Psalm 51, Day 6

Devotional for Saturday, May 23

Psalm 51:16-19
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
    You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
    You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
Look with favor on Zion and help her;
    rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit—
    with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings.
    Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.

The end of this psalm reminds us it was written in a place and time. Burnt offerings were the order of the day for relating to God, and would continue to be so for a long time.

But we also get a glimpse of what was to come, what was to make possible the healing of broken and repentant hearts even today. Sacrifices were a means to an end. To demonstrate this, God came in flesh to provide the ultimate sacrifice, atoning for every sin committed.

Fully divine, Jesus could not be repentant, but he could demonstrate how terribly broken God’s heart is when we sin. Through Jesus, God experienced a painful and humiliating death, bearing the weight of all the world’s sins while nailed to some timbers. All this to help us break free from sin’s grip.

To take advantage of this great gift, all we have to do is be contrite and repentant enough to believe. We have to humble ourselves, finding our place in the great design of the universe. We are the created, God is the Creator.

As always, there is good news in this story. The Creator loves his creation dearly. The joy and freedom God offers far exceeds what we could find on our own.

With all his power and all his wealth, King David believed it, and we should, too.

Thank you, Lord, for the process of repentance and salvation, a gift freely given and undeserved. Amen.

Psalm 51, Day 5

Devotional for Friday, May 22

Psalm 51:13-15
Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
    and they will return to you.
Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
    then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
Unseal my lips, O Lord,
    that my mouth may praise you.

With restoration comes responsibility. We speak to the “rebels” knowing we are people who have been part of the rebellion. This is not an arrogant “I will teach.” This is a humble desire to show others the way home.

We also are reminded this is King David’s psalm of repentance, and that the king knew his sins went beyond lust and adultery. Through abuse of power, he had shed the blood of Uriah, and perhaps he also felt the weight of having killed with his own hand.

Even with dark pasts, forgiveness is possible, as is life beyond our sins. Drunks and addicts become counselors, once God has worked on them. Thieves become respected advocates for the downtrodden, if they let God in. Killers may face a lifetime of worldly punishment, but with an understanding of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they also can become remarkable conduits of grace in very frightening places.

Teach! Sing! Praise! It is your right—not a right you have earned, but one earned for you by Jesus Christ on the cross.

Lord, give us visions of new paths and our lives restored for the benefit of others. Amen.

Psalm 51, Day 1

Devotional for Monday, May 18

We’re going to spend this week exploring Psalm 51, which gives us an opportunity to take our sins before the Lord and seek forgiveness.

This is a psalm designed to give us a new start when we find ourselves broken and ashamed. The original context of the psalm is very specific—its ancient instructional heading says, “For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.”

Adultery wasn’t David’s only sin. In trying to cover up what he had done, King David also attempted to hide his transgression by arranging for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite, to die in battle.

Psalm 51:1-3
Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.

Take a little time to meditate on what it means to seek God’s mercy for even the most terrible sins.

Once we are ready to ask for mercy, our hearts at least are in the right place—we understand the Creator is over and above all things, the only one with the power to restore the disobedient.

As Christians, we have a fuller picture of just how compassionate God is. Centuries after David’s transgression, God comes among the Davidic line and the rest of the Jews in flesh, as Jesus Christ, to die for our sins. We look to the cross and believe, and the stain of our sins is blotted out!

There is a first step toward forgiveness, though. We must truly repent of the sins we have committed; our regret must be so great that we turn away from what we have done.

Lord, where we now stray from your will, may sadness and regret build in us so we turn away from what displeases you. Amen.