The Way of the Warrior Week 16 - The Warrior's Journey®

The Way of the Warrior Week 16

Author: Nathan Werner,

. Photo by is licensed under CC By 2.0

King David was fed up with himself.  He had done heinous things, sexually molesting a married woman, and having her husband killed.  Psalm 51 is David’s plea to the Lord to help him manage his sin, his remorse, and his ‘sin-again’ cycle.  David was tired of sin’s dominion over his life and his weakness against it. David had conquered brutes like Goliath and led armies to conquer Israel’s enemies, but he was unable to manage his own sin. Instead, it managed him.  Humbly he approached the Lord for help.

David asked the Lord for things he was powerless to change.  First, David asked the Lord to pardon him. Psalm 51:1 is a court scene, with the Lord as judge.  David had been convicted and was standing before a holy God, waiting for his sentence. His crimes were capital offenses, and the death penalty was the legal standard for his malfeasance. He takes the opportunity to petition for leniency and mercy: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions” (Ps. 51:1).  He has earned justice, but he wants mercy.

But wait! The Judge is also the victim! “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (51:4).  David correctly identifies the plaintiff – God.  Others were also damaged by his choices, but the Lord is the primary victim.

David identifies his transgression – obstinate rebellion.  He knew what he did was blatantly wrong, but he wanted what he wanted, so he committed the acts of sexual molestation and murder.  His desires took control of his will. Now, he was facing his consequences and the verdict was already rendered – guilty. The sentence, from a holy God, was not in doubt, the evidence and confession already stated the obvious: “you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (51:4). Whatever the judge deems the consequences are, they will be just.

The Lord was deeply offended and hurt by David’s behavior: “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (2 Sam. 11:27).  “Displeased” means he was grieved.  The Lord has a perfect right to render justice, and it will be righteous.  David pleads for genuine relief, for the Lord to do something only God can do: “Create in me a clean heart” (Ps. 51:10).  David asks his victim, the Lord, to do an impossible work of grace in him.  David is unable to manufacture purity – only God can. David then asks for purity – he cannot ‘do’ purity.

How can a holy God dismiss horrid behaviors and then give purity to a man who has victimized him?  If I was God, David would be a pancake right now. I would be so offended by his choices and his brutal treatment of people and his cavalier attitude toward me, that I would let my righteous indignation flow like plasma into David’s veins.

Aren’t you glad the Lord isn’t like me?

David’s plea though, is genuine.  He’s not pretending, merely hoping to do better.  He’s asking for something he’s unable to do, to be, to accomplish, to…whatever. God describes himself: “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness'” (Exod. 34:6). Why isn’t David a pancake?  Because God is kind, merciful, and gracious.  Mercy – he does not give you what you have earned.  Grace – he gives you what you have not earned. God, the judge and the victim, is on the side of the perpetrator!  He’s on David’s side! He’s on your side! Is your head spinning here? Is God, a squishy, softy?

The Lord is not going to ignore David’s sin, and just give him a pass.  Instead of justice, the Lord begins a partnership, where together, David and the Lord will re-create David’s inner man, and: “renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).  “Renew” means to repair and make like new. “Let the bones that you have broken rejoice” (51:8).  In an earlier devotion we looked at this verse.  It has a shepherd theme. A lamb keeps wandering away from the goodness and protection of the shepherd, so he breaks the lamb’s front legs.  He carries the lamb, wherever he goes, and the lamb bonds with him. When the lamb’s broken bones heal, the shepherd puts the lamb down, and it never leaves the shepherd’s side again.  They bond. This was David’s desire, the close bond he had with the Lord, when the Lord carried him in love, David wants that restored. God is very safe – unlike me.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Ps. 51:12).  When David (the lamb), was close to the shepherd (God), he had joy.  He was protected, loved, and treated with thoughtfulness and tenderness.  God and David were a unit, and David longed for that bonding again. God hadn’t changed – David had.  David wants to return to the tender affections of his shepherd (Ps. 23:1).

David asks for something that is preposterous: uphold me with a willing spirit. David is asking the Lord to have a willing spirit with him.  David does not want the begrudging setting aside of justice by God, rather he’s asking for full-throated, fully alive, pedal to the metal, 100 MPH by the Lord for him. Yeah!  Can you believe David’s audacity? Aren’t you a little jealous that he has that kind of boldness with the Lord?  You can ask the same, but will you?

There’s a sliver of thought, probing our mind, that David is purely focusing on himself.  Me, me, me. He wants his spiritual needs to be met, then he’ll be just fine. The Lord, the judge/victim, who shepherds; David wants his full attention for his own growth.  David then proves he is not self-focused, and that he has robust spiritual outlook.

“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you” (Ps. 51:13).  David transitions from personal spiritual needs, to others.  His experience with God’s pardon, God’s purity, and God’s provision of joy, is so transformational, that David wants others to experience the same process.  He goes from personal to public.

This new spiritual satisfaction David has is so satisfying that he wants others to experience the same revolutionary freshness. It is a movement from spiritual intellectualism, to transformationalism.  Knowing the things of God is different than experiencing the full delight of relationship with a loving Lord who is willing to pardon and who passionately pursues us (Ps. 23:6) to bless us, so that we can have the joy of telling others about him.

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