I had an interesting experience with Gracie recently. I was putting her to bed and she was in a disposition I’m not sure that I can really describe. It was a muddled mess of sad, desperate, empty and grasping. Every time I tried to leave and say goodnight she would CLING to me with quiet desperation.
After asking what was wrong several times she finally said: “I’m sad.”
“Why are you sad?” I asked. She held me close and said: “Because…. I forgot that I loved you today.” As she hung onto me I asked: “What do you mean you forgot you loved me today?” Through tears she managed: “I forgot I loved you today… when I was at school and at my friend’s house and doing everything today… I forgot about you… I forgot I loved you.”
When I finally got her tucked in I walked to my room just shaking my head and praying: “Lord, how many times? How many times has that been me in the pit of desperation to reconnect with you, crying out to you, clinging to you with tears in my eyes in the calamities of life knowing that I had gone through that season, that day, that hour, that motion of life, having forgot you? Having forgot that I love you… and what a mess things were because of it.” Maybe you feel like the day to day motions of life won’t lead you down the path to destruction… but be careful there… the path of going through the day to day motions of life are how we forget God. We get caught up in our “self” and that IS the path to destruction. The Lord is the only one who can save us.
I think the life of David and his heart pouring out to the Lord in Psalm 51 illustrates this beautifully. The note for Psalm 51 says: A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
At the writing of this Psalm David had betrayed his friend & military leader Uriah. Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, became pregnant as a result. To cover up his adultery, David instructed his general to put Uriah on the front line and then withdraw in the attack. Uriah was killed, leaving David “free” to marry Bathsheba. But God was not going to let this go. He sent Nathan the prophet to unveil David’s sin in an undeniable way. The result was David flat on His face crying out to the Lord.
First, let’s consider: What got David to sin with Bathsheba to begin with? I’d say it was because David forgot that he loved God. If David had the joy of God’s love and salvation at the forefront of His mind, rather than his own appetites, Bathsheba would not have been a temptation. When David cries: “Restore to me the Joy of your salvation!” he’s admitting that he forgot he loved God. He’s asking God to remind him. The JOY we have in God’s salvation is what dismantles those idols of the heart that lead us down the path to sin. Because David forgot he loved God he began to take privileges and matters into his own hands to orchestrate his own selfish ends….after all, David was the king- why should he be denied Bathsheba? (In the words of Mel Brooks: “It’s good to be the king!”) Uriah was in the way. David as king had command of the army- who could question his decision to send Uriah to the front lines? Men die in battle every day— obstacle removed! In a way wasn’t David “playing God?” And the result? Spiritual decay, interpersonal calamity and complete disconnection from God.
Here are some tough questions: What makes you forget that you love God? What is the result? More importantly: How do you get back? I don’t know what makes you forget about God, but I know how you can get back to Him! In Psalm 51 we see how David not only got back to God but was also transformed.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.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. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise…
How does David get back to God and become transformed? First, David humbles himself. Notice David confesses that his sin was foremost against God: “against you and you alone have I sinned.” David realizes his sin has done more damage to his relationship with the Lord than anything else. What about us? When we sin, do we try to cover it up, deny our sin or just wag a finger at ourselves? In each case we refuse to see it for what it really does— damage to our relationship with the Lord. The first key to getting back to God is to: Humble yourself.
Second, David realizes he’s incapable of “cleaning himself up.” He needs God to do it for him. He submits to God’s cleansing and asks God to create a pure heart and a steadfast spirit for him. What about us? Do we expend all our effort looking at the Bible in a technique minded way- looking for our own will and effort to “clean ourselves up”? Or are we flat on the floor relying on God, crying out “I can’t do it! I need you, Jesus!” The key to transforming power is to: Let God clean you up!
Finally, David realizes God is going to use his failures to teach him wisdom and transform his heart. David sings: “Let the bones you have crushed rejoice… Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.” Why is he able to sing rejoicing in the midst of his guilt? Because, David’s tasting God’s forgiveness and salvation. David sings: “restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me by your generous Spirit.” And God does it! What about us? Are we looking at the cross and seeing God’s epic forgiveness saving us and then singing to Him? If you need to get back to God and experience His transforming power then: Sing!
What results from engaging our hearts with God like this? Deeper humility and a servant’s heart! David understands God’s heart when he says: You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. David recognizes what really pleases the Lord is not just going through the motions of “sacrifices” by laying things on the altar that are really no sacrifice at all. God does not want David’s bull on the altar, He wants David’s heart. Remember that David was described as a “man after God’s own heart.” Think about that from a different perspective— not just that he was “after God’s own heart” meaning “like God,” but that David could only be “like God” because he was chasing after God’s heart trying to “get God.” That’s how to love God above all else. Are you chasing after God’s heart so that you can be a man or woman “after God’s own heart”— a man or woman that is Christ-like? Someone who places their very heart on the altar of God?
The amazing thing is that a heart placed on the altar for God will not be despised. The broken and contrite heart will be treated gently and it will be saved! When you see God’s salvation rescuing you from the mess of life that transforms you to want to share it. This is what transforms David, and us, from people who simply go through the motions forgetting God, to people with servant’s hearts who “teach the transgressors” God’s ways- the ways of grace and forgiveness.
For a moment David forgot that He loved God. What I love about our God is that despite the spiritual decay and calamity in David’s life, God restores him to JOY! Why? David cried out to God, desperately begging God not to turn away, admitting he had forgotten God and doing everything to claw his way back. And God faithfully answers restoring David’s JOY. But that joy is a fruit of David’s humility and firm knowledge of these truths:
God is God— you are not. Have mercy on me, O God…. 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.
You are more sinful than you ever dared believe. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me…. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
You are more LOVED than you ever dared hope! According to your unfailing love blot out my transgressions… Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
There is one last very important thing to note. In this Psalm David pleads Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. We can know with certainty that God will never do this to us. He will never crush our heart when we place it on the altar. Why? Jesus. On the cross Jesus was cast away from God’s presence. He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He took what we deserve. In our sin and transgression we deserve to be cast from God’s presence and crushed. On the cross Jesus suffered that for us. Because of Jesus we don’t get what we deserve.
Hebrews says Jesus did this “Because of the Joy set before Him.” What was that Joy? YOU! Jesus incurred the colossal wrath of God so that we could have the infinite delight of God. You see, we may forget God… but He has promised that He will never forget us. He will never cast us away. He will never forsake us. “Remember this beloved that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day… the Lord is not slack concerning His promises, but is long suffering, not willing that any should perish.” (2 Peter 3:8)
What does this do to your heart? I hope it makes you want to chase after God’s own heart and know that no matter what your transgressions, if you humble yourself and cry out to the Lord: “I forgot that I loved you today!” He will faithfully restore you to JOY and transform your heart to His likeness.