Greg Spires – Teaching Pastor
Weddings nowadays can range from elaborate ceremonies with luxurious receptions to simple vow exchanges. It would be distasteful in our culture to suggest that weddings serve to display the importance and wealth of the families involved. However, those with more resources at their disposal have a greater opportunity for grand ceremonies.
In many traditional cultures, though, the wedding ceremony was intended to serve as a way for a family to display their power and wealth. The type of clothing worn by the couple, the décor, the meal, and even the guests all served as avenues to display power and prestige. The more influential a family, the more important it was that there be many guests and that there would be guests of honor, such as prominent leaders in business and politics.
In these traditional cultures, there was a community expectation that weddings would be done in accordance with the importance of the families as a matter of honor. A family of modest means that attempted a lavish wedding would be sneered as trying to live above their station. A family of powerful means that sought a simple affair would be mocked for being cheap.
We should keep this sense of family and community honor in mind as we read David’s prayer for God’s forgiveness in Psalm 51. David seeks God’s mercy in a way that presumes on God being “honor-bound” to act according to His nature. Notice the words of Psalm 51:1, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.”
First, notice what David doesn’t seek: mercy that is “according to” his sin. David doesn’t ask God to do anything with His reference point being David’s sin.
Instead, look at the audacious nature of David’s prayer: He asks God to have mercy, “according to” God’s deep reservoir of love and mercy. David even has the boldness to remind God His mercy is “abundant.”
David’s boldness might be compared to a small child who discovers he owes the local library $5 in late fees. We might expect the child to say to his dad, “Dad, I blew it and turned some books in late. Could you please give my $5 – according to the debt I owe?”
The child’s request seems reasonable. David’s prayer isn’t reasonable. If the child acted like David, his request might be something like this: “Dad, I know you are a successful business person – we have homes for summer, winter, and even the cottage in Europe. I know your investments are worth millions of dollars. So, Dad, would you please pay the debt I have foolishly incurred according to your great wealth?”
David knew God deeply. He knew that God is full of mercy and lovingkindness. He sought God’s mercy because God is rich in mercy, not because David thought he deserved it.
When we can see clearly God’s merciful and loving nature, we can learn to pray boldly like David. We find ourselves timid and reserved in our prayers when we believe that God answers according to our worthiness. Why? Because, like David, our sin is ever before us, and we never feel worthy of God’s favor. However, when we believe God answers according to His mercy and lovingkindness, we find ourselves emboldened to pray with confidence about the things on our hearts and minds.
There is little to be gained by the timid prayers offered according to our sense of worthiness. But bold prayers of faith offered according to God’s mercy and love can change hearts, lives, and even the world.
I look forward to being with you this Sunday as we celebrate the work of God in Jesus Christ together! This Sunday, we will be seeking God through His Word in Matthew 18:21-35.
See you Sunday,