Have Mercy on Me, O God

This weekend Brainerd Students is off for Fall Retreat! This weekend we are talking about the grace of God. To go along with our theme Grace Upon Grace, students will be going through Psalm 51 every morning for their Time with God. This blog and the next two will be based on our Time with God at Fall Retreat. Over the course of the next 3 days, I invite you to take this journey with us through Psalm 51.

God is Merciful

Read Psalm 51:1-2 (Bible quotations are from the ESV)

After the death of his Son, David prayed this prayer to God asking for forgiveness of his sin. The very first thing that David cries out to God is a plea for mercy, “Have mercy on me, O God.” In the Old Testament law, there was no forgiveness for adultery or murder. Both sins were punishable by death. This is why David’s first words are, “Have mercy on me, O God.” David understood the consequences of his sin–the only way he would’ve been able to remain alive was if God was merciful to him. David was considered a man after God’s own heart because he was a man of good character. But no good that David had ever done could possibly save him from the punishment of his sin. So he begs for mercy.

In these first two verses, there are three things that we see David say about God that give him hope that God would show him mercy: God’s steadfast love, his abundant mercy, and his ability to wash away sin (Psalm 51:1-2). In the midst of him dealing with the consequences of his sin, which includes the death of his child, David remembers these words from Exodus 34:6, “The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth…”

Sin is Serious

Read Psalm 51:3-6
Sin is a serious offense because sin offends a holy, just, righteous, and eternal God. There is no such thing as a small sin. Sin’s effects are devastating, even the sin that seems so small. One seemingly small act of sin has the ability to destroy friendships, cause deep pain, and stir up anger. This may seem like an overstatement, but is it? The things that we may perceive as small are great in the eyes of God. Think about it, is there such thing as a small sin? What about the small piece of fruit that Adam and Eve ate in the Garden? It wasn’t adultery or murder, but that seemingly small act of disobedience towards God had, and still has, devastating consequences on all of humanity and the world.

As David confesses his sin to God, there are four things that he shows us in Psalm 51:3-6 about the seriousness of sin.

  1. Sin disrupts our fellowship with God. In verse 3 David says that he knows his transgression and his sin is ever before him. Another word for transgression is rebellion, and sin is disobeying God. What David is literally saying in verse 3 is, “I know what I’ve done and I can’t get it off of my mind, because I have rebelled against God by disobeying his word.” David couldn’t really think of anything but his sin and its devastating consequences.
  2. Sin is ultimately against God. In the first part of verse four, David confesses that the evil he has done is against God. Yes, David sinned against both Bathsheba and Uriah, but his sin is ultimately against God.
  3. Sin deserves judgment. Because sin is ultimately against God who is holy, just, righteous, and eternal, sin deserves a holy, just, righteous, and eternal punishment. The punishment for sin is death. The second half of verse 7 in Exodus 34:7 says, “…God will by no means clear the guilty…” As David pleads for mercy and confesses his sin he acknowledges that he deserves God’s judgment at the end of verse 4 in Psalm 51.
  4. Sin affects every part of us. In Verse 5 David acknowledges that from the time he was born, he was born in sin. From the time he was born, he deserved God’s judgment. Ephesians 2:3 says that we are by nature children of wrath.

For a lot of us, when we sin, the first thing we want to do is hide it so that nobody sees it. But what David shows us in verse 6 is that God desires for us to be honest with him when we mess up. This is what Psalm 51 is all about. When we sin, God wants us to acknowledge our sin and confess it to him. In this Psalm, David humbly acknowledges his sin and begs God for mercy. Is there any sin in your life that you have attempted to shove away as if it was small and unimportant? Sin seeks to destroy you and drive you away from the all-satisfying, faithfully sustaining, and everlasting God. Surrender and confess your sin to God and he will uphold you with his righteous hand.


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