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Against You and For Me

March 14th 2012 by Joel Schultz

All sin is ultimately against God. What God wants from you is that you recognize all of your sins as against Him. But what He finally wants is to forgive every one of your sins. Read or listen to find out more...

Lenten Midweek 3 - "Against You and For Me" - Psalm 51 - March 14, 2012

King David had it made. A little adultery, some deception and lies, murder at the hands of the enemy troops and Uriah was dead and he had Bathsheba. The whole thing was done very quietly and discreetly. There were perhaps many in the kingdom who thought the king was doing a great kindness to Bathsheba in taking care of this dead soldier’s widow.

But God knew the truth. God knew that David’s unbelief had driven him to lust, adultery, and murder. So God sent David a prophet to preach the Law to him. Nathan came to David with a story about two men. The one was rich beyond compare with flocks and herds and everything he needed and desired. The other was a poor man who had only one lamb which had been raised in his house like one of his children.

One day a traveler came and stayed at the house of the rich man. As was the custom, food and shelter was given at the time to any who came to your door. However, instead of taking a lamb from his flocks, he took the lamb belonging to the poor man to provide a meal for the traveler. When David heard this great misdeed that the man had done, he declared the man guilty, and condemned him to death. Nathan then spoke some of the most pointed Law in all the Scriptures: “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). David’s response gets to the heart of the matter: “I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Samuel 12:13).

But wait a minute. I thought David had sinned against Uriah. I thought he had sinned against Bathsheba and against the people of His kingdom. What did this have to do with God? This gets at the heart of Psalm 51. David wrote Psalm 51 after Nathan confronted him with his sin and he had received God’s forgiveness. Verse 4 rings as true now as it did then: “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (v. 4).

David in Psalm 51 shows us that any sin is fundamentally sin against God (v. 4) because sin breaks His commandments. And the even deeper truth of sin is that all sin finally is against the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods.” Our sin – any sin – usurps God’s position and authority in our lives. Sin turns us away from the true God as we seek the gods of self, power, position, and the like. And so God has every right to condemn us to eternal death for the sins we have done against Him.

In the face of our sin, what then do we do? How do we deal with sin and the enormity of God’s wrath and punishment? Well, David recognizes that we must plead to God. He knows that sacrifices and offerings won’t turn away God’s wrath but rather a humble, sorrowful, contrite heart. He declares it in our Psalm: “For You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; You will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:16–17).

David comes before God with a heart and life broken by his sins against the Lord and confesses them. And David knows that forgiveness comes from God – a God who is his salvation – a God who creates a clean heart and a right spirit – a God who restores the joy of His salvation.

This becomes the daily life of a Christian – to confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness for Jesus’ sake. It is what we confess in the Catechism when we ask: What is confession? And we answer with Martin Luther: Confession has two parts. First that we confess our sins and second that we receive absolution, that is forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.

Notice that it didn’t say, sin, singular or even generally speaking, but sins, plural. Now God does call on us to confess our sinful nature. But what this catechism section is getting at is that when I confess my sins, what specifically I have done that troubles me, that leads me to understand my sinful nature.

So what this is talking about is that God wants us to actually confess our sins. In other words, God wants us to know and acknowledge with our lips what we have done wrong, and that we deserve to be punished for it. But then God desires that we ask for His mercy and forgiveness, which He gladly and willingly gives.

It is like when your children do something wrong. Part of the discipline of teaching children right from wrong is getting them to recognize that what they did was wrong. So you ask them to tell you what they did wrong. Now the parent knows perfectly well what the child did wrong. This isn’t for the parents’ benefit; it’s for the child’s benefit.

It is the same way with confession. God desires us to confess our sins not for Him (He knows perfectly well what you did and will continue to do) but for us. God wants us to see ourselves as a sinners. Why? Because He wants us to know that we need Jesus. For Jesus came to seek and save the lost, the sinner, the contrite, the messed up, the ones who know that they live and move only by God’s everlasting mercy. That is why God wants us to confess our sins.

But even that is not finally the point. God wants us to confess our sins and see ourselves as sinners, true. But He wants that so that He can forgive our sins. That’s God’s work. God’s proper work is to forgive, to love, to show mercy and pity. God wants to forgive your sins. So David prays: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51:12). What a great prayer! God, give me back the joy of living in You.

God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, comes to restore your joy, to blot out your sins, and to save you. He comes to open your lips to sing His praise. He comes to give you a new life in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. In other words, God comes to you to forgive you. He comes to absolve you and free you from your guilt of sin. If God can forgive David, He can forgive you. So we can pray and sing with the whole Church on earth and in heaven the words from Psalm 30: “Sing praises to the LORD, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. . . . O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever!” (Psalm 30:4–5, 12b). Amen.

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