Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. – Psalm 51:10
A well-known and often referenced verse from the Bible but one that belongs to a context within Psalm 51. So David acknowledges his sin before God and pleads for mercy. In reverent fear (“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Prov 9:10) the consequences were great and far-reaching and not taken in any light-hearted manner; he was king, leader and example before all Israel- a position of responsibility. He had been anointed to and for the task! So David’s plea was according to God’s love and compassion (v1). David takes a further and rightful step and discloses a repentant heart. Note how his prayer is beyond a request to be forgiven, “Cleanse me”; “Wash me” (v’s 2,7); “Create in me a pure heart….Renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (v10); “Restore to me the joy of your salvation”; “Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (v12).
When we follow David’s line, the position we find ourselves in when we sin is more than asking God for forgiveness. Forgiveness must also be accompanied by repentance. David desired to be a changed person. Now repentance is a, ‘Turning away’, from behaviour that practices and harbours sinful acts and inclinations. But turning away may take us into one of two directions. First, we may say to ourselves, ‘I don’t want to do that again’, ‘I’ll learn from my mistake’. Now, this is not a bad thing but to leave it there is to leave us vulnerable to repeat the offence. The second pathway is to acknowledge we need God’s help to overcome our sinful behaviours. Not just coming back for forgiveness time and time again without seeking to deal with it in God’s power. How many times do we repeat the same mistakes (sin) and the root problem lies buried waiting to be revived again by temptation? David’s requests are for God’s help- “Create in me a pure heart….Renew a steadfast spirit within me…” here lies David’s credibility before God (again look at the contrast with Saul, his predecessor).
Ezekiel spoke to the exiled Israelites in a similar fashion, “Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, AND GET A NEW HEART AND A NEW SPIRIT.” – Ezekiel 18:30-31
How realistic is it to say, that we as a people, can fall into the same patterns when dealing with sinful behaviours? We can only reflect upon this ourselves and reflect upon the Scriptures and not the self-help secular style of book or guru regarding, ‘overcoming behaviours’, which the Bible calls out as sin.
With David ‘Speaking for us’, can’t we also come before God and ask, “Create in me a pure heart…Renew a steadfast spirit within me…”? We also find a connection with the New Testament when Jesus spoke of the blessedness of those who are, “pure in heart, for they will see God.”– Matt 5:8. The ‘Pure in heart’ is the work of God and not ourselves. For our part, we must want it and so ask and seek it. Do you believe God is able to give you a change of heart towards sinful behaviours? If we answer no then we are left in a dismal position. If we answer, yes, then we have hope. Hope to truly live, overcoming sinful habits and practices which subtly become woven into everyday life patterns. Jesus forgives AND Jesus helps us to overcome! Salvation is the defeat of sin.
How do David’s words speak to you when he says, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” – vs 2,7?
It is the ‘Pure in heart’ who will see God for God is without sin and is Pure. The pure in the heart become, ‘Like God’ and less like our ‘Old self’. Confession of our sin and asking God for forgiveness is the significant first step but the first to lead us to a much greater and fruitful conclusion. How great then is, the cross and our salvation in Christ!
There is a way given when we fall into sin. David is one who preceded us; he is one, in all his blackness of behaviour, to whom God has found worthy and so given to us, to be a voice and so speak for us, that we may follow the good pattern in what we should also do. There is one more action David takes and we will look at that next week and conclude. How may this lead you into Prayer today?
SONG: Create in me a Clean Heart by Keith Green – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqB2H9vCPKA