Friday, June 01, 2007

Psalm 51: Nathan's Legacy

No shouts
No pointed fingers
No flashing eyes
No red-faced accusations
No inflammatory vocabulary
No bulging forehead veins
No derogatory names
No scary threats
No arrows of guilt
No cornering logic
No "how dare you?"
No "I can't believe you would!"
No "what were you thinking?"
No public confrontation
No published rebuke
No arrest warrant
No handcuffs
No leading away to be charged
No list of crimes
No human tricks
No trying to do God's work
No hope of forcing a turning
No confidence in the power of man
No human manipulation
No political posturing,
No, none of these.
Just a humble prophet
Telling a simple story
A sinner with a sinner
Not standing above
Alongside, together
Wanting to be an instrument
Hoping to assist a blind man to see
But no trust in self
Speaking calmly
Speaking simply
And letting God
Do through a familiar example
Painted with plain words
What only God can do
Crack the hard-shell heart
Of a wayward man
And make it feel again
See again
Cry again
Pray again
Plead again
Hope again
Love again
Commit again
To a new and better way.
Not the legacy of
"I'm better than you"
But the harvest
Of a man of grace
Giving grace
To a man
Who doesn't deserve grace
But won't live again
Without it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Psalm 51: What in the World is Hyssop?

It seems such a strange request from a man who's in the throes of grief over sins that he can't deny and can't take back. I would propose to you that it was exactly the right thing for David and each of us to pray whenever we're confronted with our sins. But when you first read the word in Psalm 51, it does make you wonder, "What in the world is hyssop?"

Researching the plant won't give you much help. It produces a delicate white flower and is thought by some to have medicinal qualities. But this is one time that won't help you. What you really need to know, in order to understand the grieving in David's request, is Old Testament history. David's mind goes to that original Passover, when the firstborn of Egypt were stricken dead and the houses of Israel that had blood on the door frames, were passed over. What does this have to do with David's request? Here it is. God directed the Israelites to take a branch of hyssop and dip it in blood and paint the door frames with it.

Here is David, grieved by his sin and bowed before God between the "already" and the "not yet." Already the blood of the first Passover had protected Israel from death and made their exodus to freedom and the land of promise possible. Already the Mosaic system of constant animal-blood sacrifices covered the sins of God's people. But the promised Lamb had not yet come. Not yet had his blood been spilt, once and for all, in the final moment of sacrifice that forever ended any need for further sacrifice.

So, reflecting on the past, David's words actually reach into the future. They form the ultimate backdrop to the future prayer. For embedded in this cry for cleansing
that remembers the spilt blood of deliverance (Passover) and the shed blood of forgiveness (Mosaic sacrifices), David cries for the one thing that anyone who acknowledges his sin will cry for; cleansing.

When your sin really does become ugly to you, when it produces pain in your heart and sickness in your stomach, you celebrate forgiveness, but you want something more. You want to be clean. You long to be once and for all purified from all sin whatsoever. You want your sin to be once and for all washed away. You want to be free of every dark residue of sinful thought, desire, word, or deed.

Yes, you'll love the fact that you can stand before God dirty and unafraid because of his comprehensive and freely given grace. You'll love the fact that his forgiveness of you has been full and complete. But you'll grow tired of needing and seeking forgiveness. You'll mourn the hold that sin has on you. You'll be frustrated with the way that sin seems to infect everything you do. And you'll begin to plead for what the blood of Jesus alone is able to do; wash away your sin! In this moment of need and helplessness, you'll cry, "Purge me with hyssop Lord, dip the branch of your grace into the blood of your Son and cleanse me once and for all!"

David never sang this great old hymn, but maybe he'll hear it some day and remember the tear-stained prayer that followed the visit of Nathan. Maybe someday he'll celebrate final cleansing with a chorus of the ages singing:

"What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
O' precious is the flow,
That makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus."

Monday, May 28, 2007

Psalm 51: Moral Vulnerability

Beauty compelling
Tugging, seducing
Wanting and craving
Weakened resolve
Lingering, staring
Moral transgression
Look of desire
Selfish rebellion
Act of betrayal
Weakened resolve.
Long consideration
Dreams of possessing
Evil hoping
Enemy lurking
Heart now racing
Battle raging
Nervous thinking
Flesh growing weaker
Drawn to the darkness
Weakened resolve.
Wrong seen as righteous
Plausible lies
Twisted pretenses
Self swindling
Guilty logic
Deluded perspectives
Weakened resolve.
Deciding and choosing
Date and location
Concrete plans
Words of acceptance
Verbal contract
Shared deception
Tracks covered over
Weakened resolve.
Deed now accomplished
Fleeing the scene
Dark of night
Trembling hands
Afraid of discovery
Made up stories
Weakened resolve.
Morning remorse
Hard to imagine
Fear of discovery
Rehearsed denials
Lust unweakening
Purity lost
No undoing
Weakened resolve.
Protecting secrets
Telling lies
Acting the part
Believable excuses
Internal battles
Hunger for more
Weakened resolve.
Haunted by guilt
Crushed by conviction
No more delusion
Power of truth
Weakened resolve.
Stain of iniquity
Remorse of transgression
Cries for forgiveness
Hope for mercy
Cast on compassion
Admission of guilt
Weakened resolve.
Bitter harvest
Sweet forgiveness
The grace of cleansing
Joy in acceptance
Rescuing Savior
Loving Redeemer
Patient Father
Acting in power
Sins bondage broken
No more compulsion
Freedom is given
Weakened resolve.
Confession of weakness
Tell of his mercy
Worship and service
Willing obedience
Resisting temptation
Steps of protection
Weakened resolve.
Seeking assistance
Sacrifice gladly
Witness to battle
Praise and thanksgiving
Long perseverance
Gone is deception
Weakened resolve.