Today is Ash Wednesday…the beginning of the season of Lent. It is a time for reflection and atonement of our sins. A time for fasting and abstinence, penance and sacrifice, looking to Christ as our example. His was the ultimate sacrifice and so, as we begin season of Lent, let’s read Psalm 51.
The historical background for Psalm 51 is found in 2 Samuel 11-12. King David was at home in Jerusalem while his armies are battling the Ammonites. He observes Bathsheba, the wife of one of his military generals, bathing on her rooftop. He sends for her, has intercourse with her, and then conspires to have her husband, Uriah, killed in battle. God sends the prophet, Nathan, who bravely confronts the King with the implications of what he has done. David’s only words are, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam 12:13). Psalm 51 is his confession and contrition…it is my favorite of the Psalms and the one I turn to most often.
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.
Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then you will delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
I hope this prayer will be a blessing to you as it is to me. As we begin our sacrifices for Lent, may we remember David’s words, knowing that a contrite heart is what God desires above all else. And then, when we do offer our sacrifices, may we dig a little deeper and make them true sacrifices to the one who sacrificed all for us.
God bless you.