help us to respond in a way that causes us to see ourselves and our sin clearly, and then move us towards forgiveness and hope
- Because sometimes we can turn away in despair or hopelessness
- Sometimes shame or guilt holds us back
- Sometimes these feelings can be so deep we can hardly look at ourselves, or not turn to God
- But David here, rather than retreat from God, by the grace of God he turns to God
- He appeals to God for mercy
- David would have known the Lord’s own self-description when God said to Moses
“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7
- God’s grace at work in David, helped David to turns to God for mercy, for help, in his time of need
- Grace turns us to God for mercy…
- Is God working in your heart this morning, turning you to Him?
- Are you perhaps running from Him this morning?
- Are you perhaps resisting His grace that wants to lead you to repentance?
- Embrace the repentance that the Lord wants to lead you to
- Is His grace, it is His kindness, that leads you to repentance
- He loves you, and wants to bless you with repentance
- Not that repentance is easy, or comfortable, because it is not
- David was broken here
- But it is good
II. Grace Enables Us to Own our Sin Before God – v. 2-5
- Grace enables us to not make excuses for our sin, but to actually see the sin for what it is and own it before God
- David evidences a brokenness before God
“For I know my transgression, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” – vv.3-4
- He doesn’t make excuses
- He’s not blameshifting
- Not self-justifying, but he agrees with God’s assessment of the situation – he sees the guilt of his sin
- It’s worth noting that David describes sin using three different terms:
- “Blot out my transgressions” – v.1
- Transgression has to do with our relationship to God
- Its an acknowledgment of our departure from God
- We have gone our own way
- It’s treason against the righteous rule of God
- “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity” – v.2
- Iniquity carries with it this connotation of being corrupted or twisted
- Its moral uncleanness
- Its crooked, not straight
- “Cleanse me from my sin” -v.2
- Sin is coming up short of the standard
- Its missing the mark of God’s perfections
- We can’t hit the mark, because we were born in sin
- “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
- “Blot out my transgressions” – v.1
- What’s the point?
- Why is David using multiple descriptors of sin?
- Is it to depress us, to cower in shame?
- No; rather, thinking soberly about our sin helps us to admit before God what our sin is to Him, and then rejoice in the gospel
- We must remember that all sin is cosmic treason against God
- David is pursuing genuine repentance before God
- We must acknowledge our sin, and agree with God about our sin, before we can turn from it!
So, what is repentance?
- Repentance is a turning away, a 180 degree turn from sin
- Repentance is heartfelt sorrow for sin, as we renounce it and forsake it
- Repentance is God’s way of sanctifying us!
- Repentance is a means of growth that God has given to us
- And we progressively killing the power of that sin over our lives
- For every believer, praise the Lord, the power of sin has been definitively broken
- We can indeed walk in victory over sin!
- Praise the Lord!
- Yet there remains this struggle with sin, and regular repentance is God’s means of helping us to claim His forgiveness and His promises to help us as we overcome that sin
- Exhortations to own up to our sin before God:
- By grace, let us not blameshift – “my wife made me do it…”
- Let us not make excuses – “if only I…”
- Let us not justify ourselves and give ourselves a free pass – “compared to what others are doing this is so small…”
- But let us agree with God about our sin, and forsake the sin that He graciously reveals to us, so that we can walk in the freedom that He intended for us
III. Grace Looks to God for Cleansing and Restoration – v.6-12
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” – v.7
- In the moment of conviction, when we are repenting to the Lord, we may be aware of the stain of our sin
- We tend to have a heightened awareness of the ugliness of sin
- And we want to be assured of the cleansing of the Lord
- So David asks God for the assurance of knowing that he is clean; that the stain of his sin has been removed
- “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” – v.7
How was David’s sin cleansed?
- How was his heart made as white as snow?
- God knows that we don’t have the ability to cleanse our own hearts, that our hearts need to be cleansed by Him
- And so to care for the people of the Old Testament, of which David was a part, God set up the sacrificial system so that by bringing a sacrifice of a perfectly pure animal, God received that as an act of faith as the OT saints looked forward to their justification before God
- For God had promised to send a Redeemer who would take their guilt upon Himself
- So, by faith, David’s sins are counted as Christ’s sins, and Christ’s righteousness is counted to David
- This is the glory of the gospel!
- Isaiah the prophet would receive from the Lord a few hundred years later:
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” Isaiah 1:18
- By God’s amazing grace, all our sins are forgiven
- Every last one
- The ones that people know about
- The ones that people don’t know about
- By faith in Jesus, though are sins are like a deep dark stain, that stain has been removed by Christ Himself
- Not only that, God has changed our hearts – given us a new heart that can change and become like His
Forgiveness and cleansing from God breathes new life into our hearts!
- Listen to David’s cry:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” – v.10
IV. Grace Anticipates Future Witness – v.13-19
- Having been restored by the Lord, having received the cleansing from his sin, David is now anticipating being a mouthpiece for the grace that he’s just received
- He’s eager to share with people the mercy he’s been given
“Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will return to you” – v.13
“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise” – v.15
- Isn’t that the right motivation for witness?
- Come and see what I’ve been given
- Come and experience the grace I’ve been shown
- Look how good our Lord is!
- I was guilty in sin and the Lord has forgiven me!
- What does Psalm 51 reveal to us about the mercy of God?
- Do you ever struggle to receive God’s full cleansing for sin? What does this psalm declare to you about the depth of God’s cleansing?
- Is there any way that you are avoiding repenting presently? Keeping any secret sin? It is God’s kindness that desires for you to repent
- What does the term repent mean?
- Why is the gift of repentance a grace to us?
- What might a lifestyle of repentance look like?
- God intends believers to regularly confess our sins (I John 1:9) even after receiving His total forgiveness (past, present, future sins) through the gospel. Discuss the following two benefits of regular confession
- Confession helps us fight the sin by agreeing with God about it and forsaking it
- Confession reminds us that we could never “earn” our forgiveness and therefore moves us to rejoice in the grace of the gospel
- How have you see the grace of repentance be at work in your life? Can you think of a time when the grace of repentance moved your heart closer to the Lord