Hebrew Highlights 139 – Cleanse Me
Shalom, this is Yuval Shomron coming to you from Jerusalem.
Today I’d like to take a look at one of my favorite Psalms, number 51. We’ll read a few verses at a time and delve into the treasure found therein.
PSA 51:1-4, “(For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him,) (after he had gone in to Bathsheba.) Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Thy compassion 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 Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight, So that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, and blameless when Thou dost judge.”
The first thing we are reminded of here is that David confessed his sin only after Nathan the prophet had rebuked him. In case you have forgotten, the story goes like this: David lusted after the wife of one of his commanders, Uriah. The king sent Uriah into a battle where he was sure to be killed, then took his wife. God sent Nathan the prophet to tell David a story that revealed his sin. David repented of his sin that amounted to adultery and murder.
As the Bible so graphically points out, David wrote this Psalm after he had “gone in to Bathsheba”. This leaves no doubt that adultery had indeed been committed. David starts his plea by begging for God’s mercy, and in setting the tone for the rest of the Psalm, asking for cleansing. I find it interesting that he says, “Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned.” It’s obvious that he had also sinned against his friend and commander Uriah, and also against Bathsheba herself. However, he makes the point that ultimately, all sin is against God personally.
Let’s read on. PSA 51:5-9, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice. Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.”
The first line in this paragraph confirms the doctrine of original sin. It reminds us that without the grace which David is crying for, none of us would have a chance. Before the prophet had approached David, the king had kept the secret of his sin in his innermost parts, and it was obviously eating him up. Here he invites the light of God’s truth to purge those inner places, and bring relief. David must have felt very dirty. Hyssop is a very scratchy plant and would scrape off the outer layer of the stain of iniquity, and the washing would sooth the wounds. When the sweet singer of Israel said, “I shall be whiter than snow,” it gives hope to us all. Most of us have not committed sins greater than those David repents of here. If there is hope for him, than we also can be forgiven. God will indeed hide His face from our sins and erase them if we ask.
The next section in the Psalm is used in many church services as part of the liturgy. However, the important 4th verse is often left off. PSA 51:10-13, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Thy presence, and do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners will be converted to Thee.”
Part of being born again is the creation of a new heart. Our fleshly heart is intrinsically evil. This is a good prayer to pray each time we forsake God for our sinful path, even if for a short time. We know that David was a man of God, and many wonderful stories are told about him form the time he was young. Perhaps by the time of David’s gross sin, he had become a little to wrapped up in Himself. He can say, “renew a steadfast spirit within me” because he once was ruled by such a spirit. He was eager to return to the holy path. He is bold enough to ask not only for forgiveness, but for a restoration of the joy he had lost to sin.
This is an important point for many of us. We too often wallow in guilt and condemnation, and refuse to cross God’s bridge of grace back into His kingdom, where joy abounds. Now comes that famous statement which I mentioned is often left out of our songs and liturgy, “Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners will be converted to Thee.”
Some would say that after so great a sin, we have no right to say anything about God to anybody. When ministers or leaders fall, there may be some appropriate time out from their service. However, who can better teach about forgiveness than one who has been forgiven much.
Let me insert a New Testament passage here which bears witness to what I have just said. 2CO 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
What good is the power of Messiah’s cleansing blood if we don’t go on to serve Him. The Bible is full of examples of repentant sinners who went on to serve God boldly. Take for example the disciple Peter, who denied knowing Jesus three times as the Lord was being sentenced to death by crucifixion. He went on to open the gospel to the Gentiles. Or, how about Paul, who after persecuting the disciples to the point of death, turned the world upside down. Perhaps we too can do great things for God if we truly repent, and then shake off the condemnation the devil would like to bind us with.
Even though David was known for lavish sacrifices, and his hopes to build the temple, the next four verses show a prophetic glimpse into the future, and an astute understanding of the principals of God the Father.
PSA 51:14-17, “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation; then my tongue will joyfully sing of Thy righteousness. O Lord, pen my lips, that my mouth may declare Thy praise. For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou art not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.”
King David was not about to wait for the next Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement to receive his forgiveness. Neither was he trying to cover his sin with a magnanimous offering of bulls and goats. He realized that humility and obedience are the qualities God really wants to see on the altar.
At first, the final two verses seem to be in opposition the previous ones. PSA 51:18-19, “By Thy favor do good to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. Then Thou wilt delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then young bulls will be offered on Thine altar.”
Zion was the very hill on which David lived. He was asking for favor for both his household, and by proxy, all of Israel. The purpose of the walls around Jerusalem was to keep the enemy out. Jerusalem represents the heart of every believer.
If, with the help of God, we can keep the enemy outside the walls of our heart, it will be a place of pure service, and an altar of sacrifice worthy of our Heavenly Master.
I’ll leave you today with some verses from the book of Hebrews. The writer may have been thinking of Psalm 51 when he penned these words: “Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
May we all be ready to ask God for a new heart. Then we will teach transgressors His ways, and sinners will be converted to Him.
Shalom Shalom from Jerusalem