You the Man!

June 29, 2012 at 10:24 am | Posted in Common Expressions, Selected Psalms | 5 Comments
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Psalm 51 is a penitential psalm. It was written during a time of suffering. The suffering was a form of discipline used by God. The suffering in this case was the result of sin.

And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;

II Samuel 12:1-7

Nathan told David, “Thou art the man.” There is a popular expression in our day where one man will congratulate another man on some superficially impressive achievement by telling him, “You the man!” That’s not the way Nathan was using the expression. David was “the” man – and David was “a” man – with all that implies concerning the condition of human sinfulness. We are all “the man” in the sense that, like the first man, Adam, we have sinned against God and deserve divine punishment. But God has made one Way – and one Way only – to escape what we deserve. Does that sound bigoted or intolerant to you? To hear someone proclaim that Jesus is the only Way to God? Jesus Himself is the One Who said this. Or do you find it strange that God would make only one way when there are so many people in this world who might be more responsive to other ways? I can tell you that the amazing thing is not that God made only one way. The amazing thing is that He made any way at all!

Here is the beginning of David’s prayer of penitence and repentance:

[To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.] Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Psalm 51:1

When someone breaks down and admits that he has done wrong, we say that he “comes clean.” David’s prayer is not so much about what he did (explanation), but more about who he is (examination). When we sin, explanation about why we did it profits little. Examination of what our sin says about who we are may profit much.

David asked God to blot out his “transgressions.” We might think of “transgressions” as “going across” (trans) God’s boundaries with aggression. We have all done this. We have presumptuously crossed the boundaries marked out for us by God.

Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:2

Sin is “missing the mark” of God’s standard. We have all sinned and “come short” of the glory of God. You may have heard the illustration of the child who wants to ride a roller coaster at the state fair, but isn’t allowed to because her head doesn’t reach the line on the chart marked “height requirement.” None of us have come close to reaching the standard of God’s righteousness, which is moral perfection from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Transgression is crossing the wrong mark; sin is failing to meet the right mark.

“Iniquity” refers to the condition of being twisted, bent, or perverted. This is the totally depraved inherently sinful nature which we inherited from our earthly father, Adam, and from our spiritual father, Satan, prior to regeneration.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:7

If we are truly Christians, transgression, sin, and iniquity should make us feel dirty. Unsaved people, like pigs, don’t mind being dirty. In fact, they actually like it. It’s not that true Christians never get dirty with sin. We do – and far too often. But a mark of salvation is that you do not like being dirty, and that you want to get clean.

A word of warning, though: If you are a true Christian, be diligent about your confession and repentance when you sin. Each unconfessed sin is like a new layer of dirt, and each layer of dirt makes us more and more used to the dirt. How dirty I “feel” is not always a good indicator of how dirty I really am. The mirror of God’s Word (which is really what Nathan held up to David) is a better indicator of how dirty I really am.

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  1. […] asking the Lord for a miracle, because the Old Testament Law did not provide a sacrifice for the types of deliberate sins of which David was guilty. David appealed to God’s mercy and grace. Purge me with hyssop, and I […]

  2. […] beings to take care of ourselves. Self-preservation is a gift from God, but our sinfulness so often warps this useful gift into something perverted. How often do we meditate on our marriages as vehicles […]

  3. […] Friends or Foes? 25. Water, Water, Everywhere… 26. Light Shows the Truth 27. Clean and New 28. You the Man! 29. The Lord’s Laundry 30. God Versus a Mud Puddle 31. Prayer, Protection, Praise, and […]

  4. […] first step in repentance is admitting that I have sinned and that my sin is against God. Have you ever felt like David in these verses? So distraught and devastated and downcast that you […]

  5. […] I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive […]


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