Text: Psalm 51
Proposition: Whatever distorts or replaces the truth of God ruins us, it is like a place of destruction and mercy is where I need to be.
Introduction: Ruins are fascinating places, whether they are the ruins of an Inca city up on the tops of mountains like Machu Picchu or the slumping logs of abandoned cabins. Ruins are common, a regular experience even, like when you spill mustard on a white shirt, ink in a shirt pocket or scratches on the lenses of your glasses. They happen every day, they can’t be touched up, washed out or covered over. We all have stories about things that were ruined, like the day my daughter saw that I had just replaced the linoleum on our kitchen floor so she tiptoed across the floor, in her ice skates, the white ones with the sharp little picks on them. That’s funny, now. Ruin happens, but what happens when ruin isn’t on things but on your soul. It’s possible to ruin your heart and sometimes, many times, it’s not you who spilled the first stains upon it. When a soul or a life is ruined how can you fix it, where do you begin? This morning we are going to look at a great king, a godly man, a national hero who ruined the lives of people close to him and brought ruin to his own soul as well. Hopefully what we see by this account is that though there is no way to go back and undo the past there is a way to leave ruin. Turn with me to Psalm 51.
I. The Only Way To Leave Ruin is to Get Up and Move To Mercy.
Ruin in our souls and minds is like a place we live in every day. It has the wall paper of what we did on it, it has broken records that endlessly say the same thing, it has a locked door that I can’t find the key to. Ruin can be a place in my soul where yesterday never moves the calendar page to today. In David’s case ruin had happened about ten months earlier, he had allowed pride to become the door through which temptation came. He took another man’s wife. Bathsheba became pregnant and David tried to cover his sin by pretending it was her husband’s child. When that didn’t work David had her husband killed. So God sends Nathan the prophet to confront David and it overwhelms him, the charade is over, he’s been found out. For ten long months he had lived a lie and his soul was in ruins because of it. But now it was time leave this place of ruin.
So how do you do that, how do you leave ruin? It begins by recognizing that ruin is a place, a very real place inside your mind and inside your heart, yet it is a place you can leave. IT IS NOT WHO YOU ARE. But if you leave it where will you go? If you don’t have ruin what will you have, ruin has become familiar, it’s painful places are like home. There is only one other place outside of ruin that you can live, it’s a place that is called Mercy. Look at what David says in Psalm 51, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” The thing is, mercy is not just for people with souls in ruin, it is the place all people are meant to live in, otherwise we remain in lesser degrees of ruin yet still outside of Mercy. Let me describe Mercy for you. In Romans 8:1 it’s described as a place of No Condemnation, from God, others or yourself. The Psalms are full of descriptions about Mercy, it’s the place where we are able to trust again and for the wounded that is no small thing. It is a place of immense safety, higher than the heavens, enduring forever. If you can’t get enough of Mercy read Psalm 136, it just says the name of the place of the place again and again. If that weren’t enough God has Moses make a large box called the Arc of the Covenant. On its lid He has Moses make two solid gold angels that kneel, facing each other, their eyes looking downwards to what is between them, inside the box. That space between the angels is called the mercy seat, it’s where blood was to be sprinkled, blood that would cover over sin. It pointed to the Great Mercy Seat, the cross of Christ that one day would take away the sin that ruins the soul. Mercy is a place where there is great abundance of forgiveness, where our transgressions are blotted out, where no record exists of our sin. In Mercy we are washed thoroughly from our iniquity. Remember how we talked earlier about the relationship between transgression, sin and iniquity, three words that sound like the same thing yet aren’t. Transgression is like the rebellion in us, sin is what we specifically did in that rebellion and iniquity is the guilt that I now experience because of transgression and sin. Having your soul washed of iniquity is having guilt washed out of your soul. This is what that place of Mercy is like, but you can’t live in ruin and have the peace of Mercy, you have to get up and leave one, enter the other and then live in this new land. Let me tell you how that can happen.
II. When Change is Impossible, Then It’s Not I But Christ Who Does It.
David says, “For I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is always before me.” He knows the rebellion that lies within him. It’s a rebellion that says, ‘No one is going to tell me what to do’, it says, ‘I got hurt once but never again’, ‘I’m doing this my way’. David acknowledges that line of thinking to God, he agrees with God about the path of destruction it has led him on. “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done this evil in Your sight--That You may be found just when You speak and blameless when You judge.” If you kick a dog you not only do harm to the dog but you have wronged the person who owns that dog. The Lord is the owner of all, the Creator of all. In a very real sense He is the One who has been most trespassed against. What this is saying is that mercy begins with God, after Him it then has opportunity to come from those you have wronged. It has to be this way because unless God’s mercy first comes upon us there is no deep lasting change. What we offer to the people we have hurt is the desire to reform ourselves, what God offers is a transformed self. David sees the extent of sin in himself, it’s why it’s impossible to change simply by reform, it needs transform. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.” The sin nature we are all born with invades our will, intellect and emotion and it makes us so committed to self that anything that moves against that is a threat. So we experience the sin of ourselves and the sin of others and we interpret that as fact, reality and truth. We believe ourselves to be useless, stupid, different, awkward, slow, unwanted. Those distortions are lies, it’s why God desires truth in the inward parts of us. That’s the transforming work of Mercy. Wisdom is the seeing of that truth and the applying of that understanding or knowledge. When I leave the land of ruin, over which I am king and I get up and go to the land of Mercy I agree that I am no longer king in this new land, the king here is Jesus Christ. The King of Mercy grants me forgiveness and acceptance and love and He transforms me so that now I look like Him more and more very day. The wonder of mercy is that it’s not I who changes me, it’s Christ who changes me from the inside out and I welcome that change with all my soul!
III. Mercy Is Not Only the Receiving of Forgiveness, It Experiences It Too.
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice.” Hyssop is a small leafy plant, it has medicinal properties and was used in many ceremonial cleansings. Hyssop was used to paint the blood on the door posts and lintels on the night of Passover. It was used in the ceremony to cleanse lepers. What David is asking God to do is to take away the ruin of sin from his soul, to cleanse him in such a way that he would know he’s been purged of ruin, to know he is clean before the King of Mercy, pure as mountain top snow. To have that happen in him the sign would be that he could hear joy and gladness in his soul again. Mercy is not only the receiving of forgiveness as wonderful as that is, it is also the experiencing of forgiveness, it’s what the soul that has lived in ruin longs for the most. Let me detail for you what that experience of mercy is like.
Vs 9. “Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities.” … Guilt free!
Vs 10 “ Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”… A newly created clean heart and a spirit that is steady with God.
Vs 11 “Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”… A harmony of relationship with God the Father and my Lord Jesus in the empowering love of the Holy Spirit.
Vs12 “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” Restored joy, assurance of eternity with Him, He is generous in mercy.
Here’s the first step towards the land of mercy, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart--These, O God, You will not despise.” It’s the same idea that Jesus had in mind when He said, “Come unto Me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” That rest or peace is what ruin has denied you, it’s what mercy promises you. In Titus 3:5 we have these promises, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit”. It’s all because of God’s Mercy!