“Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will return to You.” -Psalm 51:13
How many transgressors do you know? It’s not a word we tend to use anymore. Yet, the Bible uses this term for those not following God: criminals, transgressors of God’s law. What do you want to say to transgressors?
In Psalm 51, David had been caught in a great evil. He had slept with a married woman and arranged her husband’s death to cover up his crime, but the Lord sent His prophet Nathan to call David out. David cried out to the Lord, “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” (10-11). What kind of renewed spirit? “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit” (12). This all comes from knowledge of God in His Word, and a delight in this knowledge (6).
David was forgiven by God for such a grievous transgression. David prayed for God’s wisdom in his heart, forgiveness of sin, a joy of God’s saving power, and a new spirit to walk in the ways of God. With God’s salvation and the return of David, David now says “I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will return to You.”
Do you consider yourself before God as David did, aware of your transgressions and sins against God (3-4)? Has the Lord forgiven you, a criminal? Has the Lord restored the joy of His salvation to you, giving you a new spirit to obey Him? Are you walking in God’s ways? If you are, it is all grace. In the song we as a church family sing together, “All I Have is Christ,” there is a line that grips my heart each time we sing it: “Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone and live so all might see the strength to follow Your commands could never come from me.” You are not righteous, good, doing good things, being an upright person because you worked hard, learned more, make better life decisions than the transgressors around you.
Now I return to my opening questions: how many transgressors do you know? What do you want to say to transgressors? As I reflect upon Psalm 51, I am aware of the stunning amount of sin I am guilty of before God. I am a transgressor. I have no moral strength nor right standing to accuse my transgressing neighbor. I want them to know the ways of my gracious, compassionate, holy Lord who forgave me and put a new spirit within me.
This idea of “teaching transgressors Your ways” is discipleship. It isn’t a one-time thing, but an ongoing thing. I want my neighbors to know the ways of the Lord, so I teach them the wisdom of His Word in casual conversations with a genuine care for their souls. I befriend my transgressor neighbors as a fellow transgressor, yet forgiven. If I teach transgressors the ways of the Lord, to follow Christ, sinners will return to Him.
This is the desire of my heart, and I pray this is the desire of your heart: to know transgressors, compelled by the love of Christ teaching them His ways that sinners may return to the Lord. God is glorified in His grace in Christ toward such transgressors of His law as you and me. God has made a new creature of our old selves. Let us teach transgressors the ways of the Lord that sinners may return to the Lord.
Heavenly Father, how my heart rejoices with thankful praise that Your grace for me in Christ who washes me clean and gives me a clean heart and a new spirit within me! I thank You, Lord, for Your compassion and patience with such a transgressor as me. Lord, grant me wisdom to teach my transgressing neighbors Your ways that sinners may return to You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.