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“ There is not in the whole of the Old Testament a passage of deeper pathos than this. The simple beauty of the narrative is exquisite ; we are irresistibly reminded of him who, when he beheld the rebellious city of Jerusalem and thought of the destruction it was bringing upon itself, wept over it (Luke 19:41)." — Cook. “ His wish to die in Absalom's stead was no mere extravagance of grief. David knew his own peace was made with God; he could die at any time. If Absalom were spared in life he might yet repent. But such an exchange could not be.”. Hanna.
The effect of David's grief was such upon the people who had fought with him that they “gat them by stealth that day into the city, as people being ashamed steal away when they flee in battle” (19 : 3). Joab sees not only the injustice, but the danger, and fears not to bring real rebuke to the king who has put his personal grief above the welfare of his people (19 : 1-8).
VI. ELEMENTS OF WEAKNESS IN DAVID'S CHARACTER. We must not make the mistake of judging David's weaknesses by the standards of the Christian world in this twentieth century. Some men say,
- Here is David, who is said to be “a man after God's own heart”; he is no better than we and worse than many of us ever would think of being. And there is much truth in what they say. Only they draw the lesson that it makes no matter what sort of men they themselves may be, since that was the sort of man that God approved ! But they forget that while God loved the sinner there is no ground for the idea that He loved the sin. Indeed the story itself proves the
On the other hand we must not really judge David by the standards of the heathen nations around him. He had far more light than they, and more ways in which to learn the will of God.
David's weaknesses were very human. He could not always resist the temptation of a beautiful woman. He had not so raised himself above the level of the rulers around him that the deliberate murder of a man who stood in his way was unthinkable. He was not a wise father, — witness not only his dealings with Absalom, but his neglect to punish the sin of Amnon, and his entire
From a photograph. failure in the training of Adonijah (1 Kings 1 : 5).
We can trace some of the consequences which flowed from David's sin and at the same time the nobler fruits that grew out of his repentance. It is not just to consider the sin without also considering the sincere penitence he showed for it. We can see the contrast between David, who sinned greatly, repented sincerely, and was mightily forgiven ; and Absalom, where the sin was the main current of his life, flowing without repentance or reform to his tragic end.
Tomb of Absalom.
LESSON VIII (21). — August 22.
A PRAYER FOR PARDON.
Psalm 51: 1-17.
GOLDEN TEXT. — Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. — PSALM 51: 2.
Devotional Reading : Psalm 32 : 1–7.
Lesson Material : Ps. 51 :1, 2; Luke 18 : 9-14.
Memory Verse : Forgive us our sins. Luke ir: 4. Junior Topic : How DAVID OBTAINED FORGIVENESS.
Lesson Material : Psalm 51 : 1, 2, 9, 10; Luke 18 : 9-14.
Memory Verse : Prov. 28 : 13. Intermediate and Senior Topic : WHAT TO DO WHEN WE HAVE DONE WRONG.
Additional Material : Matt. 18:15-20.
1-4 ; 17:10; 1 John 1:8, 9.
THE TEACHER AND HIS CLASS. THE LESSON IN ITS SETTING.
All scholars will be interested in the If the Psalm was written by David, Psalms, their uses and their division into which is probable, it was very likely five books.
written during the time of Absalom's Emphasize how this particular Psalm grew out of David's own experience and how, for this reason, it belongs to all time. The real value to us of this lesson will be in our bringing home to each scholar, David's repentance and forgiveness. The lesson is particularly adapted for all persons, both young and old, because of the great need of a deeper realization of the evil of sin and the way into light and peace which it points out.
The Younger Classes should pay no attention to the crime of David which gave rise to this Psalm. The lesson should bring out the desire of every one for forgiveness when he has done wrong ; the unhappiness of the child who has disobeyed his mother or father until he knows he is forgiven, and the readiness
David the Psalmist, of God to forgive our sins when we are truly sorry. They can learn the differ- rebellion, or soon after. It was ence between being really sorry for tainly written a considerable time after having done wrong, and merely asking to his great sin, and expresses his repentance be forgiven.
for it. The Intermediate and Senior classes can study the relation of confession and
THE ROUND TABLE. forgiveness; the value of open confes
FOR RESEARCH AND DISCUSSION. sion when the sin has been public. Young People and Adults should The Books of the Psalms.
The four steps from sin to holiness. search the Bible, and so far as possible God's forgiveness of sin; its relation to a better life. other sources, for penitential prayers, The effects of forgiveness as expressed in this Psalm. analyze and compare them, and learn The conditions on which we may be forgiven.
A broken heart and a contrite spirit. what qualities are essential.
“Whiter than snow."
PLAN OF THE LESSON.
THE TEACHER'S LIBRARY. SUBJECT : Sin, Repentance, and Res- For the story of David's sin and retoration.
pentance see the Commentaries on 2 SamI. David's Need For FORGIVENESS. uel, and the Lives of David, referred to in II. THE FIFTY-FIRST Psalm.
previous lessons. III. FIRST STANZA : CONFESSION OF
Works on the Psalms, especially those SIN, AND PRAYER FOR PARDON, by Perowne, Alexander, and Cambridge vs. 1-4
Bible. The Psalms and Their Story, by IV. SECOND STANZA : FAITH
W. E. Barton. Spurgeon's Treasury of
David. Helps to the Spiritual Inter preta-
tion of the Penitential Psalms, by A. B. V. THIRD STANZA : THE DESIRE FOR Baily-Brown. A New LIFE, vs. 9-12.
See also Maclaren's Life of David as VI. Fourth STANZA : THE NATURAL Reflected in His Psalms ; Dr. John
EXPRESSION OF TẠE New Life, Ker's The Psalms in History and Biogvs. 13-17.
raphy; The Poetry of the Psalms, by VII. WHAT TO DO WHEN WE HAVE Henry van Dyke.
I. DAVID'S NEED OF FORGIVENESS, 2 Sam. II, 12. Up to about his fiftieth year David's life was a continual climbing to success. His battles, both within and without, were but the means of victories. He was one of the noblest of characters, the romantic friend, the chivalrous leader, the devoted father," the broad statesman, the successful soldier, the sublime poet, the servant of God, the wise king.
Then, to outward appearance as suddenly as an earthquake, David the noble, the religious, fell into the two greatest sins against God and man,- adultery and murder.
The Downward Steps. 1. It is not at all probable that David fell without something in his life which prepared the way. Probably there was a relaxation of David's religious fervor and zeal, which were his guard. Then his multiplying wives, contrary at least to the spirit of the law, was in the same direction.
2. David parleyed with temptation. He should have closed his eyes and turned away, and then he would have been safe. And one sin led to another.
3. This occurred in a period of idleness, increasing luxury and self-indulgence, as shown by his sending Joab with the army instead of going himself (2 Sam. 10 : 7). “Satan tempts other men, but the idle man tempts Satan.'
How We Should Judge David's Guilt. 1. There is no apology for his sin. He himself never apologizes for it. The Bible never apologizes for it. It is to be held up to execration and scorn. Greatness and genius are no excuse for wrong doing, and no substitute for a pure life.
2. David's guilt must be viewed in the light of his times if we are to judge his character aright. Most men of his time would have been little blamed, most kings would have had no compunction for the same deeds, and modern historians let their brilliant careers and noted deeds obscure their private characters.
3. We must judge of the man by his whole life, and not only by one act.
4. In judging of David we must take into account his sincere repentance, his open confession, and complete turning from the evil.
II. THE FIFTY-FIRST PSALM. 1. This Psalm belongs to the second book or collection of Psalms in the Psalter. It is the fourth of what are called the Seven Penitential Psalms.
2. While the titles of the Psalms are a later addition, just as the titles to the chapters of our Bibles are late additions, and are no part of the Bible itself, yet many of them are doubtless correct, and especially the titles of this Psalm ascribing it to David, and giving the occasion from which it arose. It is exactly adapted to these circumstances, more so than to any other occasion.
3. Yet it is on that account a fitting expression of the feelings of many persons and of the nation as a whole when in exile, and has been so used in all ages to this day.
4. It is perfectly possible that the last two verses belong to the time of the exile, as many think. But that would not indicate that the rest of the Psalm was not written by David. Compare the alterations and additions made to many of our familiar hymns. At the same time these two verses are well adapted to David's needs, that Jerusalem be built up and not be injured by his sin. 5. The inscription to the chief musician of David's choir shows that the hymn
I 1. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my
transgressions. 2. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin. 3. For I acknowledge my transgressions :
And my sin is ever before me.
And done this evil in thy sight:
was, as Professor Cowles suggests, " for perpetual use in the service of song before the congregation of Israel, and testifies that no false modesty and no indulged pride withheld him from making his confession public as his sin had been notorious. He had sinned before the nation ; so he would have his repentance go forth before not the nation only but the world.”
III. FIRST STANZA : CONFESSION OF SIN AND PRAYER FOR PARDON, vs. 1-4. For a year David said nothing about his sin. His kingdom continued prosperous ; his army was victorious. He thought that he could go on as before. But his conscience was working all the time. We read in Psalm 32: 3, 4, the effect the sin and silence had upon him. The knowledge that other people knew of the sin, and the danger arising from his conduct wore upon him. Bathsheba was the daughter of one of David's “ mighty men,” the wife of another, and the granddaughter of his wise counsellor Ahithophel. They might claim his punishment according to the Jewish law (Lev. 20 : 10).
When these silent influences had prepared the way, then God sent his faithful prophet Nathan to David. By a story-parable he led the king unconsciously to condemn himself, and then made the terrible accusation, THOU ART THE MAN.
It was a dangerous thing to do, and showed the bravery of the prophet, as well as his obedience to the command of God.
But David rose to the heights of repentance and confession and received forgiveness and restoration (Ps. 32 : 5).
1. Have mercy upon me. Admitting everything, confessing all, and humbling himself before God, he pleads for mercy, mercy, simple and pure nothing else."
Cowles. According to thy lovingkindness. This is the outflow of God's loving heart, tenderer than a mother's love for her child. Blot out. Make that which is done as if it had not been done. This may mean either the erasing of the debt from the book on which it had been inscribed ; or the wiping away, involving entire removal.
2. Wash me thoroughly. This is more than justification. The washing takes out the impurity, the soul is cleansed by it. The word means repeated washings, as if he were too vile to be cleansed with one alone. Cleanse me. This is a more general expression; as if he said, “ Lord, if washing will not do try some other process ; if water avails not, try fire ; let anything be tried, if only I may be purified.”
3. My sin is ever before me. His conscience ever troubled him, it never slept.
4. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned. The word “ only " is striking, considering the nature, and the terrible results of his sin. But the sin against God, his infinite benefactor, the source of all he was of good, the sin against the purity and justice and love of God, was so much greater than his sin against men that it was like the black midnight shadow of the earth, in which the shadow of a man was unseen. That thou mightest be justified (vindicated as a just and loving judge) when thou speakest, as a judge giving sentence against my sin. And be clear when thou judgest. Be regarded as pure and holy and right in the judgment which thou shalt make. David wished all to know that God was good, no matter what came to himself. He knew, - indeed Nathan had reminded him, that he had “ given great occasion to the enemies of Jehovah to blaspheme" (2 Sam. 12 : 14). Perhaps nothing touched the heart of David so much as the realization that he had tarnished the name of God in the eyes of the heathen.
And in sin did my mother conceive me.
And in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. 7. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8. Make me to hear joy and gladness;
That the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. What Struck Home. A college student, " son of a most reverenced minister high in authority in the church, grew very careless of his Christian experience. In spite of the efforts of his comrades he went from bad to worse until he had formed many evil habits. At last he was summoned to the President's office. While waiting in the anteroom he heard two students, who were not Christians, talking in the hall. What in the world's gone wrong with Hicks ?' said one. • He used to be as religious as his old father,' observed the other. There must be something wrong with the old gent.' In the outer office Hicks jumped to his feet. Just then the President entered. 'Professor,' he broke out,' this thing's going to stop. If my old father's going to get the credit for everything I do I give you my word he'll never be blamed for another such thing as I am here for to-day !'– From the Sunday School Times.
IV. SECOND STANZA : FAITH THAT GOD WILL PARDON AND CLEANSE FROM Sin, vs. 5-8. Freedom from sin comes to us from the truth that God is our Father, and loves to forgive, wants to blot out forever all sin from his children. It is often the best people who feel most clearly the need of forgiveness, because of the contrast between their ideals and visions and the degree to which they have attained them.
I was shapen in iniquity. In common with all humanity he had inherited the tendency to sin ; the trouble was deeper than any single act. This is not given as an excuse, but as expressing his need that God himself shall cleanse him, and his faith that God is both able and willing to do so.
7. Purge me with hyssop. The priests used this bushy plant for sprinkling in the ceremonial rites of cleansing from leprosy, etc. Do thou, O Lord, pronounce me clean from the leprosy of sin.
Whiter than snow, which is absolute and perfect whiteness, and that not merely on the surface, but down in its depths, through and through. Only one thing is whiter, and that is God's sunlight, which resting among the snowflakes lights them up with its own whiteness.
8. The bones which thou hast broken. “The bones, as constituting the strength and framework of the body ; the crushing of the bones being a very strong figure, denoting the most complete prostration, mental and bodily. Perowne.
V. THIRD STANZA : THE DESIRE FOR A New LIFE, vs. 9-12. Hide thy face from my sins. Do not look at them, but as it were, cast them behind thy back (Isa. 38:17). Treat me as if I had not sinned.
“ Does God in any sense ever punish forgiven sin ? ” is a question asked of the Sunday School Times. Their answer is, in part : “God blots out, annihilates, the spiritual result or disaster of any sin the instant it is brought to him in confession, repentance, surrender, and faith in the work of Jesus Christ. Then God so miraculously restores the relationship between the sinner and himself that the spiritual life of the forgiven one is made as though that sin had never been committed. But there may be physical or material results from the committed and forgiven sin that God does not undo. ... A drunkard who loses a leg or an arm through an accident in a debauch, a business man who loses a fortune through sinful speculation, a criminal who is convicted and sent to prison for his crime, — all these men will be completely forgiven ... the instant they confess these sins to God in surrender and trust in the name of Christ ; but ... these results are in a certain sense God's punishment of forgiven sin.”
Results from Forgiven Sin. “What kind of a teacher would he be who overlooked all the breaking of rules and rubbed out all bad marks whenever you asked him to?' 'Dead easy,' was the answer. " How then can a just God do it?' When we couldn't answer teacher drew a big white cross on the board and said that told the whole story. Christ, by bearing our sins for us on the cross, made it possible