Caught! - Psalm 51
This is a sermon by Viv Whitton from the evening service on 26th August 2012.
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Psalm 51 (2 Samuel 12:1 -15)
and Private morality – does it matter?
In my lifetime 2 American
presidents, have been disgraced, lying to protect their reputation. The heir
to the British throne has publicly admitted adultery, and many of our politicians
have been caught out fiddling expenses and cheating on their spouses.
is it about power and influence that makes such people think that they are
above the law?
That morals don't matter and anyway that they
won't get caught out?
That they can bend the rules to suit themselves?
they have a right to keep their positions of power and influence no matter
what they have done.
Our story tonight shows that it's nothing
new, today the difference is simply the immediacy of the widespread publicity
that is generated by any indiscretions. More than ever it's image that counts.
fascinated and somewhat disgusted by the latest revelations about Prince Harry
because there's lot's of blame for the security men who allowed the incriminating
photos to be taken,and hardly a whisper of criticism of Harry's actual behaviour
as role model for our young people.
Does it matter – of
course it matters, David's life story shows both that these things do matter
to God and that there are practical consequences of sinful behaviour which
cannot be ignored.
And these principles hold good for all of
Back in 1000 BC David was the most successful king Israel
has ever had. From the time when as an adolescent he trusted God and killed
the giant Philistine warrior Goliath he had demonstrated all the right attitudes
of loyalty, zeal and faithfulness one might expect to see in a God anointed
On assuming the throne he had unified the kingdom, dealt
with Israel's enemies and set up his capital in Jerusalem.
a man 'after God's own heart'
Why oh why then this affair with
Bathsheba? - He already had his pick of beautiful women, several wives, why
risk everything for another?
Some have said that he should have
been at the front with the troops not back in Jerusalem, but the art of
good leadership is appropriate delegation, and David had a first class army
commander in chief of the in general Joab. Others say that Bathsheba shouldn't
have been displaying her wares in full view of the palace windows and that
David shouldn't have been looking anyway.
Maybe - my theory is
simply that David had become just that bit complacent – all major issues
were under control and he was off his guard having a well earned break. It
is just at such times, when we least expect it, that temptation strikes, then
we rationalise and give way, so compromising our integrity. You might liken
it to middle aged spread – that time when TnT becomes FnF, you're established
at home, busy at work, you've done your bit at church – your reputation
is good, and bingo your'e at your most vulnerable.
I hope David
had twinges of conscience – but there is no evidence to support it and
life in Jerusalem went on pretty much as normal – Bathsheba. pregnant,
moved into the palace, and court life continued - but you can be sure that
David's inner circle will have known what was going on even without Facebook
and the Sun newspaper, they will have known that David had engineered the death
of Bathsheba's husband Uriah, and their respect for him and his integrity will
Then the prophet Nathan stepped in - he is the
real hero of our story tonight – because it is never easy to challenge
the established order. God was prompting and Nathan was obediant, not that
that necessarily made it any easier - David had already shown himself to be
ruthless in getting his own way, if Nathan was careless he could easily end
up in the same as Uriah.
The way he managed the situation is
masterful, by getting the king to publicly condemn himself out of his own mouth
he brought David down to earth with a bang.
If only we had Christian
leaders like him today prepared to stand against the tide of compromise! To
fearlessly take a lead in our national life. Full marks for the Roman Catholic
church in Scotland and its stand today on marriage.
For the record
David still had to bear the consequences of his actions – both in his
personal life and through ongoing political strife - the course of history
was changed by his adultery.
Our theme tonight however is not
about the practical consequences of David's behaviour, but how it affected
his character and attitudes, the sort of person he became.
practice this incident actually marked a profound change for the better in
David, Nathan's challenge became a Eureka moment when the scales dropped from
his eyes and he saw himself and his walk with God in an entirely new light
– Psalm 51 explains all this for our benefit from 6 perspectives:
He recognised something of the nature of sin:
That whatever his doings, inside he was rotten to core, that sin is endemic
(v5) expresses it in poetic language – that from childhood there is a
bias to sinful action and reaction which for David peaked at this incident.
And that when we see our sin for what it is, it torments and taunts us (he
said v3 my sin is ever before me) rendering us impotent. Satan is not called
the accuser for nothing. Many of us have wounds from the past of which Satan
delights to remind us about at key moments. The message of this psalm is not
that they can be forgotten but that they can be forgiven, we can in Jesus
know complete cleansing.
2. V4 He recognised
that the primary (and ongoing) problem was that he had wronged God –
that you can't keep in relationship with God when you've wronged your fellows
– and God doesn't forget – Uriah may have been yesterday's news
at court but not with God. To put it bluntly God was mighty upset that his
chosen king would behave like this. Justice demands judgement - which must
be the least popular aspect of God's character. Many folk will subscribe to
the concept of the love of God but baulk at judgement. David now recognised
that God's judgement was necessary and entirely fair
He recognised that external show doesn't matter. How often do we worry more
about how others think of us rather than what God thinks. How easy it is to
focus on the externals when v6 makes it crystal clear that God delights
in truth and wisdom in the inner heart. God is not impressed by meaningless
ritual – then through the sacrificial system or now in our Sunday attendance
for it's own sake, v16 makes it clear that David had come to realise that external
sacrifices made without inner change were an absolute waste of time.
He recognised the personal consequences of sin – the grave risks he was
taking. Our world has gone health and safety mad, we have to do risk assessments
for the the most mundane of activities. Within a few weeks there will no doubt
be one of those ridiculous no news stories about schools banning conkers or
similar. In my view God has created Conker trees for small boys to collect
and cause mischief. Be that as it may David did a fast personal risk assessment
which showed the 3 things he would lose:
The presence of God. God does not fellowship with sinners, David had known
first hand the privilege of communion with God the Almighty, the most precious
'pearl' imaginable v11a
for service – David had known the power and strength of the Holy Spirit,
he had seen what happened when his predecessor Saul had disregarded God's command,
now he risked losing it himself – and he had the sense to know that if
he attempted to lead Israel in his own strength he would fail. Friends without
the anointing touch of God's Holy Spirit all our service for the Lord is pointless,
we cannot achieve anything of value without Him however erudite our teaching,
however hard we work v11b
3. The Joy of salvation
v12, some people think that being a Christian is all about doom and gloom,
and we do have to admit that backslidden Christians often are pretty miserable,
but those who are walking with God know a 'joy unspeakable'.
David the joy had gone.
5. Recognised that
he could do nothing but ask for mercy The psalm starts in v1 with this great
plea for mercy. His only hope was in the love and mercy of God – friends
it still is, and if we have any doubts about the willingness of God to extend
his mercy to us it's been demonstrated fully in Jesus.
Recognised need for complete inner cleansing, there's a lovely old word used
in many versions which stresses the point that David is asking of God to 'purge
me' – the sort of cleansing David talks about in v7 and10 isn't a superficial
wash down it's a total purge or deep clean. It's a bit like the situation in
a hospital when some virulent new bug attacks and normal cleaning isn't enough
to beat the infection, so they close wards, bring in a hit squad and sterilise
every nook and cranny - that's the sort of deep cleansing David knew he needed
and so do we!
So if God is merciful and we can know inner cleansing,
what do we do then?, what will really please God?
promises to share his new found knowledge v13, and praise God but crucially
he has realised what God really wants of us, what really pleases Him, is spelled
out in v17 'a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart'.
does that mean in practice?? well it is very simple, so simple that some of
you will dismiss it out of hand as simplistic or beneath you:
is a Four letter word which describes an unbroken heart, a word we use frequently
from childhood onwards, that word is 'M-I-N-E mine' it describes the heart
that has me at the centre. The broken heart instead has the cross of Christ
at the centre. Then every action, every thought is subject to the scrutiny
of Christ – we live in openness with brothers and sisters, and we will
have the sensitivity to recognise when his Holy Spirit is grieved, when repentance
and restitution is required. It's called 'The way of the cross'. It isn't a
popular concept, it doesn't make headlines, and in many ways is very hard to
But you do recognise it when you've been with someone who
is living that way – they have something of Jesus about them and it is
a privilege to be with them. They are often the people whom you least expect,
they may well have been through major trauma, they know their saviour well.
that is the way I want to live – will you join me?
God give us broken hearts!
Perhaps as we approach the communion
table we might remember Paul's wonderful words to the Galatian Christians:
have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who
lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son
of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
is not looking for the powerful and the successful and those who are able communicators.
Instead, He looks for the person who has a broken and contrite spirit. Those
individuals, whether they are extroverted or introverted, humorous or melancholy,
are regularly in the quiet place bowing before God’s Word with a trembling
heart and seeking fresh enabling from the Holy Spirit. They have been brought
to see that they did not make themselves, nor did they save themselves. They
are totally dependent upon God’s grace” (Isa. 66:2).
“In order to break our wills to His, God brings us
to the foot of the Cross and there shows us what real brokenness is. We see
those wounded Hands and Feet, that Face of Love crowned with thorns and we
see the complete brokenness of the One who said, “Not My will, but Thine
be done,” as He drank the bitter cup of our sin to its dregs. So the
way to be broken is to look on Him and to realize it was our sin which nailed
Him there. Then as we see the love and brokenness of the God who died in our
place, our hearts will become strangely melted and we will want to be broken
for Him and we shall pray, “Oh, to be saved from myself, dear Lord, Oh,
to be lost in Thee, Oh, that it might be no more I, But Christ that lives in
me.” And some of us have found that there is no prayer that God is so
swift to answer as the prayer that He might break us.”
'The Calvary Road' see especially chapter 1 on brokenness,
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