By Stephen W. Hiemstra
Trinity Presbyterian Church, Herndon, Virginia, February 18, 2015 (translated from Spanish)
Good morning. Welcome to the Luncheon for the Soul here at Trinity Presbyterian Church.
My name is Stephen Hiemstra. I am a volunteer from Centreville Presbyterian Church.
Today is Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. Lent begins 40 days before Easter. Traditionally, Lent is a time of reflection over our sins because Christ died for our sins on the cross. For this reason, our text today, Psalm 51, focuses on this theme.
Scripture lesson: Psalm 51
Almighty father, beloved Son, Spirit of Truth. Thank you for the peace and healing that we experience in your presence. We are grateful for the life, death, and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, who made this reality possible. Open our eyes to your presence here among us this morning. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.
Who is God to you? (2X)
A few years back I had a supervisor who needed to tell me bad news. He did not want me to continue working on my favorite project. He told me one, two, three times.. Each time I only heard good news. It was necessary for he to tell me–NO, NO, NO–another time rather directly because my ears only heard the opposite–YES, YES, YES.
Many times we hear and see only the things we want to. The challenge is that we need to change the focus of our activities to grow, to transform our lives.
Who is God to you? (2X)
In the story of Moses and the burning bush, God told Moses exactly the pain that he felt in his own heart. What did he say? God told him: return to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to: “Let my people go” (2X) (Exodus 5:1). Why? Because Moses wanted to rescue his people from slavery to the Egyptians but he was afraid even to say the words. For this reason, God sent Moses back to Egypt to accomplish the very thing in his own heart. And to help Moses deal with his fear, God promised: “I will be with you!” (2X) (Exodus 3:12)
Aren’t we just like Moses? Don’t we wait until God tells us and until then we are too afraid to act?
What challenge in your heart is God reminding you to face and solve? (2X)
Perhaps your challenge is that you can hear, but you cannot see (2X). Perhaps, your concept of God is too small. This is a common challenge, as we find today in the story of King David.
David had a problem. He slept with a married woman, Bathsheba. When she became pregnant, he murdered her husband, Uriah the Hittite, by sending him to the front lines in the battle with the Amonites (2 Sam 11:5). In his own words, David: deserved death (2 Sam 12:5). Therefore, David’s problem was that his sin was intentional and he could not obtain forgiveness under the law of Moses. What could he do? (2X)
Before Christ, the penalty for sin under the law was death. A limited pardon was possible through offering a sacrifice. But animal sacrifices only covered unintentional sin. David correctly understood that his sin would deserve death. Someone needed to die. The prophet Nathan offered David a pardon, but he also prophesied that David and Bathsheba’s first son would die (2 Sam 12:14). In this way, the law would be satisfied (2X).
But, David was not satisfied that the law properly represented the compassion and love of God. He prayed to the Lord for his son for 7 days (2 Sam 12:18). Psalm 51 summarizes David’s prayer to God and his argument with God for why the law was not consistent God’s own compassion and love.
Let’s read a few verses from Psalm 51 again. Listen en them for the arguments that David makes with God.
Verse 1: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51:1 ESV)
In other words, forgive me Lord for reason of your love and goodness. Note that he does not say for reason of my love and my goodness. Compassion is an attribute of God that arises directly from his identity. Which attributes of God are most important to you? (2X)
Verse 3: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51:3 ESV)
David admits his sins. Forgiveness always requires confession (2X).
Verse 4: “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.” (Psalm 51:4 ESV)
Uriah the Hittite was murdered, but the murder transgressed the law of God. Clearly, we see that all of our relationships include 3 persons–us, our neighbor and God (2X). There is always 3 parties in each one of our conversations.
Verse 5: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5 ESV)
In other words, I have always been a sinner. Sin is an attribute of human beings. Forgiveness requires divine intervention. We can never be good like God. For this reason, every human being requires the sacrifice and forgiveness (expiation) of Jesus Christ.
It is interesting that in this prayer of David, some thousand years before Christ, we see Christ’s work and justification.
Who is God to you? (2X)
In these weeks before Easter, reflect on the story of David and his use of God’s attributes in Psalm 51. Because we are created in the image of God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, these attributes can also become our attributes.
Who is God to you?
Heavenly father. Thank you for the work of Christ. Purify us every day. Never leave us alone; do not take your Holy Spirit from us. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.