Psalm 51:1-17 (NRSV)
Plea for mercy
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 judgment.
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.
Today is the first day of Lent. Christians observe Lent as a season of fasting, prayer, and repentance that lasts from now until the Saturday before Easter. During this forty days (plus Sundays), we enter into a time of consecration where we examine our hearts before God, confessing our sin, and seeking God’s forgiveness.
For some, Lent has lost its true meaning and has become the time of year when you can’t eat candy, fast food, meat, and/or watch TV. Many think that if they just “give up something” during the Lenten Season they are observing this holiest of times adequately.
Not so my friends! Whilst Lent is a time of fasting it is also a time of prayer.
In the psalm for today the writer states, “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.”
Whilst fasting and prayer are good disciplines which I wholeheartedly support, today’s psalmist says that what really touches the heart of God is a person who possesses a broken and contrite heart regarding his or her sinfulness.
Wow! That’s not too glamorous is it? In our culture we are taught to always gratify the flesh, to do what feels good, to promote ourselves and to look out for Number 1. But, today we enter into a season where we stop saying, “Look at me!” and instead we declare, “Look at God!”
This is the time in the Christian calendar when we take on the mantle of humility and get real with ourselves and with God. We allow God to uncover our sin by laying ourselves bare before The One who made us, knows us, and forgives us. As we do so, God issues us the gentle reminder that we have failed to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and we have not always loved our neighbors as ourselves.
My friends, Lent is a time of repentance and tears. It is a journey with Jesus from the mountain top of transfiguration into the “valley of the shadow of death” located on Golgotha’s hill. Lent is the time of year when we get to walk with Jesus as he carries the cross to Calvary where he willingly lays down his life, becoming atonement for our sin and reconciling us to our God.
As we cry out to God for forgiveness and as we “survey the old rugged cross,” we know that God forgives us all our sin and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
In response to God’s great loving kindness and tender mercy toward us, the psalmist says, “I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you…Open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise…”
Oh yes! This is always the appropriate response to God’s love toward us revealed through the life and death of Jesus Christ—we must share GOOD NEWS by declaring God’s praise!
Isn’t it amazing that God loves us so much that God gave Jesus upon the cross that we might be saved? Isn’t it wonderful that God daily washes us, teaches us wisdom, gives us a clean heart, fills us up with the Holy Spirit, and bequeaths to us the continual joy of God’s salvation!
Oh my friends, this GOOD NEWS must be shared with others!
As we walk through this day, let us not be ashamed to tell people why we have an ashen cross upon our foreheads. Be bold as you declare, “I am a sinner, saved by God’s grace. God loves me and God loves you too!”
I look forward to walking with you during this Lenten Season.
Is there somebody who is weighed down by their past mistakes with whom you can share GOOD NEWS today?
Loving and Forgiving God, have mercy upon me. For I have surely sinned and fallen short of your glory. I have failed to love you as I ought and I certainly haven’t loved my neighbors as much as I love myself. I am not proud of my behavior and I seek your pardon. I thank you that as soon as I opened my mouth to pray this prayer, you heard the cry of my heart and forgave me. Now, please empower and equip me to go into my spheres of influence and declare your praise! In Jesus Name, Amen.
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