Outside Help - Ash Wednesday, March 6th

Psalm 51

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

4 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.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

In June 2018, twelve youth soccer players and one of their coaches ventured into a cave in Thailand. As they were exploring, a rainstorm flooded the exit, making escape impossible. For over two weeks they remained trapped, with over two miles of flooded passageway between them and freedom. Imagine how they felt. Stranded. Scared. Helpless.

When a rescue team finally made contact with the group, many thought this nightmare was over. But it wasn’t. The passage remained dangerous and virtually impassable. As the rescuers continued to work, one man paid the ultimate price. Saman Gunan was attempting to bring more oxygen to the trapped soccer team, and in the process ran out of oxygen himself.

Saman Gunan was willing to volunteer his time – even his life – in order to rescue others. He did not have to enter that cave. But it was only because of him and his fellow volunteers that any of those boys are alive.

King David was trapped in his sin. The most famous of David’s sins was the reason behind this penitential Psalm – our reading for today. In a series of events that included adultery, lying, and finally murder, David had cut himself off from God. Burdened by guilt, he considered rescue from spiritual death to be impossible.

God sent outside help. He sent the prophet Nathan to call King David to repent. David was directed to the same God we have. In repentance, David made an appeal to God’s compassion and love. These are the characteristics of God that caused Jesus to give his life in the place of sinners like David.

While we can easily say that Jesus did not have to come to earth, we can just as readily say that he did. Because God is love and compassion, he was compelled to send Jesus as our substitute. Jesus is the perfect substitute. It is only because of Jesus that David lived. On the basis of God’s love and compassion, David’s attitude shifted from downtrodden guilt to joyful praise.

Those 13 boys were rescued from a cave in Thailand in July of 2018 and they all made a full recovery. Certain death was avoided because they had outside help.

We, too, have been saved from sin and certain death. We have been cleansed by the forgiving love and compassion of our God. This cleansing came when we were completely helpless. God sent outside help. Because he did, we have been given life to sing God’s praises. This life continues from now to eternity. May we continue to praise the God who saved us and forever rejoice in our God who helps us in his love and compassion.


PRAYER:  I love your law and would walk well within it. Knowing I’ve not leaves me sighing. This is the struggle I face every minute. Who can relieve me? I’m dying! Lord, I am ruined. I have left you; I need rescue. Lord, I am pleading: show your favor, be my Savior. Amen.