June 3 & 4, 2017 Pentecost
Psalm 51: 10-17
Dear friends in Christ Jesus:
There are a lot of songs written about broken hearts. The girl leaves the guy or the guy leaves the girl. They’ve found someone new and someone’s heart gets broken. It makes for a sad bestseller of a song.
King David actually wrote a number of songs about a broken heart as well. In fact, the Psalm of the Day for the day of Pentecost is just such a song. But his songs about his broken heart were a bit different than most. You see, King David’s heart wasn’t broken because he was dumped by a girl. No. His heart was broken because of his sin. He broke his own heart. The header to Psalm 51 gives us the setting in which David wrote it. It says: When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
You remember the story. After sleeping with Bathsheba, David tried to cover up his sin. After he unsuccessfully tried to pass off Bathsheba’s baby as her husband Uriah’s, he finally had the man murdered so he could take Bathsheba as his own wife. And he thought he got away with it too, until God in his love sent the prophet Nathan to call him to repentance. And it worked. David confessed his sins before God and God forgave him. Go home and reread the story in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 and David’s confession in the first half of Psalm 51.
But now in the second half of the Psalm, David described his new desire to serve God with renewed energy and zeal that came from the absolution that he had received. And God answered that prayer as well. When David came to God with his broken and contrite heart, God created a brand new heart in David, a pure heart.
And today, as we celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit on this Day of Pentecost, we see that God does the same for us. We pray with David that prayer we use so often in our liturgy and ask God to “Create in Me a New Heart.” Listen now to the second half of Psalm 51, Psalm 51:10-17:
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 broken David was. And through the prophet, Nathan, he finally understood it. In verses 4 and 5 of this Psalm he confessed, “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.”
The reality of David’s sin really sunk in. He knew he could never undo what he had done. He could never take it back. He could never fix it. Uriah was dead and with him, maybe even hundreds of soldiers who went to the front lines when David had the rest of the army withdraw to leave them defenseless. His own child, the son of Bathsheba, was also dead and nothing he could do could ever change those facts.
No amount of good that he would do in the future could ever make up for the sins he’d committed in the past. Not even the sacrifices that God had prescribed could remove his guilt and fix his corrupt and broken heart. David confessed, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.” He had sinned. He was less than perfect. Nothing could change that fact. How broken David was. And how powerless he was to do anything about it. His heart was broken beyond repair.
And he’s not the only one. We too were born broken. And the broken hearts we’re born with aren’t something that can be corrected by a simple surgery. They’re too corrupt. They’re too far gone. The waste that our hearts produce demonstrates how broken we are. Jesus said in Matthew 15: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” He also said in Matthew 5: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment,” and, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
I’m pretty certain that everyone here has at one point or another been angry with someone else when your selfish desires were denied. And so, even if we haven’t killed anyone, we too are all murderers with King David. We too have had impure thoughts and so even if we haven’t had sex outside of marriage, we too are sexually immoral adulterers. We haven’t always worked our hardest at our jobs and so even if we haven’t robbed any banks, we are thieves, stealing time and money from the company. And the list goes on and on. Out of our hearts come these evils. And by these evils we too, along with Peter’s Pentecost audience have, “put [Jesus] to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:23b)
And there’s nothing we can do to fix it. We are broken beyond repair. No amount of sacrifice on our part will make things right. Yet, that’s what other religions and even our own broken hearts tell us. Our world around us and our corrupt hearts within us suggest that if we sacrifice having a good time and do good deeds and give our money to church and to charities, these sacrifices will please God and he will be forced to love us. But these sacrifices are just as ineffective at making him happy. We remain broken beyond repair. Our hearts are so badly broken that we cannot fix them. But thankfully there’s one who can. When we take our broken hearts to God, he creates brand new hearts within us.
Finally, when the prophet Nathan came to David, David realized he could no longer pretend he got away with his sin. The Holy Spirit, working through the law the prophet proclaimed to David, led him to realize how broken he was. He finally confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13). And that broken and contrite heart God would not despise. He would fix it. In fact, he would make David a new heart.
That word translated “create” in the NIV is a key word. In the Hebrew that word, barah, is used only of God’s activity. It’s something God initiates, something he brings into existence. When David did not have a pure heart but one that was corrupted from within, God created a pure heart with him. As the Apostle Paul later wrote, “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)
In the coming Messiah, every one of David’s sins, his murder and his adultery, were completely forgiven. God changed him from within and declared him to be pure, perfect and holy in his sight so that God, who cannot stand to be in the presence of sin, no longer had to cast David away from his presence or take his Holy Spirit from him. But God would remain in David’s heart and make his home there.
And by that act the Holy Spirit transformed David’s heart. David couldn’t help but respond. The work of the Holy Spirit, first leading him to repentance, then restoring to him the joy of God’s salvation by grace from beginning to end, had its impact on him. He wrote, “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.”
David no longer wanted to live to serve himself in sin, but he wanted to live for God. He would share what God had done for him with others. He would declare the praises of him who saved him from his sin and the hell he deserved. And through the words David has written the Holy Spirit still teaches transgressors the ways of God. You see, through these words written by King David, the Holy Spirit works repentance in our hearts today leading us to realize how broken we are. Then, when we are contrite and grieving over our sin, he creates new hearts within us. Through the Gospel message in Word and in Sacrament, he proclaims to us, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off.”
Even though no amount of sacrifice on our part can make us right with God, there is one sacrifice that can: The perfect sacrifice and perfect obedience of Jesus. Jesus never thought or said anything unkind to anyone and so he never committed a murder. Jesus never had an impure thought and so never committed adultery. Jesus never committed a sin and gave his perfect life to us. He took all of our sin on himself and paid for them with his death on the cross. Those sins are gone.
Are you bothered by some sin you have done in the past? Do you think there is no way that God can love you or forgive you? Look at what the Lord did for David. And the same Holy Spirit has enlightened you to understand and believe that the cross of Jesus is what it’s all about, that all your sins are gone. And with that faith he has created new hearts within you, hearts that are pure in God’s sight so God doesn’t cast you away from his presence.
Rejoice that though you were once broken beyond repair, by his grace God has sent his Spirit to create new hearts within you. And let the joy of God’s salvation be restored in you as you declare his praises to all who will listen. Amen.