There’s nothing like a shower and a clean outfit. Pigs like to wallow in the mud. But we humans enjoy being clean. We only get dirty to do the jobs necessary around us. Most people avoid getting dirty if they can help it.
One of the filthiest things any of us could do is to sin against God and others. Sin doesn’t only separate us from God and those around us. It darkens our hearts and gives open doors to the devil. In a perfect world, we’d like most of our sins to remain personal matters.
If someone found out about our sins and expose them in public, many of us would be mortified. We would feel dirty in front of everyone else. There’s nothing like being exposed and vulnerable when we are in the wrong.
David sinned in secret, or so he thought. But all of his sins came out in the public. Because he committed adultery with Bathsheba, sinning against, God, her, and Uriah, her husband, his son Absalom slept with his wives on the rooftop of the palace (2 Samuel 16:20-22).
Then David tried to cover it up when he found out she was pregnant by getting Uriah to sleep with his wife when he brought him home on leave from the battlefield. But Uriah refused to do it. He didn’t want to enjoy himself at home while his fellow comrades suffered on the battlefield.
It took the prophet Nathan putting David in his place before he realized his sin and was in a place to confess to God. Sometimes we wait incredibly long when we need to address our sin right away. David finally came to this place. The result of his sin with Bathsheba was a baby that passed away as part of God’s judgment.
Before we let our hidden sin get to that point, we must confess to God and ask his forgiveness. No sin is worth the separation of relationship from God and others. David’s prayer comes in handy as a template for our own prayer of confession.
Clean, Clean, Clean
David continues to pray in this next stanza (Psalm 51:7-12) for God to cleanse him of the sin he’s committed. He’s already used words like “blot out,” “wash,” and “cleanse” (Psalm 51:4b, 5). But he’s going to continue this idea of being clean before God.
He adds to these ideas purging him with hyssop (Psalm 51:7), a reference to the ritual where priests declared lepers clean (Leviticus 14:6ff). After this ritual, the priest said, “and you shall be clean.” David applies this to himself.
He asks God to wash him and he will be whiter than snow. The picture of purity adds to the holiness David desires to be restored to. When we pray this part of the prayer, we focus on being clean before God. Holiness and purity mingle together in us to produce us restored in God’s righteousness.
As we pray, we focus on God’s cleansing Word, how he makes us whole again and restores relationship with him. After confessing our sins, we focus on God’s forgiveness. His arms open wide and he wants to take our sin from us as he cleanses a leper from leprosy.
Bring Back the Joy
David suffered a great loss, the death of a baby, as a result of his sin. Sin has consequences today. David was filled with sorrow and suffering. The agony of losing a life at such a young age must have been heartbreaking.
This explains some of the language David uses. He wants to get away from this feeling of self-loathing, knowing his sin caused this baby’s death. He wishes to hear joy and gladness again (Psalm 51:8). He describes his grief as God breaking his bones. This isn’t literal, but a poetic picture of his inner sorrow.
He’d rather skip this sorrow and grief surrounding his sin. Sin always promises more than it will ever deliver. In the midst of his brokenness, David knows that God heals the broken bones and he will rejoice again. But he’s in the middle between the death of his child and the rejoicing he wishes to embellish.
As God restores our relationship with him and the feeling of separation goes away, we wish to rejoice. No one wants to live in the midst of the sorrow and grief of sin’s devastating effects. The consequences are too great to bear. But God will restore us and we will rejoice in him again. It’s not wrong to ask him to renew us so we can rejoice in him.
A Clean Heart
David begged God to hide his face from his sin. We know that God cannot look upon sin. But even in the hidden parts of our lives where we have sinned against him, he is there. We cannot hide from God or get away from him. But we no longer want him to put our sin before us.
We want God to hide his face from sin so we can move on. He continues to point out our sin until we go through this process of confession, forgiveness, and restoration. Like David, we ask God to blot out our sins. We don’t want to see them or even have a record of them.
When God forgives our sin, he doesn’t bring it up again. It’s not like in a marital relationship where spouses tend to never forget even when they forgive. They leave it there as a record to bring up when they are angry or we sin against them again.
But God’s not like that. When he forgives, he forgets. He lets it float away and covers it. He never brings it up again. If we commit the same sin again, God doesn’t throw it in our faces that we continue to do the same thing. We are the ones who remember our past sins.
When you are praying for restoration, focus on God’s grace and forgiveness. He doesn’t hold a grudge. He doesn’t remember our sins and throw them back in our faces. He blots them out never to return. His grace is more than we can imagine.
David uses some interesting language when he talks about the restoration of his relationship with God. It almost sounds like he has lost his salvation and is coming back to God. But there are some important historical facts we must remember.
He asks God to create a clean heart in him (Psalm 51:10). Then he says, “Renew a right spirit within me.” It is not that David believes he has lost his salvation. He has used the idea of cleansing throughout this entire Psalm.
He is continuing the idea of being clean before God while in relationship with him. He has not lost his salvation. He is pointing out that he wants to feel clean before God once again. Renewing a right spirit doesn’t have to do with losing the Holy Spirit.
This is a parallel to the line above it. David expresses the same idea of cleanliness and righteousness in these two lines. Restoration and our relationship with God speaks of the healing of the separation that sin causes.
Psalm 51:10-12 is part of several worship songs, but we must look at the context of David’s life. When he says, “Cast me not away from your presence,” he doesn’t mean that God’s presence leaves a person when that person sins.
In David’s time, God’s presence dwells in the Temple. He’s asking God not to keep him from the Temple because of his sin. The things that he has done through adultery and murder make him unclean and unable to enter God’s temple.
So he’s not saying that God’s presence leaves him. Today we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. He does not leave us every time we sin. He convicts us of sin. And he works on our character. David is anointed king of Israel. Within the understanding of the anointing is that the Spirit of God rests upon a person for service to him. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t dwell within him.
Asking God not to take his Spirit from David is asking God not to remove him from the office of King. The Spirit left King Saul because of his many sins against God. His heart was unlike David’s. If God took his Spirit from David, he would place the anointing on another king and David would be like King Saul.
How can we apply this to us today? Praying this part of the prayer concerns the restoration of relationship from the separation sin causes. We don’t lose God’s presence. But we must be serious about the possibility of falling away from God in small increments.
If we don’t go through the process of confession, forgiveness, and restoration, our heart will become more and more callous toward him. We will begin to sin without feeling remorse or the separation in our relationship with God.
If we allow this to continue long enough, we will move so far away from God that losing our salvation will become more and more possible. It takes a long time to get to that point, but staying sensitive to our sin and what it does to God and a relationship with him and others keeps us from even coming close.
We can ask God to keep us clean and renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2). He can check our spirits and hearts. God re-calibrates our hearts so we avoid the temptation and sin that brought us to this point.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus told sinners, “Go and sin no more.” Whatever caused us to sin against God in the first place we bring before the Holy Spirit so he can conform us to Christ in that area of our lives.
Like David, we pray for restoration of our joy in God’s salvation (Psalm 51:12). We remind ourselves of the precious gift of salvation and all that God is doing in our lives. We get back on track, getting up from our stumbling and walking with Jesus again.
Ask God to keep you in the midst of his presence and guidance from his Holy Spirit in you. He will uphold this right spirit we have asked him to keep in us (Psalm 51:10b). We must be willing to serve in righteousness and holiness.
As we continue in the steps to restoration of relationship with God, we focus on his forgiveness in our prayer of confession. We ask him to clean us out and restore purity in us. We take sin seriously and deal with it immediately.
God must restore the joy of salvation in us. Meditate on the benefits of salvation that God gives us. We are privileged children of God. We put away our sin for good and enjoy God’s presence and guidance from his Spirit.
Next time we will engage in the third step of our prayer of confession, running hard after God and living for him. We serve God with a clean heart and purity. How do you approach sin in your life? Comment on your close relationship with the Holy Spirit as he convicts of sin and restores our relationship with God.