Do you want to discover my worst flaws? Just ask my daughter, Lisa. She will happily tell all. For example, there was a time I behaved in a most un-preacher-like manner. It seemed fitting to include parts of King David’s written confession in Psalm 51 along with my own admission.
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1-2)
For months, I promised to put up a basketball goal behind our house. So one windy, afternoon, under my daughter’s watchful eye, I began assembling the various pieces. The directions said: first, dig a hole, second, attach the goal to the pole, then place the entire assembly into the hole. “Sounds simple enough,” I thought.
For I recognize my shameful deeds – they haunt me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. (v.3-4)
Everything went fine. The hole was dug. The assembly was attached. All I needed to do was pick up the basketball goal and place it into the hole…
Did I mention that it was extremely windy?
Just as I stood the pole upright, the wind literally ripped the entire assembly out of my hands, carrying everything several yards before crashing to the ground and smashing the backboard into several pieces.
My pastoral dignity was completely forgotten as the curses began to flow. Fortunately, we lived in an isolated area and only one person heard me! Unfortunately, that one person was my daughter and I was about to learn a hard lesson.
You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being. (v.4 & 6)
Not much was said until Sunday. During worship, I asked for prayer requests in the congregation. I sensed trouble when I noticed several youth giggling on the back row. Then my daughter raised her hand and announced in a loud voice: “I would like the church to pray for my Dad and his temper!” she said with a sly smile.
I was caught foul mouthed and red-handed. I had to tell the church how their pastor blew it. Interestingly enough, after my confession, we were able to laugh and feel better about ourselves and our relationship with God, knowing that we are human and constantly in need of forgiveness.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Oh give me back my joy again; you have broken me – now let me rejoice. (v. 7-8)
We all make mistakes. That is part of being human but part of being followers of God requires that we humbly ask for forgiveness and also are willing to forgive others.
Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. (V. 9-10)
Everyone at times has the equivalent of basketball goals ripped out of their grasp:
¨ A businessman loses his temper over a misunderstanding and insults a close friend.
¨ A wife feels betrayed over her husband’s crude comments about her in front of friends.
¨ A father angrily confronts his son’s coach during practice and curses.
In the heat of passion, tragic errors of judgment occur. The lesson of Psalm 51 is difficult but clear. We must ask for and freely offer forgiveness. Once the stain of guilt is removed, we feel better about ourselves and our relationship with God. With a clean heart, our spirit is renewed.
Then I will teach your ways to sinners, and they will return to you. You would not be pleased with sacrifices, or I would bring them. The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. (V 13,17)