Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 10

Scripture: Psalm 51:1-2

 1 Have mercy on me, O God,
       according to your unfailing love;
       according to your great compassion
       blot out my transgressions. 

 2 Wash away all my iniquity
       and cleanse me from my sin. 

Some thoughts:

     What words of pleading. Mercy is not something to be assumed nor guaranteed. Control of the situation is gone. The penitent has nothing to offer. Having been responsible for carrying out a murder, King David pours out this confession to God. In pleading for mercy, he appeals to God’s own character of unfailing love and great compassion. Though David was guilty of a treacherous crime, his past walk with God had shown him God’s character firsthand. It is to this character of God that he appeals in three different ways. He asked to have his sin dealt with. Blot out my transgressions, wash away all my iniquity, cleanse me from my sin. He places no blame elsewhere. David’s words were “my transgressions,” “my iniquity”, and “my sin.”  He took full ownership of his past actions. I am not sure how much we realize the significance of God’s character of mercy as shown toward us. We live because God is merciful not wishing anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). How easy it is to assume God’s mercy, not realizing the heavy price paid by God to make mercy toward humans possible.

     Our sin is not something that goes away nor is it anything we can remove ourselves. Notice David’s choice of words. It is God who has to blot, wash, and cleanse out of love and compassion for the sinner to be freed from the weight of their sin. Yet, how many people continue to carry their past sin, or the sins of generations past even as part of their identity. David will have none of it. In this prayer David is learning to be merciful himself.

     In an almost incomprehensible way, we see this “unfailing love” and “great compassion” of this psalm played out in the Jesus’ embrace of the hard wood of the cross as he takes ownership of all of our sins and the sins of the whole world as he expresses mercy toward a fallen and sinful world. As a result, God has shown us mercy and blotted, washed away, and cleansed us from our sins. Thanks be to God! Let us show God’s mercy toward those around us and may it be part of our character.

Music: “What Wondrous Love Is This?” Robert Shaw Chamber Singers 

Prayer: Forgive them all, O Lord: our sins of omission and our sins of commission; the sins of our youth and the sins of our riper years; the sins of our souls and the sins of our bodies; our secret and our more open sins; our sins of ignorance and surprise, and our more deliberate and presumptuous sins; the sins we have done to please ourselves and the sins we have done to please others; the sins we know and remember, and the sins we have forgotten; the sins we have striven to hide from others and the sins by which we have made others offend; forgive them all for his sake, who died for our sins and rose for our justification, and now stands at thy right hand to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.                    —John Wesley, 1703-1791