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 4

Devotional for Thursday, May 21

Psalm 51:10-12
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and make me willing to obey you.

The Creator didn’t stop creating—the work goes on. Jesus demonstrated this when he used dirt and his own spit to create vision for the man born blind. Our inner life and being, symbolized by the heart, are new creations of the Holy Spirit, who remains at work in the world today.

Loyalty implies alignment with the will of God. The goal of opening ourselves to sanctification is pretty straightforward; we hope to be so aligned with God that sin becomes as unnatural for us as it is for our creator. At that point, we are again fully made in God’s image, a small-but-perfect reflection.

The psalmist was rightly anxious, though. Few experience holy transformation all at once, even as we profess our faith in Christ more and more. We remain mindful of our past sins and our tendency to return to sin. Proverbs 26:11: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.”

We sense the fool still living within, and we seek protection from that part of ourselves as we trust this transformation to continue. Oh, for the day when obedience to God is as natural as breathing!

Lord, we submit ourselves to be guarded and contained, knowing you ultimately will give us boundless freedom and eternal life. Amen.

Psalm 51, Day 3

Devotional for Wednesday, May 20

Psalm 51:7-9
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    you have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.

At this point in the psalm, David seeks not only forgiveness, he seeks what we Methodists call sanctification. He wants release not only from the sins committed, he wants to be released from the underlying cause of sin, the basic brokenness we all experience as human beings.

To be transformed in such a way is an ongoing process. The trials we undergo in this life can actually help, assuming we use them as an opportunity to turn to God and trust in God to provide a path through them.

In Revelation 7, we hear of those “who died in the great tribulation,” and we see the cleansing power of Christ’s sacrifice. “They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white,” we are told. Jesus is the answer in the most difficult of times.

We also see that as painful as our trials and brokenness can be, there is the possibility of joy as we allow God to cleanse us. We have hope.

Meditate today on hope in the midst of repentance and sorrow. We’ll explore sanctification further tomorrow.

Lord, you not only save us, you heal us in the here and now. May your work be complete in this life. Amen.

Psalm 51, Day 2

Devotional for Tuesday, May 19

Psalm 51:4-6
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.

When I first dwelled on the idea of “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned,” I was a bit taken aback. I realized my notion of sin was too limited. In my mind, the problem with sin was the damage we do to others.

Certainly, sin hurts others, and that by itself is a major problem. When our sins do enough damage, we can even drive others to sin. For example, think of the abused child who grows up to be an abuser. There’s no doubt sin runs rampant in the world because we are first born broken, and we then have a tendency to break each other further.

But ultimately, our sins are a violation of God’s will, and our creator has the right to demand a reckoning. We first must repair our relationship with God. Once we are right with God, we then can hope to repair some of the damage we’ve done in this world, trusting divine power to guide us.

Lord, help us to first be right with you so our efforts to help others are genuine and rooted in your Holy Spirit. 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.