Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Gary Petty] It is a story of intrigue, sex, and murder. Now I’m not talking about the latest steamy novel or blockbuster movie. This story is in the Bible and it involves one of the most famous kings of ancient Israel. A king whom God said was a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). He is Israel’s King David who wrote much of the book of Psalms.
How can we reconcile David’s horrible sins with him being honored throughout the Bible as a man of God?
Now this question is important to you and me when we face the times in our lives when we fail miserably as Christians and we wonder how can I return to God?
Well today, we’ll take a candid look at David’s lust, misuse of power to commit murder and his heart wrenching request of God to “Create in Me a Clean Heart.”
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[Gary] I remember a conversation I had with a woman years ago about Israel’s King David. Now she had lived a good life by anyone’s standards. She had never robbed a convenience store, committed adultery or killed anyone. She was upset because she thought God was unfair in how He had—in her viewpoint—let David off the hook for his terrible sins.
On the other hand, as a pastor, I’ve sat with many people who struggle with accepting God’s forgiveness. Do you? Have you ever thought “You know, I messed up again. Why should I even try? I’m such a bad person that God can’t forgive me?”
David’s story of a man who literally fell into depravity and his remarkable response to God recorded in Psalm 51 is a moving example of God’s mercy and His requirement of repentance. A lesson that the woman who thought that God had cut David too much slack, she needed to learn.
Now these two issues: understanding God’s remarkable mercy and the need for repentance are the two issues that you need to deal with in order to experience God’s forgiveness. Sin is a serious issue with God and all of us need to deal with our sins before Him.
In David’s story, we find encouragement in that no matter how atrocious our sins, God is willing to show us mercy if, if we are willing to honestly repent. “IF”—two letters—it’s a big word.
Our narrative begins over 3,000 years ago on a warm spring night in Jerusalem. King David couldn’t sleep. The affairs of state weighed heavily on his mind—his army was campaigning against the people of Ammon. Responsibility can be a heavy burden. As he paced the palace’s roof top patio something caught his eye. On the roof of a nearby house was a beautiful woman taking a bath.
David had a choice. He could have turned away. He could have walked away. Instead, he watched. Eventually, he called some of his servants and told them to bring the woman to the palace. She was Bathsheba and she was the wife of a soldier named Uriah. The biblical story would lead us to believe that Uriah had converted to the worship of the God of Israel. He is listed as one of David’s “mighty men”—Well known soldiers who were famous for their courage and personal loyalty to the king. David had Uriah’s wife brought to the palace where he forced her into a sexual encounter. The result—she became pregnant.
The king now plotted to cover up his sin. He called Uriah back from the front lines of battle, had him give a report—sent him home to be with his wife. But the plan failed, when Uriah refused to be with his wife while his comrades were still at the front. You see, Uriah was an honorable man.
But, David had another choice. He could confess his sins before God and tell Uriah the truth. But, what did he do?
King David sent a written message with Uriah to give to Joab—the army’s commander. The message instructed Joab to put Uriah in the most dangerous part of the battle and then retreat from him so that he would be killed. Unknowingly, Uriah delivered his death warrant to his commander, died in battle, defending his country, betrayed by his king.
Afterward, David tried to carry on with life as if nothing had happened. God finally confronted him through the prophet Nathan.
Nathan approached the king asking for a ruling on a theft that had taken place. The prophet told of a rich man and a poor man who had lived next to each other. The poor man had one little lamb that was a family pet. While the rich man, well, he possessed huge flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. A traveler came to visit the rich man, and instead of killing one of his own animals for a meal, he stole the poor man’s pet lamb and served it to his guests.
Well of course, David was incensed. He declared, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity” (2 Samuel 12:6).
And “Then Nathan said to David… ‘You are the man!’” (2 Samuel 12:7).
Now imagine the unbearable silence as David is filled with anxiety, and guilt and fear. His sins had found him out.
But Nathan wasn’t finished, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little,’ God says, ‘I also would have given you much more!’”
“‘Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon.
“Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.
“For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun’”(2 Samuel 12:7-12).
You know, in spite of the opinion of the woman I mentioned earlier who thought God let David off the hook—God’s judgment on David was severe. Think about God’s judgment here. Because of David’s sins, his family would be continually plagued with violence.
Once again, David had a choice. He could claim that his sins weren’t really his fault. It was Bathsheba’s fault for tempting him. It was the stress of being king. He could even claim it was maybe God’s fault for not intervening to help him or that God was being too harsh in His punishment.
But that’s not what happened. David said to Nathan a simple sentence, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). No excuses—no blaming—no defense. Only the acknowledgment of the depravity of his actions. Actions he could not take back.
“Nathan then said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die’” (2 Samuel 12:13-14).
God forgave David of all those horrible sins. He would not die. But God’s forgiveness did not erase the temporary consequences of sin. Because David’s sin was public, God would exact a public penalty—the child born from the king’s sin would die. Everyone would know of David’s sins and God’s judgment upon him. You know, thousands of year later, you and I, we still read of David’s sins.
So, here you and I sit. You know, we look at our lives. Many have addictions to pornography or they have guilt because they know they drink too much. Or maybe you suffer from the nagging anxiety that you’re a hypocrite for showing up at church once a week but the rest of the time you ignore God and live a selfish, dishonest lifestyle. So you may look at David’s story and think, “God’s going to punish me anyway so why should I even try?”
You know, when you really look at the story, the fact that David would suffer because of his sins isn’t the end of the story. King David’s life changed dramatically as he faced his sins and turned to God. So even if you are suffering the devastating consequences of sins—a broken marriage—maybe you are a slave to your own anger. Maybe you just feel cut off from God. You know, your life can change in a dramatic, wonderful way. God can heal you when you open your heart and mind to real repentance.
The profound lesson from the story of King David is that he truly repented and he experienced God’s forgiveness.
David was a poet and a songwriter. He put his expression of repentance into words and music. And we read of David’s repentance in what we call Psalm 51.
Sin is important to understand. Sin in action or thought creates a barrier between us and God. And only God, only God can tear down that barrier. In Psalm 51, we have one man’s experience of repentance and through his experience, an example of how to return to God when we have been separated by our sins.
So, get a Bible and let’s read Psalm 51.
We know the occasion for this Psalm by going to the heading. It says: “To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone into Bathsheba.”
David’s Psalm is filled with heartfelt words as he seeks, not just relief from the consequences of sin—and a lot of times that’s why we go to God, we just want relief. But he wanted—and this is important—a restored relationship with God.
He wrote, “Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge” (Psalms 51:1-4).
At the heart of David’s repentance is the understanding that all sin is against God. David understood that God determines right and wrong and no matter how secret the sin, including our own thoughts and emotions, sin damages our relationship with a sinless God. David confronted his sin and hated it. This is very important. There is no true repentance without taking responsibility for and hating our sins.
He also understood God’s character of mercy. Understand this: God’s wants to forgive you so that you can have a restored relationship with Him.
David uses three words to describe his spiritual state, and they are translated into English as:
One, transgressions : The Hebrew word he used, “…signifies willful deviation from, and therefore rebellion against, the path of godly living” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).
He uses, iniquity : which means “…an offense, intentionally or not, against God’s law” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).
And he uses a word that we translate into English as sin : This word here isn’t the usual Hebrew word for sin but a word that primarily means, “missing the road or missing the mark…” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).
Notice: David didn’t give excuses for why he sinned. He simply asked God to “wash me”. He doesn’t want a superficial sprinkling—he wants his mind and heart scrubbed. He asks God to “blot out” his sins. This term “blot out” is powerful in its ancient context. Ancient paper wasn’t as porous as modern paper is and ink wasn’t as easily absorbed. A writer, using the right compound, could blot paper and erase the ink completely.
Now let’s continue in verse 5:
“…Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities.”
This is fascinating. David was concerned with more than just a few changes in behavior. He understood that God wanted “truth in the inward parts…” (Pslam 51:5-9)
You and I can have biblical knowledge. We can even practice what most people would consider a very religious life, but if our minds are filled with envy, self-righteousness, anger, an unwillingness to forgive, hatred, sexual lust then, are you and I really seeking “truth in the inward parts?”
Now we can hide our “inward parts” by appearing religious. God wants us to actually rip open our minds and hearts and expose all of the corruption of what David calls our “inward parts” and replace our lawlessness with truth. And this isn’t something you and I can do on our own—only God can heal our damaged minds and hearts.
There are hidden sins that keep us from accepting God’s power in our lives. Now think about it. David tried to hide his “inward parts” by going on with daily life after he took Bathsheba and murdered her husband. He just went on as if nothing had happened. We can only do that so long.
When Nathan confronted him with his sins, David had a choice. Hide his “inward parts” or expose them to the light of God.
You know, much of the time we live our lives out of touch with our own motivations. Our emotions and thoughts are nothing more than responses to whatever happens to us. It’s only when we take time to reflect on God’s ways, His laws and His mercy, that we face our sins that we can really experience what it means to be forgiven. When we expose our sins to the light of God—only then can you experience the “joy and gladness” that David expressed in his Psalm.
Now let’s look at what David writes next: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalms 51:10-11)
David asked God to create in him a “clean heart.” Now the heart refers to the mind, the will and the center of your emotions. David understood that his outward sins, they were just a product of his inward self.
You need to ask yourself a question: Are you prepared to go before God and ask for a clean heart? Not just for His forgiveness, but for a change of heart and mind?
I mean, let’s face it. It’s easy to want God’s forgiveness, for Him to take away the painful consequences of sin, but a desiring a “clean heart” is more than just wanting to be forgiven.
You know, here David showed why he is called a man after God’s own heart. He wanted everything about him to be pleasing to God—his behavior, his motivations, his thoughts, his emotions. He literally wanted to be a “kindred spirit” with God.
The psalmist continued: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.”
David knew real peace and joy can only come from a restored relationship with His Creator, with God. He recognized that God’s forgiveness was a precious and powerful gift. Once David was restored to the—what he calls “joy of salvation,” he was motivated to tell others about repentance and restoration.
There is a misconception among many Christians that the Old Testament is strictly a book about law and the New Testament deals exclusively with grace. They don’t read the New Testament. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, said that there would be those who profess His name but are rejected by Him because they “practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). The apostle Paul said that he wouldn’t know the definition of sin without the law. There is plenty of law in the New Testament.
And here in the Old Testament, in Psalm 51, we find one of the most intense, personal expressions of a man who experienced God’s grace. He knew he couldn’t earn God’s forgiveness. David was trapped in the awful reality of his crimes against God and against his fellow man. If God didn’t give him His divine favor, if God didn’t give him grace, his life was void of meaning except to suffer and die.
David completed this psalm with: “Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise…You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise…” (Psalms 51:14-17).
What does it mean to have a broken spirit and contrite heart before God?
Our spirits and hearts get damaged by sin. And that’s why we are filled with anxiety, depression, feelings of inferiority and anger. And this is why we resist God’s forgiveness. We must confront our hardened, arrogant and selfish nature.
God actually wants us to be broken before Him as our Father. He wants us to be like David and take responsibility for our depraved and sinful nature. He wants us to humbly come before Him—desperately aware of our need for Him—desperately in need of His grace.
I mean when you read Psalm 51, notice the sincerity and desperation of this psalm. David is actually consumed with the awareness of his need for God’s mercy and love.
It’s normal for human beings to reject the approach to God exemplified by David in Psalm 51. Let’s face it. Too many times we approach God only when we need His help. Too often, we want to deny or justify our sins. We believe that we have the right to harbor anger, or hatred, jealousy, envy, and arrogance. We actually want to use His grace as a license to sin.
Today’s message isn’t just a cry to the non-Christian to turn to God—it’s a challenge for you Christians to turn to God.
There is a need in the half-hearted, secularized Christian world to practice true repentance, to be restored to God, to experience a spiritual revival. The power of David’s psalm reaches across the centuries. The time is now to get on your knees and ask God for a clean heart. Ask your Creator for truth in the inward parts. Ask your Father for a broken and contrite spirit.
But be warned. A broken spirit means just that, to be broken, to be humbled before God. We may not like what we see revealed by truth in our inward parts. Repentance is a painful realization of our absolute spiritual poverty before God and our need for His grace.
We can only experience true freedom from the shackles of sin—and the power to overcome our habits and addictions, our violence, our anger, our faithlessness—when we admit our natural resistance to God and approach Him in humble submission.
God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die as the substitute for what you and I deserve. This is the ultimate expression of God’s grace, His favor, a pardon, a cleansing, a spiritual healing that you and I can’t do for ourselves.
Just how repulsive is sin to God?
The horrible torture and death of Jesus Christ shows how serious sin is to God our Father. To take sin lightly is to face God’s wrath. But here’s the wonderful truth—here’s the gospel message! God is big enough to forgive you. He is merciful enough to heal all of us. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His resurrection is powerful enough to open the door for you to experience a relationship with God.
And when you say “God can’t forgive me,” what you’re saying is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ isn’t enough. God isn’t big enough. Somehow you are bigger than God. Think about that.
Get on your knees and ask God to help you experience Psalm 51. The time is now! Then God will create in you a clean heart and you will experience a relationship with the Father and Christ and the joy of salvation.
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[Gary Petty] Have you ever thought, “My sins are so terrible that God can’t forgive me?”
Sin is a serious issue with God. So serious that He sent His Son Jesus to suffer and die as our substitute. To ignore the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is to remain unforgiven.
Ancient Israel’s King David was a man who wanted to have a “kindred spirit” with God. His faults and sins are recorded for all of us to read. And his repentance and desire for a “clean heart” is recorded as encouragement for all who want to turn to God for forgiveness and spiritual healing.
Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom. We also invite you to join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today I’m Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.
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