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When Psalm 51 Becomes our Goal
by Larry Davies

    If you want to discover my very worst flaws, ask my daughter. She will be happy to tell all.

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 had promised to put up a basketball goal behind our house. The equipment was in the shed, so one fall afternoon, under my daughter’s watchful eye, I began assembling the goal. The directions said: first, dig a hole and second, attach the goal to the pole then finally, place the entire assembly into the hole. “Sounds simple enough,” I thought.

For I recognize my shameful deeds—they haunt me day and night. (v.3)

    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?

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. (vs.4)

    Just as I stood the pole upright, the wind literally ripped the entire assembly out of my hands, carrying it several yards before crashing to the ground smashing the backboard into several pieces. My pastoral dignity was completely forgotten as the curses began to flow. Fortunately, I thought, “we live 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. (vs.4)

“...teach me to be wise in my inmost being.”
    Not much was said until Sunday during worship when prayer requests were asked for in the congregation. I noticed several youth giggling on the back row while my daughter raised her hand. “I would like the church to pray for my Dad and his temper!” she said.

But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being. (vs.6)

    At that point, I told everyone how their minister had blown it. Interestingly enough, after my confession, we were all 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. (vs. 7-8)

    The lesson: We must have the humility to ask for forgiveness as well as a willingness to forgive. Then, God promises to turn our bitterness and rage into joy.

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. (vs. 9-10)

    We all have the equivalent of basketball goals ripped out of our grasp:

  • A businessman loses his temper over a misunderstanding and insults a close friend.
  • A wife feels betrayed because of her husband’s crude comments about her in front of friends.
  • A child who has wanted to play basketball all his life is cut from the local team. The boy’s father angrily confronts the coach during a practice session and begins to curse him.

    In the heat of passion, tragic errors of judgment are made... now what! The lesson of Psalm 51 is difficult but clear. We must be willing to ask for and also freely give forgiveness so that God can turn our bitterness into sweet, sweet joy.

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. (vs. 13,17)

    Now if this preacher can only learn to practice what he writes! Maybe that is why we also desperately need prayer and forgiveness.


HEARTLIGHT(R) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
Copyright © 1996-97, Heartlight, Inc., 8332 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX 78759.
From Larry Davies’ “Sowing Seeds of Faith” email newsletter. (c) 1998, used by permission.
HEARTLIGHT and the flared heart design are service marks of Heartlight, Inc.