Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
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.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit. – Psalm 51:7-12
Psalm 51 is a beautiful prayer of repentance and a model for how we should pray to God after we have sinned. When we sin, it is natural for us to run away and hide from God in shame. The worse our sin is, the more likely we feel this temptation. It is also common to feel like we must earn our way back into God’s grace by performing some act or ritual. But God uses David’s prayer to show that He works differently.
David wrote this prayer of repentance to God after being confronted by the prophet Nathan after committing adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11 1-27, 2 Samuel 12:7). His prayer shows the proper way for us to respond to our sins. Verses 1-6 shows his honest and raw confession of his sins without excuse. These verses also show his humility (“Have mercy on me”) and the true weight of his sin (“against you, you only, have I sinned”).
An amazing thing happens, instead of David asking God what he needs to do to earn his way back into God’s good standing, David makes 12 requests to God: Purge me, Wash me, Let me hear joy, Let my bones rejoice, Hide your face, Blot out my iniquities, Create a clean heart, Renew a right spirit, Cast me not away, Take not, Restore to joy and Uphold (Psalm 51:7-12). These requests show that once we repent, God takes over and begins the process of reconciliation, not us. What an encouragement we do not have to earn our way back into God’s grace.
We see the reason for this in Romans 3:25-26. God will reconcile all those who are His in Christ Jesus. Jesus was put forth as a propitiation – satisfaction for God’s wrath – so that He is still acting justly when He forgives us and restores us into His presence.
It is only after God had restored David in verse 13 that David says what he will do. David's action is in response to God restoring him first. Only then will our actions and worship be pleasing to God (Psalm 51:17-19).
Prayer of the day:
Dear heavenly Father,
Our hearts are sinful like David. We will never be sinless in this life. But we are sorry we have sinned against You and only You. Continue to create a clean heart in us. Help us to experience the joy that only comes from You. Thank you for reconciling us through Your son, Jesus who paid the price for our sins on the cross. God, we praise You for this precious gift You have given us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!