Have Mercy!

Have Mercy!

Which book of the Bible do you think is the longest (that is, has the most words)?

The book of Psalms is NOT the largest book in the Bible, even though it has, by far the most chapters (150) and the most verses (2461). (Actually they are often short chapters and short verses).

Want to guess which book of the Bible is the largest book by volume (has the most words)?
Jeremiah (33,002 words in Hebrew).

Which is the next largest? Genesis (32,046 words in Hebrew).

The book of Psalms is actually third largest with 30,147 words in Hebrew.

The shortest book of the Bible, if you can call it a book, is 3 John with 219 words in Greek.

Just a little Bible statistical information that I thought might interest some of you.

This week our Bible reading took us through Psalms chapters 45 to 68. The authors of these Psalms are: David:15, Sons of Korah: 4, Asaph: 1, and unknown: 3.

45 is a Wedding Psalm
46 – 49, 65 & 66 are Praise Psalms
50, 58, 60 & 68 are Judgment Psalms
51, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61 & 64, are all cries for mercy or help from God.
52 & 53 are Psalms of rebuke to the wicked and foolish.
62-63 are Psalms of love for God.

I’ve selected Psalm 51 to explore for our lesson today. This is a familiar one to most of us. It is a cry for mercy as a confession of sin by David after his sin with Bathsheba.

David’s words of confession in this Psalm are quite amazing. They give us a model of confession and surrender to God’s authority and will that continue to instruct and inspire God’s people. This Psalm is very old, over 3000 years have past since the ink dried on the page from the pen of this poet, but there is a freshness about it still, capturing something of human nature that is timeless. At the same time we see in it God’s holy character and merciful graciousness.

Let’s read it together and then explore it’s message for us. Pay attention to the pronouns and imagine overhearing this as David poetically prayed to God:

Verses 1-6
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As we noticed last week, here we have a Psalm with a brief introduction giving us it’s context.
Surely, every one of us has recognized our need for mercy, have we not? But just what is this mercy we need? Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” This beatitude implies that for those who are not merciful, mercy will be withheld from them. What is it that the unmerciful loose? Is it not mercy?

Mercy, compassion, forgiveness, grace and even patience are sometimes clumped together because they are all descriptive of the stuff that makes relationships work when conflict, disagreement and sin are tearing relationships apart.

Here in Psalm 51 David is crying out to God for mercy. His relationship with God has been severely jeopardized. David has lusted after another man’s wife. He has abused his authority as king and taken her and committed adultery with her. She became pregnant with David’s child, so David has tried to cover his sin by calling her husband home from war, hoping her husband will go to his wife and think the child is his own. In effort to do so, David even gets her husband drunk. But because her husband is devoted to his duty in wartime and won’t go home to enjoy his wife, David does the unthinkable. Again abusing his power as king, he has her husband killed in battle, making it look like an accident, so he can take this man’s wife as his own in attempt to cover his own sin.

Now, let me ask a ridiculous question: Was David being merciful here? Then why should he receive any mercy?

Look at what David appeals to as he asks God for mercy.

According to YOUR lovingkindness, according to YOUR tender mercies… blot out my transgressions. David begs God for HIS mercy after he had shone none to Uriah. Why should God give mercy to David?

As David continues his confession, he makes it clear that God is righteous when God speaks and blameless when God judges. David understands things about God that we all need to know and embrace and cherish. Ps. 62:11-12 tell us these things: 1. Power belongs to God. 2. Mercy belongs to God. The NIV puts it: two things I have heard, that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. The Hebrew literally makes power and mercy God’s possession. Power and mercy are God’s. Remember, David has abused power and shown no mercy. Then the end of the last verse (Ps 62:12) says, “For you (God) render to each one according to his work.” God has power, God has mercy and God is the judge who renders to each one according to our doings. These are both Old and New Testament principles.

What will happen to David? His doings put him in line with God’s judgment and condemnation. Why should God give David mercy? Is there any rule in the law that says that if a man lusts after another man’s wife and commits adultery with her and then kills her husband and then takes her to be his own wife, but later is sorry and asks for mercy that God will extend mercy? No. What is God supposed to do? What does justice require? God does not owe anyone mercy. It belongs to Him to give or not. This Psalm is not written as a method for getting away with adultery and murder. This Psalm reveals how the amazing mercy of God works in the life of an undeserving servant of God who openly confesses his sins in repentance and desperate appeal for cleansing, forgiveness, restoration and deliverance. David’s spirit is broken, his bones crushed, his heart contrite, and his attitude completely humble. But do those make David worthy of forgiveness and God’s mercy?

Let’s read verses 7-17 of the Psalm together:

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Is this not awesome? Clean heart, willing spirit, open praise! These are the fruits of God’s mercy. Purified hearts, right spirit, lips of praise.

The Bible speaks of two kinds of salvation. There is the salvation of the righteous from the hands of the wicked. Psalms are rich in this salvation motif. There is secondly the salvation of the sinner from the guilt of sin, which is also explored richly in the Psalms. Look at Psalm 130. Also Psalm 32.

God who delivers us from our trials and troubles, bringing his wrath on our enemies, is also God who delivers us from our sin and its judgment turning His wrath away from us, extends His mercy toward us, and converts our hearts, spirits and conversations. What a Savior is our King of righteousness!