Formations lesson for August 5: Being Forgiven
July 20 2001 by F. Calvin Parker , Psalm 51:6-14

Formations lesson for August 5: Being Forgiven | Friday, July 20, 2001

Friday, July 20, 2001

Formations lesson for August 5: Being Forgiven

By F. Calvin Parker Psalm 51:6-14 The Shinto religion of Japan lays great stress on purity and cleanliness. Worshipers at a shrine first rinse their hands and mouth with water from a large stone basin. A priest may further purify the worshipers by waving over them a branch of the sakaki tree, a sacred evergreen. In one ceremony a priestess dips a leafy bamboo branch in boiling water and shakes it over herself and her devotees. Similar rites are observed in many religions, for the human desire to be cleansed and forgiven of one's sins is universal.

Forgiveness is cleansing (Psalm 51:6-9) The author of this heart-searching psalm obviously feels unclean before God. He is tormented by a feeling of guilt. Perhaps he is ill and believes God sent him the illness as a punishment for sin. His prayer for cleansing uses three vivid images.

First, "Purge me with hyssop." The psalmist recalls the ceremony in which a priest dips twigs of the hyssop plant into blood or water and sprinkles people who have been in contact with a leper or a corpse. Hyssop was used somewhat as sakaki is used in Japan.

Second, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." The English Baptist preacher Alexander MacLaren, who lived before the days of washing machines, made this prayer highly graphic: "Wash me, beat me, tread me down, hammer me with mallets, dash me against stones, rub me with smarting soap and caustic niter - do anything, anything with me, if only these foul spots melt away from the texture of my soul."

Third, "Blot out all my iniquities." This means to erase them from the record and hold them against me no more.

This threefold prayer brings to mind the threefold process a modern dry cleaner often uses to renew a soiled garment: spot removal, cleaning, sanitizing. The psalmist wants his spiritual cleansing to be that complete.

Forgiveness is restoration (Psalm 51:10-12) The psalmist longs for a fresh act of creation, which only the Creator can provide. "Create in me a clean heart" uses the same Hebrew word for create that is used in Genesis 1:1. This prayer is especially apt if, as the psalm's traditional heading declares, it is the cry of David after Nathan has confronted him about Bathsheba. The king has committed adultery and murder and tried to cover up these heinous crimes. He needs a wholly new heart.

The psalmist further prays for the revival of something that has died but should have been kept alive - the joy of God's salvation. When our sins are forgiven and we are right with God, we experience deliverance from fear, from guilt, from self. Stated another way, we know the ecstasy of release from dread, from a bad conscience, from our ego. There is no greater joy than this.

Forgiveness is enablement (Psalm 51:13-14) Verse 13 suggests that when we have been forgiven and restored to fellowship with God, we can be effective evangelists. So long as there is a contradiction between our words and deeds, between lip and life, our witness is seriously impaired. This truth gets top billing when the flagrant sin of a TV evangelist is exposed. But even the chief of sinners - witness the apostle Paul - can become a credible witness for Christ through repentance and forgiveness.

In 1956 Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, and three other missionaries were speared to death by Huaorani Indians in the Ecuadorean jungle. Forty years later, Steve Saint, Nate's son, met with the murderers, now Christians, and listened to their stories of that terrible event. "They knew that all of us have experienced God's forgiveness," Steve wrote, "and that they had nothing to fear from me."

Mincaye, the Indian who had killed Nate Saint, gave his testimony at the Amsterdam 2000 evangelism conference. "My heart was black and sick in sin," he said with Steve interpreting, "but I heard (that) God sent His own son. ... He washed my heart clean." Then Mincaye exhorted the assembly: "Go speak (about God) all over the world. Let's take many with us to God's place in heaven." The message was powerful, coming from one who had been forgiven much.

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7/20/2001 12:00:00 AM by F. Calvin Parker , Psalm 51:6-14 | with 0 comments
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