Lord's mercy still abundant
November 18, 2020
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” — Psalm 51:1
Almost a year had passed since the beginning of his affair with the wife of one of his most valiant soldiers. King David spent that time avoiding the thought of his sin, and manipulating circumstances to cover it up. Maybe it would go away. It, however, did not go away. That's not what our transgressions do. Rather than fade with time, they fester.
At last, God sent a prophet to confront the king, and in that moment it was like the breaking of a dam.
In the millennia since then, the 51st Psalm has become a well-beloved model of genuine repentance. The heart broken by its own guilt has always recognized its twin in David, in this place, as he lays it all on the line: No more excuses or selfish justifications.
He offers none of that here. There's nothing about how lonely he was when the affair started; how stressful the king's business had been; or, how the one he should've clung to was mean to him that day. Unlike Adam in the garden, who blamed Eve (and, unlike Eve, who blamed the serpent) David was done with all of that.
The prophet had jabbed a bony finger in the king's face and thundered, “Thou art the man!”
It's not hard to picture. There's nothing to be said. David's shoulders slump. He lowers his head, bringing up his hands to cover his face. He nods slowly. It's over. There will be no more running. The only place to turn now is to the one he's been running from.
The basis of his plea, explaining why God should forgive him, is God himself: “according to your abundant mercy.” David had nothing to offer, though he was by that time the wealthiest man in the known world, the head of an empire.
There have been academics and scholars who have doubted the genuineness of this psalm based solely on the fact that it displays such a “New Testament” view of sin and forgiveness. It eliminates any thought of the penitent sinner's overall worthiness. It gives the sinner nothing to do with his own hands to “make it right.” It will go on to completely deny the efficacy of religious ceremony.
It goes directly to God the judge, begging for undeserved, unearned grace. Later on, we'll see David bypass the human priesthood in his quest for spiritual cleansing, and, as if getting a preview of Christ centuries beforehand, the king will appeal to the Lord himself to act as his priest.
Friend, the storehouse of God's mercy has not been emptied of its supply. There is still an abundance, a vast multitude of graces, to which you may appeal. This was one of the central messages of the cross of Jesus. Like King David, stop with the running, and the excuses, and all the good and rational reasons why you have gone on as a rebel toward God. In Christ, the cup of forgiveness still runs over.
Gordan Runyan is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tucumcari. Contact him at: