Have Mercy

Scripture Focus: Psalm 51.1
1 Have mercy on me, O God, 
according to your unfailing love; 
according to your great compassion 
blot out my transgressions.

Reflection: Have Mercy—Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

We think of sins as individual actions but that is only one dimension of sin.

David’s words, “against you, and you only, have I sinned,” do not mean that he did not sin against Bathsheba, or Uriah, or Joab, or against his whole nation. He sinned against God by bringing harm to those God cared for, who included Bathsheba, Uriah, Joab, and the entire nation.

David’s confession, often prayed by individuals to confess failings, acknowledges that David’s so-called individual sin brought harm upon more people than just himself. The healing brought by the confession will likewise be collective, not individual. David writes that his confession and God’s mercy will “prosper Zion” and “build up the walls of Jerusalem.” 

Pray this pluralized version of Psalm 51 this week, confessing not only our individual sins but the sins of our communities, churches, and nations.

Have Mercy
Have mercy on us, O God.
Yours is the only love unfailing
We pile up great, unending heaps of transgression
You pour out great, enduring floods of compassion

Have mercy on us, O God.
You are the only righteous judge.
Our sins fill the earth and reach the skies
Your justice rolls like rivers, comforting mothers’ sighs

Have mercy on us, O God
You alone bring new birth
We toil in darkness, faithless, broken, aimed toward death
You clothe us in light, resurrect faith, make us blessed

Have mercy on us, O God
You are our only holiness
Our filthy rags fail to cleanse, smearing our waste around
Your blood-dipped hyssop drips cleansing mercy down

Have mercy on us, O God
Your purity stands alone.
Our ruin rots beautiful things. Our touch drips decay and doom
Where your fingers trace, truth, love, and beauty bloom

Have mercy on us, O God
Redeem our sin-wracked ways
Our errors and crimes, cause pain, hurt, and harm 
Your grace comes behind us, with love as your balm

Have mercy on us, O God
Make our lives a lesson
Our efforts are selfish, our success is hollow
Your mercy to us teaches sinners to follow

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. — Isaiah 9.1– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 12  (Listen – 4:26)
Psalm 51 (Listen – 2:19)

Read more about Rend Your Hearts
When we rend our heart in community with others, we invite God’s power to work in us for redemption and restoration.

Read more about The Radical Procedure of the Gospel
It’s lovely to think of God giving us a new hear…But it is terrifying to admit to the diagnoses that would lead to such a radical procedure.

Our Sins Ever Before Us

Psalm 51.3
For I know my transgressions,
   and my sin is always before me.

Reflection: Our Sins Ever Before Us
By John Tillman

Psalm 51 is a Psalm that seems to echo through the New and Old Testaments. Its phrasing, words, and sentiments are often repeated.

In Luke, Jesus puts its words in the mouth of the Tax Collector in his parable about prayer: “have mercy on me, a sinner.
Jesus alludes to it again in the Prodigal Son’s rehearsed speech of repentance.
The Pharisees adapt its language in John, when condemning the man born blind.
Paul quotes it in the third chapter of Romans and repeats its themes in Romans seven.

Many see this Psalm as a beautiful picture of how we can come to God for forgiveness no matter what we have done, and it is a beautiful picture. But before David could write this song of confession, he had to reach a moment of revelation. Before we sing the beautiful song of Psalm 51 we must hear the ugly parable of Nathan. The ugliness we see is the reflection of our sins.

Like David, we must be forced to see our sin for what it is.

David was already a lustful man—taking a large number of wives and concubines. He was already a bloody man of war and vengeance, so much so that God would not let David build the Temple. These sins eventually led him to a breaking point.

He became an adulterer—purposely seeking out and sleeping with another man’s wife.
He became a liar—seeking to hide his crime and dodge his responsibility for the child.
He became a murderer—murdering Uriah, a friend who was more honorable than David himself.
He became a coward—farming out the murder to someone else.

Before we pray or listen to Psalm 51, we need first to pray that there will be a Nathan in our lives to reveal to us the sins that we are failing to see. The reason David’s sin is “always before him” is because Nathan was there to reveal it.

In our prayers today, may we echo this Psalm as Jesus and Paul did, but first, may we seek revelation from the Holy Spirit of the sins we do not see in ourselves. We can’t confess what we refuse to see.

Racism. Idolatry. Pride. Greed. Lust. Reveal them to us, Lord.

Have mercy on us, Oh God. According to your unfailing love!

Song:Psalm 51” — Charlie Peacock, Westcoast Diaries Volume Two

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. — Psalm 51.11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 15 (Listen – 5:09) 
Psalm 51 (Listen – 2:19)

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Read more about You Are The Man — Embracing Prophetic Responsibility
When Christians speak truth to power, we are empowered with the same Holy Spirit that spoke to Nathan. Whether to a monarch, a magistrate, or a magnate, we represent the message of the Gospel.

Read more about Confession Destroys Denial
We confess we have been deaf to cries of the needy, cries for help, and cries of injustice…Never let us rely on earthly kings to carry out the tasks of the heavenly kingdom.

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