An icon of King David
Bible Readings and Devotion for September 19, 2020
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Devotion for September 19, 2020
By Pastor David Tinker
Today we look at one of the most powerful chapters in the Bible. We look at Psalm 51, which is the great confessional psalm of the Judeo-Christian Tradition. It cuts to the deep center of our sin and shows us the truth of our broken relationship with God. It shows us both sides of the coin: one side is our sin; the other side is the grace of God.
It has been said that the sentence basic to all penitential prayer in the Old Testament is the simple confession, “I have sinned.” In verse 4 of our Psalm we pray, “Against you only have I sinned…”, which is another form of “I have sinned.” Luther said of Psalm 51, “Here the doctrine of true repentance is set forth before us.” This is a “no excuse” confession of sin. There is no blaming of anyone else, and one is taking full responsibility for his or her actions, attitudes and thoughts.
The psalm opens with a powerful first line. It is similar to “I have sinned”. King David, who wrote this psalm, wrote: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses.” In other words, “Be gracious to me, O God, for I am a sinner.”
Verses 3 and 4 of the Psalm show that the life of a confessing person is a life which faces the judgment of God. King David wrote, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight…”
King David faced up to God’s judgment rather than avoid it. We get to face God’s judgment, and therefore also his renewal of our life and faith.
As we realize this, we reenter our relationship with the Lord, which includes prayer. Verse 11 of Psalm 51 offers a prayer. This prayer is likely very familiar to many of us. It reads, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” This is a prayer of growth for all of us. This is a prayer which asks God to work with what is already there in our lives, and then to transform it.
We pray, in a sense, “Change me, for I am the problem.” What does it mean for there to be a “clean heart” and “renewed spirit” in who we are? Well, a clean heart would be a mind and a will open to God, and ultimately oriented toward God. A right spirit would be one’s whole self and will fixed and steady toward God. A right spirit is ready to Praise the Lord, ready to be true to God’s covenant with us, and ready to be trusting in the Lord during evil times. All other life-orientations which don’t focus on God are in need of cleaning and being set right.
The love of God enables us to face our need for confession and repentance of sin in our lives. By His grace, we are opened to God’s loving power and forgiveness. God’s goodness enters our lives and breaks down our pride and selfish ways. When that happens, the great power and way of God begins to work great wonders in our lives.
By your word, eternal God, your creation sprang forth, and we were given the breath of life. By your word, eternal God, death is overcome, Christ is raised from the tomb, and we are given new life in the power of your Spirit. May we boldly proclaim this good news in our words and our deeds, rejoicing always in your powerful presence; through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord. Amen