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Exploring the Psalms
Psalms 38, 39, 51
Lent - Forgiveness and Restoration

Exploring the Psalms

Cuthbert cross

Exploring the Psalms
Psalms 38, 39, 51 

Read : Psalms 38, 39, 51 

Lent . . . a season of preparation and penitence . . . And especially a time when we seek to be open with God with regards our failing and faults . . . reaffirm his promise of forgiveness and restoration and ask for his grace and help to live in his way . . . and the power of his Holy Spirit to be transformed . . . to become more and more like Jesus . . .

But let's begin with a healthy dose of honesty . . . we all fall short . . . we all fail . . . we all falter . . .  

Often those who are critical of Christian faith accuse Christians of being hypocrites, and especially because we do not live up to our profession or our preaching. Yet, in fact, that is something we readily acknowledge. It is striking and significant that one of the first things that happens in most services of Christian worship is a prayer of confession of sin!  

lent spiral

There is no room for pride and no excuse to look down on others and no grounds for being judgemental . . .  

. . . If you see others who come of the rails (so to speak) and you are tempted to feel pride because you think you have not or to be judgmental because they have, remember, you may not have come off the rails only because you have yet to reach a set of points!  

Pride comes before a fall, as they say! 

There but for the grace of God go I . . .  

There but for the grace of God I may yet go! 

We acknowledge and confess our sins to God… as did the Psalmists. Some of the psalms (including some of those from which we read a moment ago) are heartfelt, deep, earnest and passionate pleas for forgiveness.  

Deliver me from all my transgressions. '
Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry . . .

O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger,
or discipline me in your wrath.

. . . my iniquities have gone over my head;
they weigh like a burden too heavy for me.

. . . I am utterly spent and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

. . . my heart throbs, my strength fails me;

The language and the honesty (and even desperation) of these words from Psalms 38 and 39 are powerful and poignant . . . heartfelt and heart rending . . . But perhaps no psalms speaks of contrition and the desire for forgiveness and restoration as much as Psalm 51, the psalm David wrote after he is found out for his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah.  

You may remember the sorry tale: 

While David's army is away fighting David remains in the capital and one day he sees Bathsheba, the wife of one of his officers, Uriah the Hittite, bathing. She is beautiful, and David is ensnared by his desire for her. He seduces her and she becomes pregnant.

To save Bathsheba from punishment for adultery, David sends for Uriah and, when he arrives in Jerusalem, David detains him, assuming that he will take the opportunity to sleep with his wife. But Uriah refuses do so while his men are sleeping in the field. So David sends him back to the front with a second message instructing that it be arranged for Uriah to die in battle, which happens.

With Uriah disposed of David marries the widow, who bears their child, but as the Bible puts it, 'but the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.' No surprise there! It is a sordid tale and the actions of David are detestable. He thought he had got away with it . . . but he had not. 

The prophet Nathan confronts David with his sin, and David immediately acknowledges what he has done and confesses his sin. And that is where Psalm 51 comes in. 

This Psalm is an honest acknowledgement by David of his sin 

I know my transgression and my sin is ever before me . . .  

It is a plea for forgiveness . . .  

Have mercy on me O God . . . 

But not just forgiveness also cleansing  

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.

We who confess our sins to God are not only forgiven by him, but cleansed . . . it is as if we have a clean sheet . . .  

And more than forgiveness and cleansed . . . restored . . .  

Restore to me the joy of your salvation . . . let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice! . . . open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise . . .  

And beyond restored, transformed . . . remade and remoulded . . .  

'Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, who like me his praise should sing!' 

Knowing that our God is a God of grace and forgiveness, let us not be afraid to acknowledge our falterings and failings admit our shortcomings and sins, accept his forgiveness and cleansing.  

Have mercy on me O God, according to your abundant mercy 


Note - The video based on this soul space, can be found here : https://youtu.be/U_jHnRBY7J4

Rev David Denniston, 2016


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