Psalm 51

This item was first published in CookingtheGoodBook.org

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A Reflection

King David – the classic rags-to-riches story! The good-looking young shepherd lad turned giant-slayer, courageous army leader and finally king. The ancestor of Jesus and writer of some of the most famous words in the world. Even God gives him a good reference. “God testified concerning him: “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart.” (Acts 13:22)

What an accolade! What a great example Davis is for us. What a role-model. What a champion of the faith. What a lying, thieving, adulterous, murdering #?%&^$£”$*!

This man after God’s own heart, who wrote ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing’, broke six out of the Ten Commandments in a sordid demonstration of selfish stupidity. The whole wretched tale is set down in 2 Samuel 11:1 – 12:7a. Have a read, it’s a corker! You can almost hear the theme tune of Eastenders – “Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!” Duff duff duff-duff-duff-duff …

Seriously, though. We read the story and shake our heads as one bad decision follows another and another until David has descended so far that he’s rivalling Machiavelli for scheming treachery. How did it get so bad? ‘Man after God’s own heart’? God might want to re-think that reference.

However, the uncomfortable truth is that there, but for the grace of God, go I. We’re none of us so different from David and all have the potential to sink far beyond what we would imagine. Sure, I’ve never had anyone’s husband murdered, but I’ve done plenty that I’d not want made public or recording for ever on the pages of … oh I don’t know, say … the most widely-read book of all time.

We all have stuff that we keep quiet about. Maybe not murder, but there’s no sizing of sin – no big sin and little sin. One size truly does fit all. It’s not what I’ve done wrong, it’s that I’ve done wrong. God’s standard is perfection and we none of us make the grade.

Sin breaks things, and often the damage is more in the sinner than the sinned against. Every wrong leaves a little wound, often unacknowledged, but still there – lurking, waiting.

Some of us are more obviously broken than others. Some of us hide it better, particularly we hide it from ourselves. We think ‘If I don’t admit it to myself then I didn’t do it and I don’t have to cope with the guilt’. And that will work. For a while.

David took that approach initially, hiding one sin with another and another – all the while pretending to be the caring king. But when he was finally confronted with what he had done David’s false wall of righteousness collapsed into rubble.  In his place I would have been quite relieved. The burden of such guilt and deception must have been oppressive.

David confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord”. Against the Lord? What about Uriah? What about Bathsheba? Yes, against them, but David realised that what he had done had consequences far beyond the loss of one soldier and the living quarters of his wife. This was eternal stuff. Sin leaves a stain. Sin breaks people. It broke David.

David confessed, Nathan said, “The Lord has taken away your sin”, and Uriah popped back to life. No. That broken-ness was still there. The saying sorry was important for David, but it didn’t change anything for Uriah. In this world, we live with the consequences.

If I break a meringue, I can gather up the pieces and fit them back in place, and it looks fine. And it’s still broken.

That’s how we are. We are broken people. We fit our broken bits in place and it looks fine. We have to function and live life. But behind the façade we are all broken. We are all stained. And there’s nothing we can do to fix it.

So that’s the bad news.

Is there any good news?

Following his encounter with Nathan, David wrote Psalm 51. Here is part of it:

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you. (Ps 51:17, 10-13)

The wonderful, awesomely brilliant good news is that God loves broken people. God mends broken people. God uses broken people. Which is good, since we’re the only ones available.

“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.” God uses loved, mended, broken people to bring broken people to be mended and loved.

It’s like Eton Mess – crushed fruit, broken meringue, bashed-up cream – yet so good. Our broken-ness, in God, is redeemed.

Your Turn

In the New Testament, God said to Paul: “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9 (The Message)

Where is your weakness, your broken place?

An Activity

This Bible study is about broken-ness, and to help us think about that we will make some Eton Mess.

Eton Mess

Serves 4 – 6

  • 300 ml double (whipping) cream (1 ¼ cups / 10floz)
  • 4 meringue nests or  50g  meringues (2 oz)
  • 250 g fresh or frozen raspberries, strawberries or forest fruits (8 oz)
  • Springs of mint and sugar to garnish (optional)
  • Fan wafers (optional)
  1. Whip the cream stiffly with electric or hand whisk.
  2. Crush the meringues roughly and fold in.
  3. Reserve a few fruits for garnish and stir the rest in.
  4. Roughly break up some of the fruit so that it colours the mixture and swirl it through.
  5. If you have serving glasses with flat rims, dip the rims in a little water and then sugar to make a pretty embellishment.
  6. Spoon the mess into the glasses and garnish with the reserved fruit and mint leaves.
  7. Add a couple of wafers to the glasses just before you serve.

If the fruit was frozen, let the dessert rest while you have a cup of tea and listen to the reflection. You can do the mindfulness colouring as a meditation if you like.

A Prayer

Merciful and Loving Father,

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.

Amen

 

Bible Text

Psalm 51 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised

Prayer for Cleansing and Pardon

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

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 alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgement.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my 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 crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt-offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then you will delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt-offerings and whole burnt-offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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