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Psalm 51 1
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. 14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

clip_image003Background

Psalm 51 is a lament, the most famous of the seven Penitential Psalms, prays for the removal of the personal and social disorders that sin has brought. It is a Psalm of David written when the prophet Nathan came to him aver David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. The poem has two parts of approximately equal length: Psalm 51:3-10 and Psalm 51:11-19, and a conclusion in Psalm 51:20-21. The two parts interlock by repetition of “blot out” in the first verse of each section (Psalm 51:3, 11), of “wash (away)” just after the first verse of each section (Psalm 51:4) and just before the last verse (Psalm 51:9) of the first section, and of “heart,” “God,” and “spirit” in Psalm 51:12, 19.
Most scholars think that the last three verses were added to the psalm some time after the destruction of the temple in 587 B.C. The verses assume that the rebuilt temple will be an ideal site for national reconciliation.

Biblical Truths

The first part (Psalm 51:3-10) asks deliverance from sin, which is not just a past act but its emotional, physical, and social consequences. The second part (Psalm 51:11-19) seeks something more profound than wiping the slate clean: nearness to God, living by the spirit of God (Psalm 51:12-13), like the relation between God and people described in Jeremiah 31:33-34. Nearness to God brings joy and the authority to teach sinners (Psalm 51:15-16). Such proclamation is better than offering sacrifice (Psalm 51:17-19). The last two verses ask for the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Psalm 51:19-21).

A sinner, even as my mother conceived me: literally means, “In iniquity was I conceived,” an instance of hyperbole: at no time was the psalmist ever without sin. (See Psalm 88:15), “I am mortally afflicted since youth,” i.e., I have always been afflicted. The verse does not imply that the sexual act of conception is sinful.

Hyssop: a small bush whose many woody twigs make a natural sprinkler. It was prescribed in the Mosaic Law as an instrument for sprinkling sacrificial blood or lustral 2 water for cleansing. Exodus 12:22; Lev 14:4; Numbers 19:18.

For you do not desire sacrifice: the mere offering of the ritual sacrifice apart from good dispositions is not acceptable to God.

Items for Discussion

  • Discuss the story of David’s sin and how that stacks up with sins on a scale of 1 to 10? Ten being a biggie.
  • While we all hope for God’s forgiveness, what do you see in how David responded to Nathan’s confrontation?
  • Using history, did David repent?
  • From a human perspective, why is someone more likely to grant forgiveness when there is repentance?
  • o Compare our human reaction to sin, repentance, and forgiveness to God’s – where are we different?
  • If David is saying that God does not take pleasure in sacrifice, what does this say about why we still make sacrifices for God?
  • This Psalm is about washing – why is this such a good analogy for forgiveness?

 

John 4:31-38
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” 33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Background

In chapter 4, the Baptism introduces the reader to a prominent theme of Wisdom (water) throughout John. First, Jesus reveals himself to a Samaritan woman at the well, which is remarkable since Samaritan women were regarded by Jews as impure. Therefore, Jews were forbidden to drink from any vessel they had handled. In addition, for Jesus to share a drinking vessel with the Samaritan woman was considered unclean and very dramatic.

At the end of chapter 4, Jesus returns to the territory around Cana where he’ll work his second sign by curing a Royal official’s son simply by his word. Jesus told the official to go home and his son would live. The man believed and on arriving home found his son well and that he had been healed at the hour when Jesus spoke his words. This sign may be one of the most vital and significant to us. It shows us that although Jesus is not physically present with us he is able to be spiritually with us. The important factor to consider before looking at the chapter is the relationship between the people of Judea and the people of Samaria.

The Samaritans looked down on the Jews as unclean. Some Samaritans had intermarried with Assyrians and thus the Jews despised them as traitors and idolaters. The Jews of Judea looked down upon the Samaritans for that reason, among others. The Samaritans also believe their Bible (the Pentateuch) is the pure one for it is written in the ancient Hebrew. When the Jews returned from Babylon Ezra had rewritten the Hebrew from memory using new rounded letters.

Biblical Truths 3

The disciples had gone into the town to buy food. They were all hungry because of their long journey. So they were probably worried because Jesus did not want to eat. Jesus was completely human. He needed to eat and to drink. But food was not the most important thing to him at that moment. He told them, ‘I have food to eat.’ He was not referring to actual food. He was referring to his work for God. This was the most important thing to him. This was what satisfied him more than anything.

But the disciples did not understand what he meant. They thought that he was talking about actual food. In John’s Gospel, often conversations that Jesus had were like this. First, Jesus said something that the person or people misunderstood. For example, Nicodemus misunderstood what Jesus meant about a second birth (John 3:4). And the Samaritan woman thought that Jesus was talking about actual water (John 4:13-14). Then, Jesus slowly explained the real meaning until the person or people understood.

In these verses, he explained to the disciples what was most important to him. Even as people need food to live, Jesus needed to do God’s work. It was as essential to him as food. Many times in his Gospel, John wrote that God sent Jesus. Jesus never forgot that he had special work to do for God. This work would finish with Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection.

Items for Discussion

  • What kind of inner food was Christ talking about? Have you ever experienced it?
  • This seems to be about priorities. What are the priorities Jesus is talking about here?
  • How is Jesus handling the egos of those who want to take credit for sharing the Gospel?
  • There seems to be a sense of urgency in Christ’s message – Why?
  • Why should fulfilling Christ’s priorities leave us feeling like we are doing all the right things?

Discussion Challenge

  • What is the roll of our church in promoting Christ’s priorities?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. of, used in, or connected with ceremonial purification
  3. http://www.easyenglish.info/bible-commentary/john-ma-lbw.htm
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