GOD CAME TO US AND OFFERED HIMSELF. HOW DO WE RETURN TO HIM?
Psalm 51, was penned by David immediately after Nathan the prophet had confronted him. It is one of the most powerful expressions of repentance in all of the Bible. The psalm is divided into five parts: the basic plea for God’s pardon (vs. 1ff), the reasons on which his plea was built (vs. 3-6), the plea renewed in great detail (vs. 7-12), the resolve to offer grateful service to God (vs. 13-17), and a prayer for the welfare of Jerusalem and the nation as a whole (vs. 18ff).
The introduction to Psalm 51 begins with “To the choir director. A psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him after he had gone into Bathsheba.” This introduction is inspirational for us as well, because after the king had fallen, repented publicly, and vulnerably shared his journey back to God, he gave his prayer to the choir director so that all Is- rael could sing it. No matter how far we fall away from God, he can use our failures to bless the lives of others.
Three Hebrew words for sin are used in this psalm. Pesha is rebellion, or premeditated disobedience. ‘Awon is twisting moral standards, or crookedness. Chatta’th is missing the mark for what God created us to be. David confessed to all three of these. In verses three and four, David agrees with God about his sin, and cries that he recognizes his sin ulti- mately was against Him. The repercussions for all of his wrong choices hurt two families and an entire nation. David is saying that his sin toward everyone else pales in significance to how he broke God’s heart. We would describe David’s statement as godly sorrow. He felt how God felt about his sin. Paul says that godly sorrow brings repentance in 2 Corin- thians 7:10-11:
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear your- selves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” NIV
Paul is simply describing the wonderful qualities that are developed when we truly repent.
Psalm 51:11 says “Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me.” Why would David say that? He had witnessed firsthand the terrible mental anguish King Saul experienced when God had taken His hand off of Saul’s life. That memory of playing his harp while Saul was in torment was indelibly etched upon David’s mind. Finally David asks God to restore the joy of his salvation and to sustain him with a willing spirit. These are wonderful, hopeful words for us. God never leaves us. We leave Him. And the moment we turn toward Him in repentance, He will restore our joy and our ministry.
• In John Maxwell’s Book, Failing Forward, he gives some tips on how to handle failure in a positive way. What do you think? Which steps are helpful to you? Which ones can you implement in your life today? Give an example of what each step might look like in your daily life.
Steps to Failing Forward
- Mourn about painful experiences and receive comfort.
- Find the benefit in every bad experience.
- See failure as an opportunity for personal growth.
- Be proactive and reduce your fear.
- Don’t let the failure from outside get inside you.
- Don’t let your past define you.
- Change yourself, and your world changes.
- Focus on the needs of others instead of your own all the time.
- Allow God to use others to help you work on your vulnerabilities.
• Think about a time when you felt far from God. In Romans 8:31-39, Paul writes “Who shall separate you from the love of Christ?” List those obstacles that Paul mentions and meditate on Jesus holding you and protecting you from each one. Write down those verses on a card and place it in your car or in your home this week.