Scripture: Ps. 51
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
2 Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
3 For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
4 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.
5 For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 But you desire honesty from the womb,
teaching me wisdom even there.
7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me—
now let me rejoice.
9 Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,
that my mouth may praise you.
16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
18 Look with favor on Zion and help her;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
19 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.
Psalm 51 is a familiar classic psalm of confession. In the Lenten season we think of repentance, humbling oneself, as we reflect on Jesus’ hard road to Calvary. His loving compassionate sacrifice made possible the forgiveness of our sin. Note in this psalm the verbs that describe God’s action on our behalf. Our God has mercy, blots out, washes, purifies, breaks, creates, renews, restores, rebuilds, removes, does not reject, and helps. Confession accomplishes all of that in our lives. Noticing verbs associated with God’s actions helps to give us greater insight into our God’s grace.
Do you see all the action of God in our lives when we will simply confess our sin and agree with God that we in fact have sinned. God’s heart is longing to make us whole again. Notice the “re’s” above. “Renew, restore, remove, and rebuild.” God is the mover in bringing wholeness to our lives, his shalom. Our part is both simple and hard at the same time, simple because it only involves agreeing with God regarding his assessment of our actions or thoughts, hard because we are stubborn, short-sighted, arrogant, and proud. The Lord is looking for his children who have broken spirits, that is, people who are humble and honest before him about their own lives. They live daily with repentant hearts. Repentance is a central and necessary factor in the Christian life.
Music: I Need Thee Every Hour OneVoice from Briarcrest (arr. Sam Robson)
I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford
I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby
Temptations lose their power
When Thou art nigh
I need thee, oh, I need thee, every hour I need Thee
I need thee, I need thee, I need Thee every hour
Prayer: O merciful heart of God, in true penitence and contrition I would now open my heart to Thee. Let me keep nothing hidden from Thee, while I pray. Humbling as the truth about myself may be, let me yet take courage to speak it in Thy presence. What I did not think shame to commit, that let me not think shame to confess. And in Thy wisdom use this pain of confession as a means to make me hate the sins confessed. Blot out all my transgressions and let my sins be covered. Make me feel Thine hand upon my life, cleansing me from the stain of past misdeeds, loosing me from the grip of evil habits, strengthening me in new habits of pure-heartedness, and guiding my footsteps in the way of eternal life. All this I ask for His holy name’s sake. Amen.
–John Baillie from A Diary of Private Prayer, p.51