March 5, 2018 – Restoration

Create in me a clean heart, O Gracious One, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Enfold me in the arms of Love, and fill me with your Holy Spirit.
Restore in me the joy of your saving grace, and encourage me with a new spirit.
—Excerpt from Psalm 51 from Psalms for Praying, Nan C. Merrill

Psalm 51 has long been associated with the Lenten season. The psalm is David’s prayer of repentance and a plea for restoration to a gracious and merciful God. Many of you already know the backstory: David coveted Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba; he committed adultery with her; and when he could not manipulate a way to cover up the resulting pregnancy, he had Uriah killed. One sinful act led to another and another until it spiraled out of control. Still, David thought that he had covered his tracks.

I think that the next part of the story is often misconstrued. Seemingly, an angry God sends his prophet to execute a harsh judgment on a sinful king to show his might and control over the most powerful of men, but God was grieved by David’s sin. God longed to be restored to this “man after God’s own heart.” God finally sent the prophet Nathaniel because God’s business is restoration not punishment.

Psalm 51 strikes me as a prayer that had been boiling up in David’s soul for nearly a year. He longed to be restored to God, and he called out for the forgiveness that his merciful God is always so ready to impart. We tend to look at the actions of David — the coveting, infidelity, manipulation, and murder — as the most heinous of sins, but no sin is too big for God to forgive!

I was blessed to be part of our church-wide retreat last weekend. All of the sessions with Joy Yee were incredible as she pointed out the masks that we so often place over God’s face. One of those masks is the mask of a God who expects us to earn God’s favor. Instead, we need to remove the mask and see that God grants favor, grace, love and mercy to every one of us! Reflecting on that truth and Psalm 51 reminded me of an old spiritual, “There Is a Balm in Gilead.” The message of the song is a simple yet powerful reminder that we don’t have to earn God’s favor. We have to trust God to do the restoring work that God so longs to do.

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus and say, “He died for all.”

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

The prelude for this Sunday is a reflection of the prayer of David from Psalm 51, and the offertory is an arrangement of There Is a Balm in Gilead. I encourage you to take a moment this week to read through the psalm and pray the words to God. Pray knowing that God is merciful and gracious. Pray knowing that God will do the work of restoration; it is not something that we have to earn. God longs for all of us to be completely restored to the joy of saving grace.

  • Shelton