Blog / Book of the Month / The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap - Psalm 51 Sermon December Prayer Service

The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap - Psalm 51 Sermon December Prayer Service

The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap - Psalm 51 Sermon December Prayer Service

Prayer Service December 2nd - 2015. Rev. Ted A. Giese, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina SK. Psalm 51 - The Heart is a Rusty Old Can on a Junk Heap

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!
For I know my transgressions,
     and my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned
     and done what is evil in your sight,
so that You may be justified in Your words
     and blameless in Your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
     and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being,
     and You teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
     wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
     let the bones that You have broken rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins,
     and blot out all my iniquities.
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.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
     O God of my salvation,
     and my tongue will sing aloud of Your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
     and my mouth will declare Your praise.
For You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
     You will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
     a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
Do good to Zion in Your good pleasure;
     build up the walls of Jerusalem;
then will You delight in right sacrifices,
     in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
     then bulls will be offered on Your altar.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Young, "Fridfeldt seated himself on the sofa. He felt that he must not put off confessing where he stood. This strange old man with his brandy and his soldiers should at least learn what kind of assistant he had gotten.

“I just want you to know from the beginning, sir, that I am a believer,” he said. His voice was a bit harsh.

He saw a gleam in the old man’s eyes which he could not quite interpret. Was approval indicated, or did he have something up his sleeve? The rector put the lamp back on the table, puffed at his pipe, and looked at the young man a moment before he spoke.

“So you are a believer, I’m glad to hear that. What do you believe in?”

     Fridfeldt stared dumbfounded at his superior. Was he jesting with him?

“But, sir, I am simply saying that I am a believer.”

“Yes, I hear that, my boy. But what is it that you believe in?”

     Fridfeldt was almost speechless.

“But don’t you know, sir, what it means to be a believer?”

“That is a word which can stand for things that differ greatly, my boy. I ask only what it is that you believe in.”

“In Jesus, of course,” answered Fridfeldt, raising his voice. “I mean-that I have given him my heart.”

    The older man’s face became suddenly as solemn as the grave.

“Do you consider that something to give him?”

    By this time, Fridfeldt was almost in tears.

“But sir, if you do not give your heart to Jesus, you cannot be saved.”

“You are right, my boy. And it is just as true that, if you think you are saved because you give Jesus your heart, you will not be saved. You see, my boy,” he continued reassuringly ... , “it is one thing to choose Jesus as one’s Lord and Saviour, to give him one’s heart and commit oneself to him, and that he now accepts one into his little flock; it is a very different thing to believe on him as a Redeemer of sinners, of whom one is chief. One does not choose a Redeemer for oneself, you understand, nor give one’s heart to him. The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap. A fine birthday gift, indeed! But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks his walking cane through it, and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with him. That is how it is.”[1] This is a little excerpt from Bo Geirtz's book The Hammer of God, a book about a little Lutheran parish in Sweden. Like this passage from The Hammer of God the condition and nature of the heart is the focal point of Psalm 51. David, the writer of Psalm 51, knows that his heart is like a rusty old can on a junk heap. To all the world David's heart was a fine gift, noble pure and upright. He was righteous in the eyes of the people ... but there was a problem. His heart was sinful: The lust of the eye had infected it, the act of adultery sprung up from it, the callous plot of murder flowed from it, the lie that all was well when David took Bathsheba as his wife toughened his heart. Jesus says, "From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery."[2]

Psalm 51 is a prayer of penitence, written by David after he had been confronted with his sin, after he'd repented. David had lusted after the married Bathsheba, arranged for her to meet him, slept with her thieving from Uriah the Hittite what Bathsheba had given to Uriah and Uriah alone, and discovering that she was pregnant David plotted the death of her husband, Uriah, and when Uriah became a casualty of war just as David had plotted, David became the 'good' king all over again taking Uriah's widow under his roof and making her his wife. How kind, how good he was, now noble, what a friend to Uriah, how he treated the dead Uriah like a brother ... yet in his secret heart David had been the opposite of noble, and kind, and good, his secret heart had actually been selfish, cruel, and evil.

David was to be better than king Saul, Saint Paul in the Book of Acts explained how when God had removed Saul from being king, God "had raised up David to be [the king of the people of Israel], of whom [God] testified and said ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’"[3] But in his adultery with Bathsheba, in his murder of Uriah David proved himself to be as big a sinner as any, he proved himself to be the chief of sinners indeed.

In Psalm 51 David prays to God, "Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being, and You teach me wisdom in the secret heart." This teaching wisdom to the secret heart is what the prophet Nathan had done when Nathan came and confronted David with his sin. When Nathan told David the story of the rich man who had stolen away the beloved ewe lamb of the poor man to feast upon. When David's anger was kindled at the injustice the hard lesson was taught as Nathan said to David "you are the man!" David's secret heart was revealed: Nathan knew David's sin, God most certainly knew David's sin and David knew his sin. In Psalm 51, after being schooled by Nathan on God's behalf, David said he knew his transgression, his sin was ever before him. There was no use in hiding it - it was time to confess, confess that his heart was a rusty old can on a junk heap and no fine gift.

Yet here's the moment of grace, of mercy, here is the steadfast love of God, here's how David was different than Saul, how David was in fact a man after God's own heart ... David did not become belligerent when he was confronted by his sin, he didn't try to talk his way out of it, or rationalize it, there were no excuses, he didn't run away or try to hide, he simply says to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”[4] This secret heart full of sin, called upon the name of the LORD. David's heart in his confession of sin was the broken and contrite heart that God approves of, the heart of repentance.

Having a repentant heart is a gift from the Holy Spirit, as David doesn't say to the LORD, 'I have created a clean heart in me that I might give it to you as a gift. O God!' No David humbly prays, "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."

When David repents saying, “I have sinned against the LORD,” what does Nathan say? Does he say, 'OK, now prove your sincerity! Pray these prayers, say these words, do this pilgrimage, show me that you've changed and then I'll forgive you, then you can have the forgiveness of God." No, Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die." If David had said to Nathan, "I don't think what I did was a sin! I don't need your forgiveness! I don't want to see you ever again! Get out!" Then the account would have gone a lot different. David didn't fall into the temptation to deny who he was once he'd been exposed, he didn't continue to try and cover up his sin, in writing Psalm 51 he didn't even try and cover it up after he'd been forgiven. David just lay there like the rusty tin can that he was in need of God's mercy, And it was mercy that David received: The Redeemer, the true merciful LORD of forgiveness the wonderful Lord passed by, had mercy on the wretched tin can of David's heart, sticks his walking cane through it, and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with him. That is how it was for David - How is it for you?

When you receive forgiveness for your sins from God, Nathan's words are God's words to you, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die." Where has God put away your sins to, that you shall not die? Where has He put them? Saint Peter says that, "[Jesus] Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness." Where have your sins been put away to? They have been put on Jesus, and, "by His wounds you have been healed."[5] Saint Paul says that Jesus, "[cancelled] the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This [Jesus] set aside, nailing it to the cross."[6] Your sins with Jesus were nailed to the cross. When Jesus' perfect heart, covered in your sins, beat it's last upon the cursed tree, that Roman cross, the cross that becomes a sign of blessing to us, when His pure and blessed heart died there your heart of sin died there too, your secret heart became a heart which the Holy Spirit mercifully now calls and gathers into the church; a heart that the Holy Spirit enlightens, and keeps in the one true faith; a heart that the Holy Spirit teaches wisdom to.

Because of Jesus, king David, you and I, and all believers, can have the thing that David prays for when he prays, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." You don't give Jesus a clean heart, Jesus gives you a clean heart, He gives you His clean heart, His secret heart, which is pure and Holy, this is the heart that is created in you by the Holy Spirit out of divine love. You are not destined to lay forever on a junk pile. Jesus is taking you home to be with Him. When you pray Psalm 51, you pray that Jesus would ever do as He promises to do, that He would bring the good work begun in us to completion on the Last Day. In Advent we don't prepare to give our heart to Jesus - we are rather being prepared to receive the gift of Jesus' heart given to us by God the Father. Amen.

Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.


[1] The Hammer of God, Bo Giertz, page. 122-123

[2] Mark 7:21    

[3] Acts 13:22       

[4] 2 Samuel 12:13

[5] 1 Peter 2:24   

[6] Colossians 2:14