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忏悔中的生机Repentance: The Path To Life Anew

March 29, 2015, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Rev Enoch Keong (Psalm 51:1-19) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Psalms
Preached at a Mandarin (Sunday) service

Tags: Penitential

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Bible passage (ESV) of the sermon can be found at the bottom of the page.

Bible passage (ESV) of the sermon can be found at the bottom of the page.
Speaker : Pastor Enoch Keong
诗 篇 第 51 章:1 - 19 节
Sermon on Psalms 51 : 1 - 19

Title: 忏悔中的生机Repentance: The Path To Life Anew

The psalm we just read is probably the best known amongst the seven penitential psalms found in the Psalter.

The superscription, as in the words in the bible that introduces the psalm, says that this psalm came about when Nathan the prophet went to King David, after the king has gone in to Bathsheba. These introductory words refer us to the saga recorded in 2 Sam 11-12.

The narrative begins with an incident that took place on an afternoon in one particular spring season. King David, having had his siesta, was enjoying the fresh air and the gentle sunshine while strolling on the roof of his house. Then, at a totally innocent moment, he saw a beautiful woman in her bath. I suspect that that moment had prolonged and lasted longer than it should. That moment marked the beginning of the saga, which was also for David a journey of painful self-awareness.

Yet, what was the cause of David’s sinful acts in the rest of the story that involved Bathsheba, Uriah and himself? To begin with, I think David likely shares a problem that some of us HDB flat dwellers face. His house was built a little too near to someone else’s. One of Matthew Zone’s CGs came to my place this week. And at my service yard, one of our brothers and I could see clearly the show or cartoon that one neighbor in the adjacent block was watching. David’s house must have been near enough to Bathsheba’s abode for him to see what he saw at that supposed innocent moment.

But perhaps the blame should not be on the proximity of the houses, rather, it was Bathsheba’s attractiveness. 2 Sam 11:2 [P] made special emphasis of this very fact by saying “and the woman was very beautiful.” Friends, on which will you place the blame, the distance between the houses or the attractiveness of the lady? Or the problem was perhaps David’s lust? Or his power as the king to engineer the multiple crimes?

When we turn to our text - David’s reflection after the entire saga - it is clear that I have thus far been leading us in the wrong directions. What do I mean? When we read the other 6 penitential psalms, we can be sure to find the psalmist complaining against his enemies, at times the psalmist even asks God to deal with them severely and declaring before it happens their bitter ends. In other words, the psalmist while confessing his wrongdoings, thinks that it is not only he who is in the wrong, but others involved in that particular situation are likewise culpable, and deserving of God’s righteous judgement. But in Psalm 51, we simply don’t find any finger pointing taking place. We don’t see David following Adam’s example, he does not try putting the blame on Bathsheba the way that Adam blamed Eve for passing him the fruits from the tree which God commanded them not to eat. Neither does he blame those who give in to him because of his authority as a king. Rather, he acknowledges that the wrong was his, through and through.

5 times in the opening verses he confesses repeatedly his sinfulness [P]. My transgressions, my iniquity, my sin, says David, and we read 2 more of such confessions in verse 3. In verse 4 [P], he says that God can only be right in his judgment, meaning that he himself is simply inexcusable. Then, from admitting his wrong and recognizing himself being inexcusable, in verse 5 [P], he goes on to confess a problem that runs a whole lot deeper; that he was conceive in sin. In other words, sin is so stuck in him because it is a part of him; he came into the world with it. Sin is an element that he lives in.

Having realized and acknowledged all these about himself, the king [P] then prays repeatedly to God to cleanse him from his unrighteousness. Of all the expressions that David uses in his pleading, the verb ‘wash’ is especially telling. The word he chose the one referring to washing of clothing in the Hebrew language. In other words, David sees himself as a piece of foul garment that needs to be washed and rewashed. Yet his request is not only to be clean once again, but to be more than 100% clean. In his words, that he “shall be whiter than snow”.

Friends, David had happily broken one commandment after another in his adventures with Bathsheba and Uriah. What he had done amounts to flouting God or treating him and his commandments with contempt. But now he comes around and plead to the God that he had flouted to cleanse him till he be whiter than snow? How would we describe such a person?

A sinner? An adulterer, schemer cum murderer? A terrible sinner? Neither of these descriptions goes to reflect the attitude we read in the psalm. David is instead a penitent, as in one who acknowledges and confronts the sin his life has produced.

This much I believe we can agree and empathize with David, but what confounds us is the way he views his sins. In verse 4 [P], David says, “Against you [referring to God], you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight”. David’s words seem to suggest that he has hurt nobody, but only flouted God by breaking the commandments. But such an explanation simply doesn’t work we consider the Old Testament in its entirety. According to one bible commentator [P], “The Old Testament knows of hidden sins and unintended sins but not of private sins that neither concern nor affect others.” (Mays, 200). David the prolific psalmist couldn’t have subscribed a different understanding, neither did he brain washed himself so thoroughly in order to believe that he did not sin against Uriah and Bathsheba. His view of sin is so only because it was the Lord himself, the Lord who exercises oversight on human life, that caught him and called him into question through the prophet Nathan.

And when he realized that his covering up could not escape the eyes of God, he also began to see that all he had done to Bathsheba and Uriah were in fact no freak events. He was simply in character. Adultery, scheming and murdering, all added up, was but an extreme expression of his congenital warped nature. When he says [P], “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” He is not finally pointing the finger at someone and complaining that his own mother is the greatest culprit. Rather he is saying something like this, “Lord, now I know that it isn’t just that I have committed sins, but I am sin, sin is me and I am being myself to the fullest this time round.” This realization and confession is what we referred to earlier on as David’s journey of painful self-awareness.

Friends, there are two things that David the penitent is seeking to communicate to us. Firstly, confession is not so much about admitting to sin or sins committed, confession is admitting the condition of the self. And so, what we really need is not just forgiveness from God for particular wrong or wrongs, but deliverance from the predicament of the self, where sin is in its element. Preparing this sermon has granted me a better grasp of something that a lecturer of mine once said. These are his words, “we all have a price tag, and Satan is just waiting for us to name our price.” Both my lecturer and Satan are spot on; for the sin element in us is and keeps generating the price tags, which is why Christians are asked to confess our sins daily, weekly and regularly. But David helps us see that to confess our sin is actually ’ to confess our entire selves’ to God. And what do find when we confess? This leads me to the second thing that David the penitent is seeking to communicate to us.

Confession is grace at work. David the schemer was very skillful at getting what he wanted and thereafter had the mess created nicely covered up. He did it so well that God had to send a prophet to wake his conscience with a story about a rich man snatching away the lamb of a poor man. David could jolly well have faced judgment in due time for his multiple crimes. But instead of letting that happen, God initiates to him an invitation to confess by sending to him Nathan, so that he by accepting the invitation, may experience grace, restores his relationship with God, and have in turn, life anew. Confession, we see from David’s case, is grace at work, and confession is first and foremost a response to grace. Why do we say ‘first and foremost’? Because it is the gracious God who had been and is watching over human lives, yours and mine, who initiates to us the invitation to depend on his grace in our journey of struggle with our congenital warped nature, something that we share with David as fellow human beings. For Christians, our invitation has also to do with a lamb, only that it is not the lamb of a poor man, but of a God rich in grace. The sacrificial lamb on the Cross is at the same time God’s judging of human sin, and his invitation to depend on his grace. Have we accepted his invitation? Brother and sisters in Christ, are we still accepting this invitation, and continually and wholeheartedly turn to him in confession and rely on his grace?

As for King David, he took up the invitation. But the requests he made while accepting the invitation is a little surprising [P]. When we look at verse 14 and 15 of the psalm, we see that unlike most people, David was not concerned with the consequence of the sin that he has committed, he was ready to face punishment of any kind. What he cared about was that the guilt in his heart will be removed, that he may again have a clean heart. And why is having a clean heart so critical. His next statement tells it all. Having confessed his sin, what David’s wanted to do right away was to praise God’s righteousness, and a clean heart is fundamental toward worship God in Spirit and in truth.

Now this immediate switch from confession to praise is something that we do week after week in worship services. However, in day to day encounters with people, this switch just doesn’t seem to be something as readily automatic and easy, am I right? Perhaps it is easy in our week to week services because we begin the liturgical segment without true remorse and end it without true rejoicing, but going forward, I wonder if the understanding that confession is fundamentally predicament of the self, could help to make a difference in the way walk through the time of confession? Anyway, when it is us that sin against somebody, and cause some grievous hurts to someone, and then, when we finally recognize our wrongs and get to say sorry, we would usually still need some time before we stop feeling bad and sorry, and begin to think and feel that the relationship is once again altogether healthy and normal. Relationship needs time to heal. Is it just me that feel this way or do we share the same feelings? If so, then is the psalmist schizo? And is the church somewhat frivolous when week to week it jumps straight from confession to praise?

The answer to the question is a ‘yes’ if the psalmist and the Church are focusing on oneself. On what oneself had done, or what oneself should actually have done instead and should now be doing. But if the psalmist and the church are focusing instead on what life is for and the Life Giving God, then this jumping from confession to praise is only logically sound altogether. What do I mean? For Christians, what is purpose of life? Please shout out the Christian textbook answer, “to worship God”. Friends, David’s switching from confession to praise tells us that what we have just declared is not just a - quote and unquote - textbook answer. What is life for? To worship God, and, categorically so. Therefore, as and when we have breathe, what do we do? Worship God. When we sin, and when God’s Spirit has waked us up, and when we have confessed, what do we do? We do what life is for, worship God. David’s jump is actually not a jump. What appears to looks like a jump, is in fact being what one is supposed to be in the first place, and at every time and every place; much alike our respiratory system is simply to take in air, and our eyes to takes in what’s around whenever there’s no obstructions. Our lives, what is it for? TWG. Friends, I don’t mind us laughing at this preacher for coming up with something so lame. TWG, to worship God. TWG, for us, is not a branding, not a projection of Christian image, and definitely should not or no longer be textbook answers, but simply us. TWG. We, TWG. If we hold to an alternative definition, countercheck your version with above.

To have a heart true to God, and in turn live out the true purpose of life. I think this is what King David is telling us through the psalm; after he had learned it the hard way. May God help us to be wiser than King David, that we will be people who always long for a clean heart, always depending on his grace, always seeking to give him praise.

Psalm 51 (Listen)

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51:1   Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
  according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
  For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
  Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
  so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
  Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
  Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
  Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10   Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
11   Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12   Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13   Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14   Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15   O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16   For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17   The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18   Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19   then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

(ESV)