Reflections of the Word: The new year is a good time for reflection
A new year is a good time for evaluation and reflection. Throughout the Bible, we are told to examine ourselves, whether it’s in partaking of communion or how we live out our faith. Self-examination is important to your faith and growth in the Lord.
King David was Israel’s greatest king. He had a heart for God and was a poet and prophet as well as king. But, like all humans, sometimes David did not walk the walk God called him to. When he sinned great sins, David went about a year before he had real self-examination. He was approached by a prophet who confronted him with his sin, and when David got honest with God, he wrote some of the most poetic and powerful words for self-examination.
Psalm 51 begins as a foundation for David’s prayer of repentance when he says in verses 1-2, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”
First, David owned his sin, he knew it separated him from God, so he pleads for mercy and calls out for God to deal with him in love. That’s a great model for self-examination; look at how you might have broken God’s commandments and allow conviction to bring you to a place where you’re sorrowful for your sin and ask God for forgiveness. Then, the balance of the psalm gives us a great understanding of what repentance looks like.
Verse 17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart…” Brokenness before God is the way of restoration; having a contrite heart means that you are truly sorry for your sin. Self-examination comes to fruition as we look inside, knowing God’s way is better than the way we’ve been going.
In the middle of the psalm, David gives us his prayer, and it’s a great prayer for anyone who’s far from God and needs to return to the Good Shepherd. Psalm 51:10-13 says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will return to you.”
I like what David said. First, he understood that God can give us a new heart, a heart of love instead of hearts of stone. So, David asked for a new heart and a right spirit. Next, he asked for more of the Holy Spirit. David understood that without the Spirit’s power, he was powerless to live godly. Then, he speaks about joy, so there’s an inner peace and overwhelming joy that comes when we are in right relationship with God. Why joy? Because you were created for relationship with God and joy comes as you draw near to God and the promise is, “He will draw near to you!”
Finally, our psalm basically says, when forgiveness and joy are in my life, I will teach others your ways and they, too, will return to you. So, the most powerful witness for Christ is someone who has examined themselves and fallen on the mercy of God. That’s the one who will extend mercy to others because that is what God has given them.
With a new year, I encourage you to examine your faith. If you have sinned, use our psalm to help you return to the Lord. And if you have never trusted in Jesus, you, too, can use this amazing psalm to begin the journey of faith that God desires for you.
Pastor Rich Lammay of High Sierra Fellowship is a member of the Carson Valley Ministers’ Association.