Most superheroes are hiding something behind their masks? There is a dark side to them that they don’t want the world to see. They have character flaws that they want to keep hidden. Batman and Spiderman and the rest of the superheroes that we see have pain and brokenness that they try to conceal behind their mask – behind their persona. Bruce Wayne can escape his darkness when he becomes batman. Peter Parker can avoid his pain when he morphs into Spiderman. And then, once these heroes put on their masks, they go on to do great things – saving people’s lives. I think that’s why we are drawn to these superheroes – why we love these movies – we can relate. We, too, get up in the morning and put on our masks – we, too, like to take on a persona – our own type of superhero that we are willing to let the rest of the world see. We, too, want to avoid our pain and brokenness and sin by putting on the mask and trying to become someone else for a while. We want to put on our mask and be able to do great things. The issue for us is that we are not superheroes and our lives are not movies. At some point we will have to face ourselves and the world and most importantly, God, with our sin and brokenness. And avoiding this truth is not going to make it easier. The difference between us and our favorite superheroes is that we have to take off the mask to be able to do great things.
So what are you hiding behind your mask?
And why are you hiding it?
What are you afraid of?
Are you afraid of being exposed – that people will figure out that you don’t have it all together? Because in this culture we are expected to be “in control”. We are not needy. It is almost un-American to be flawed. Living here – I often tell my kids – we live in fantasyland – this is not how most of the world lives – most people have nice homes and at least 2 cars and club memberships and go on fancy trips – and we all feel like we have to live out that fantasy – there is no room for being real or true. We will Photoshop our lives until we almost believe there is nothing wrong or out of control. And yet behind the glossy 8x10s is pain and brokenness and sin. Behind the masks are hidden secrets. But the true hero resides behind the mask.
Because a true hero is one that faces their own darkness, clings to God’s faithfulness to rescue him/her and shares that truth with a broken world.
And King David might have understood this better than any of the other OT heroes.
I will be the first to say that as I have dug into the life of David – it has been overwhelming. There are 66 chapters of the Old Testament devoted to David. David is referred to 59 times in the NT. Jesus comes from the line of David. There is a lot of info on this man we call David. And there is a lot about him that is controversial – people have a lot of varying and differing opinions on this biblical character. All this to say, I cannot cover all of David’s life in the minutes we have together, nor can I answer every question about this complicated man. Tonight/today I want to focus on one attribute of David. One characteristic that makes him a hero.
David was a man who faced his darkness, clung to God’s faithfulness to rescue him and shared that truth with a broken world.
Before we dig into the scripture passage that we’re going to focus on. I want to give a brief overview of David’s life – and I do mean brief – there are some many ups and downs and turns and twists:
He was a youngest of Jesse’s 8 sons. He was a shepherd boy when God told Samuel the prophet that David was to be the King of Israel – and when Samuel anointed in 1 Samuel 16 it says that from that day on the spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. And this is where things get crazy. The current king of Israel, King Saul, tries to kill David multiple times. There was a lot of war and killing and many wives – and then the affair with Bathsheba – David falls for her – even though he knows she is another man’s wife – he has an affair with her – she becomes pregnant with his child – so he sends her husband to the front lines of battle and gets him killed then David and Bathsheba’s baby dies. They do have another child – Solomon but that is a whole other story. Anyway – there is a lot more that goes on – lots of bad stuff between David’s children – one of David’s sons even tries to kill him. David ends up being king for 40 years – He died at the age of 70 at which point his son, Solomon, became king.
It kind of reads like a soap opera, doesn’t it? Read it when you have time – it is compelling.
David’s life was tumultuous – so much happened to him – so much happened because of him. He was a very flawed man but God called him a man after his own heart.
In 1 Samuel 13:14 Samuel says to Kind Saul:
“But now your kingdom will not endure, the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people…” talking about David “because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
Even in the NT – David is referred to as a man after God’s own heart.
So why was this man called a man after God’s heart? Why is he a hero?
Again there are probably several reasons but the one we’re going to focus on is David’s ability to face and own the darkness and pain in his life – his dependence on God and his ability to share the truth of who God was with a broken world.
To get a better understanding of who David was and his heart – we’re going to spend the rest of the time looking at the book of Psalms. Particularly focusing on Psalm 51. If 1 and 2 Samuel is the story of David’s life then the Psalms are the story of David’s heart.
That’s probably why the Psalms resonate so deeply with me as an artist. It’s one of my favorite books of the Bible. A psalm is a hymn – a song of praise. The psalms are poetry to music. They are powerful prayers and the psalms are purposeful praise. When mere words will not suffice – you put them into poetry – when simply speaking does not convey how you feel – you must sing. That’s what the psalms do – each psalm was written because the individual author could not contain his/her emotion. They had to communicate thru poetry and music because ordinary words were not enough. There 150 psalms and David is the author of half of them. And David used this form of writing to cry out to God, to wrestle with God and ultimately to praise and adore God. I believe the psalms that David wrote are a true picture of the man’s heart. He doesn’t try to hide from God - instead David pours his heart out to God. Let’s start by looking at Psalm 51 – David is so honest with God and with himself in this psalm. He has committed adultery with Bathsheba – impregnated her – essentially killed her husband – their child has died and Nathan (David’s closest friend) has confronted David about his sin. Side note – we all need a friend like Nathan. A friend who will get in your face and speak the truth – and a friend you trust enough to listen to them. Psalm 51 is David’s response to the mess he has created. Let’s look at it together. Starting in verse 1
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
Let’s stop here for a minute. David has taken off the mask, hasn’t he? There is no hiding here. I picture him on the ground, face to the floor, barely able to get these words out thru his uncontrollable sobs. He is broken here. He very clearly acknowledges his sin. He refers to his sin in 4 different ways in this section of the passage:
Verse 1 - Blot out my TRANSGRESSIONS – an offense/act that goes against a law
Verse 2 - Wash away all my INIQUITY – wickedness/violation of right
Verse 3 - Cleanse me from my SIN – serious shortcoming/highly reprehensible act
Verse 4 - Done what is EVIL in your sight. – Immoral/wicked/morally wrong or bad/harmful
David wants to be very clear that he was in the wrong. He is responsible for his actions. There is no blame shifting here. He is not trying to put any of this on anyone but himself. David sinned and he owns that. I think that is beautiful. It is so refreshing to be with someone who owns their sin – owns their issues – owns their problems. David is not pretending here – he is opening up his heart fully to God and pouring it all out to Him. This is not an easy thing to do in our culture. It’s not our fault. “If he hadn’t done this – if she had been more…if my father had paid more attention to me…if my mom showed me more love.” There are relationships and circumstances and experiences in our life that are just hard and messy and painful. And we may never get closure or an apology. But we have to own who we are now. We cannot allow the past or the present issues prevent us from allowing God to continue transforming us for the future. Blame shifting and displacement will stunt that transformation. Just look at the whole Brock Turner situation. As my favorite theologian, Dr. Phil says, “you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.” And since it’s father’s day – let me just speak to the dad’s out there – from a mom’s perspective – because that’s what I can offer. There is nothing more beautiful to your spouse or you children than a man who acknowledges and owns his sin and fully embraces his dependence on the God of the universe. That is the mark of a true man – one who can take responsibility and ask for forgiveness. And with God’s help take action to change.
David also says in verse 3 – that his sin is always before him – God will forgive us but we as humans will always find it hard to forget our sin – we can know that we are forgiven but not lose the ramifications of what we’ve done. Sometimes the effects of our sin are with us for a very long time. And it may take a lot of work and effort to clean up the mess we’ve made.
So David faces his sin and brokenness and takes responsibility for it but he also acknowledges his dependence on God and his desire for forgiveness. He is begging God for mercy. Look at verse 1 again.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
David knows there is nothing he can do to make up for his sin. He knows that he is depending on God to extend grace and mercy to him. David knows that it is only thru God’s unfailing love and great compassion that he will be pardoned. The only hope we have is in the character of God. He can forgive even the darkest of sin. And it intensifies in verse 4:
So you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
David knows that he does not deserve God’s forgiveness or mercy. He shouldn’t be spared but he is pleading for it. This flies in the face of everything we hear in today’s culture. We all feel like we deserve things – that things aren’t fair if we don’t get what we want. It wasn’t really our fault so why should we be punished or feel any repercussions. David is fully acknowledging that doesn’t deserve God’s mercy. He understands he doesn’t deserve it but he also realizes how desperately he needs it. David is fully dependent on God. David knows his place – God here – David here.
I love where he goes then in verses 5 and 6 -
5Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
He is acknowledging that we are all sinners – because of the fall of man we are all born into sin. But God still desires faithfulness and wisdom from his followers. Again David does not let himself off the hook – “I know I was born a sinner but that is not an excuse… Again full responsibility.
Then David really pushes in the next few verses. Let’s look:
7Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
David is begging for God’s mercy – acknowledging his full dependence on Him. He use so many phrases in his pleading
Have mercy on me
But I want to focus on a second on one phrase from these verses.
Cleanse me with hyssop – this is an allusion to the way they would clean lepers in that day – it was not a pretty process – David is acknowledging that repentance is difficult – and requires hard work – it is a severe spiritual cleansing – but he knows he deserves this and more and he is willing to do whatever God requires – David is asking for the repercussions – if Brock Turner were David – he would say give me 20 years…
Up to this point in this psalm – David has laid it all out there. He has not tried to hide from God. That is impossible – as David, himself, says in Psalm 138
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”
He is wrestling with God and with himself. He is face down, on the ground fully dependent on the Lord. Taking full responsibility for who he is and what he has done. The mask is off. In the next section David asks God to rescue and renew him.
10Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Not only is David begging for mercy but he wants to be made new – true repentance. Turn around. 180 degrees. Create a pure heart – renew a steadfast spirit – restore to me the joy of salvation – grant me a willing spirit. Change me.
Carl Sandburg wrote – “A tree is best measured when it’s down.”
And David’s true heart was so clear when he was at his weakest.
Once you have owned your sin and brokenness and clung to God’s faithfulness to rescue and restore you then you are free. Free to proclaim His goodness to a broken and desperate world. Verse 13
13Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
I will not be kept silent – I will teach of your ways – I will declare your righteousness – I will declare your praise! I give you my broken spirit – my contrite heart. I will tell. I will sing. I will proclaim. I will adore. I will praise.
Out of acknowledged sin and brokenness and realized dependence on God comes pure worship and adoration.
When you have removed that mask – and come clean with God and with yourself – and moved into true repentance – then the worship and adoration will just spill out of you. The people around you will know – you have been saved – redeemed – restored.
If you read all of the psalms of David – you will find that all of them have an element of worship and praise in them. David has depended on God so much and so often that the worship just pours out of him. I think David sums it up best in Psalm 145:
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
And extol your name for ever and ever.
So rip off your mask – embrace the freedom that can only come from the mercy and grace of our King and our Lord, worship Him with a humble, full and grateful heart. And be the hero you were created to be.