Repentance - The Forgotten Act of Worship

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Repentance - The Forgotten Act of Worship

Post  palmtree on Mon 07 Jan 2008, 7:27 pm

When you think about worship, you may think of a worship service that evokes your emotions. Maybe it generates a feeling of awe of God, or perhaps intense love. But that is not what worship is all about.

David sinned with Bathsheba, had her husband killed and married her. Yet he apparently lived without repentance until after the child died. There is also no record that he worshiped during that entire period.

But after his son died, this is what the Bible says,

2 Samuel 12:19,20 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, "Is the child dead?" And they said, "He is dead." So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the Lord and worshiped...

David had been fasting and praying for a week that God would spare his son's life. It isn't clear, but he may have gone without sleep for the entire time. David didn't want to see his son die, especially since he was completely to blame.

Immediately after his son died, however, David went into action. The first thing he did was clean himself up. He had been laying on the ground, praying for his son and crying, so he was probably pretty filthy. But there may have been another reason that he cleaned himself up. Before the priests could come into the temple, they had to cleanse themselves. The same may have been true of others. So David cleaned himself up, and came into God's house and worshiped.

What do you think this worship was like? Do you think David jumped and danced in God's presence with joy? Do you really believe that he sang and shouted with some of his triumphant songs? I don't think so. He was tired, and drained. His son was dead. His marriage was based on adultery, deception, sin and guilt. He was no longer a man after God's own heart, he was a man with an empty heart.

In this case, the Bible tells us what David may have said. Psalm 51 was written as David's confession to God.

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion 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 only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge...

David began his worship with repentance. He began by asking God to give him His grace, according to His love. This is a real contrast to other verses where David asks God to do things for him because of David's goodness. David realizes here that his goodness doesn't exist, he needs the grace of God.

David brings out two related characteristics of God, God's lovingkindness and God's compassion. David asks for God's forgiveness based on those. Let's add a small amount of emphasis to this, however. For the phrase according to substitute the phrase in a way that conforms to. 'Be gracious to me, O God, in a way that conforms to Your lovingkindness; In a way that conforms to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.

In the middle of David's sin, and also in the middle of God's punishment of that sin, David recognized how great God's love is. Believing in God's love for him, David asked for forgiveness. He wanted the record of his sin blotted out. David wanted God to completely blot the sin out. He wanted God's forgiveness to completely cover it up, so that no one could see through to the original sin.

Then David wanted to be completely washed. He wanted to be clean again. He had ceremonially cleansed himself before entering the tabernacle. But he knew that his own washing really didn't accomplish what he needed. He needed God to scrub all of the sin off of his heart and hands. And he really believed God would do that.

(Psalm 51 continued) Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities.

Again David admits his own sin. He also acknowledges God's requirements. God wants truth, and David had blown it in that area. He had committed adultery, and then covered it up. He had Uriah killed, and then covered it up. He didn't have truth in his innermost being. But he asked to be purified and washed. And he believed that if God washed him, he would be clean, whiter than snow.

David also recognized that he was born in sin. He did not plead with God that he had gone from being good to being bad, but rather that he began bad.

And David asked God to change his experiences. God had punished him. David says, 'Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. God does sometimes punish us, and sometimes He punishes us pretty hard. Yet David didn't blame God for that, he simply asked for God to change the punishment into rejoicing.

(Psalm 51 continues) Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast 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 me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You.

David then moved from asking for God's forgiveness to asking for God's healing. He wants some of the damages of sin to be removed. His heart and spirit have been damaged, and he wants God to restore them. He is also afraid that he will lose the presence of God. In fact he kind of is saying, 'Don't move me away from You, and don't You move away from me.'

To David, that was a frightening thought. To lose the presence of God. One of the more frequent statements in the Bible is that 'God was with him' or 'God is with you.' This kind of statement occurs often, about many different people; Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites as they crossed the wilderness, and others. But there is another statement that may have been in the back of David's mind, about King Saul.

1 Samuel 16:14 Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him.

That was the reason David sang before King Saul. Because God had left Saul, and someone suggested that songs might help him with his terrors. David knew that God had left another, and David didn't want that to happen to him.

He finished this portion of the chapter with a commitment to teach others God's ways, and a belief that people would be converted to God again.

(Psalm 51 continues) Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

By Your favor do good to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. PSA 51:19 Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, In burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.

David's worship was not an exciting time. It was a time of repentance, of coming before God and admitting that he had blown it.

But the interesting thing is that God included this chapter in the book of Psalms. Psalms is primarily about worship, and yet this chapter is thrown in there. That seems a little unusual. Except that forgiveness, mercy, and grace are all part of God's character and works. God obviously doesn't want our sin, but He is ready to cover it up, wash us up, and forgive us. God wants to remove the damage of our sins. While God did not completely remove the damage of sin for David, (his son was still dead) God did restore His relationship with him, and gave David confidence in His love.

I'm now trying to turn my repentance into an opportunity for worship. When I blow it, I am trying to not only confess my sin, but also remember God's love and compassion for me while I'm confessing. And I'm beginning to look for songs like this for use in corporate worship. There aren't a great number of songs of repentance, but that's what Psalm 51 is. And so we probably need a few of our own.

Psalms 32 and 38 also include quite a bit of confession in them. Psalm 32 says,
Psalm 32:1-7 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord"; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.

David began here by mentioning that it is a blessing to be forgiven. Then he continued by admitting that he had sinned, and God had punished him. This chapter is similar to chapter 51 in that it deals with confession, punishment and forgiveness. But at the same time, the two chapters aren't identical. David talks here about some of the costs of sin in his own life, his loss of energy, his feeling of being drained. Our confession of sin doesn't have to be the same rubber stamp each time.

Psalms 38 is similar. David admits that he has sinned, and that God has punished him. A couple of other things that are also common are that in none of these chapters does David blame Satan or anyone else for his sin. He doesn't claim to be under attack from outside at all. Rather he admits that he is the one who committed the sin, and he is the one in need of forgiveness.

Strangely, while David admits guilt for his sins, he doesn't talk alot about how sorry he is for his sins. This surprised me, (actually, it still surprises me some.) But the conclusion I came up with is that God isn't that concerned with our emotions about our past sins. Our focus apparently needs to be on who He is, and what He can do, compared to what we need done. We acknowledge our sin, and ask for healing. We don't go over and over how bad we feel.

Other verses of confession are Psalm 25:11 and 18, Psalm 31:10, Psalm 40:12, Psalm 65:3, Psalm 79:9,

In Psalm 86:5, David says,
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.

Again, reminding us of God's goodness. Think of the contrast here, in that God is completely holy, which removes us from Him when we sin, and yet His goodness is eager to forgive us again, and renew the relationship. And His love is abundant to all, even those who have sinned.

Psalm 90:8 says that our sins are in God's presence.

Psalm 103:8-14 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.

Psalm 103:8 brings up the concepts of God's compassion, grace, patience and love. But then David continued by saying that God is not always going to wait. Eventually, He will become angry. David recognized God's love, but also God's justice. We can't wait forever. God understands our weakness, and loves us, but we must fear Him.

There is one chapter of Psalms primarily confessing national sin. This is Psalm 106, starting at verse 6. David begins by saying,
We have sinned like our fathers, We have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly.

... but then describes all of the failures of the Israelites as they left Egypt, and God's good works in spite of that, as well as some of the punishments He dealt out. He talks about God's anger, and about God's love. It's quite a chapter.

But it's also completely unique from any song I've ever sung, in any church I've ever attended. We thank God for His love and forgiveness. But we don't admit that we've committed any sins. It's as though we kind of know it, but don't really want to bring it up. Yet I think that songs and prayers of repentance are an important part of worship. That's why they comprise a few chapters of the book of Psalms. And they need to comprise a bigger part of our worship.

Article Source: I was sent this article through email and the author is Ron
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