PPP: Psalm 51

(Reflection after the jump!)

1For the leader. A psalm of David,2when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

I

3Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love;
in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions.
4Thoroughly wash away my guilt;
and from my sin cleanse me.
5For I know my transgressions;
my sin is always before me.
6Against you, you alone have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your eyes
So that you are just in your word,
and without reproach in your judgment.
7Behold, I was born in guilt,
in sin my mother conceived me.
8Behold, you desire true sincerity;
and secretly you teach me wisdom.
9Cleanse me with hyssop,* that I may be pure;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
10You will let me hear gladness and joy;
the bones you have crushed will rejoice.

II

11Turn away your face from my sins;
blot out all my iniquities.
12A clean heart create for me, God;
renew within me a steadfast spirit.
13Do not drive me from before your face,
nor take from me your holy spirit.
14Restore to me the gladness of your salvation;
uphold me with a willing spirit.
15I will teach the wicked your ways,
that sinners may return to you.
16Rescue me from violent bloodshed, God, my saving God,
and my tongue will sing joyfully of your justice.
17Lord, you will open my lips;
and my mouth will proclaim your praise.
18For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it;
a burnt offering you would not accept.
19My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.

III

20Treat Zion kindly according to your good will;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.
21Then you will desire the sacrifices of the just,
burnt offering and whole offerings;
then they will offer up young bulls on your altar.


It's astonishing that the Psalmist remarks that God does not want sacrifice. Is that not what he deserves? Yes indeed! However, what the Psalmist refers to is the outward ritual sacrifices not inward. Brothers and sisters, how often do we walk around and outwardly give lip service to God, but we keep our hearts far from him? We may strive to keep shiny facades, but if the cleanliness does not extend inwardly, it doesn't matter. Sooner or later, the facade cracks. 

God wants the sacrifice of a contrite and humbled heart. God cares for inward sincerity. God sees in secret. Therefore, brothers and sisters, as we reach the halfway point of Lent, seek the His love and mercy as you pray this great lament, the most well known of the Penitential Psalms. May He bless you richly with what you desire. Know that He hears you and that His mercy is always available. And then, your shiny facade won't just be a facade, it would be the natural expression of your interior life.

God bless!