Oldie but Goodie
This Psalm, more than any other, takes me back to my youth. I can almost remember the first time I sang the line, “Create in Me A Clean Heart…Oh God…” I was changed. That song expressed the desire of my heart. Over 30 years later, it still does.
Traditionally, the Psalm has been ascribed to David, but, some scholars believe the Psalm was written later (verse 19’s petition to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem would be out of place if written by David). When I first learned that David may not have written it, I was disappointed. But now, after having time to reflect, I’m okay whether David wrote it or not.
Surprised by Sin
If David didn’t write this Psalm, some anonymous psalmist was able to capture the depth of remorse over sin taken seriously. David would be a prime example.
After David’s sin and cover up, he was going on his merry way, until Nathan the prophet told him a story. When David realized the story was about him, his eyes were opened to his sin. The story brought sight to his spiritual blindness.
This Psalm captures my regret over realized sin. The nature of time keeps me from turning back the hands of time. What has been done, has been done. My only option is crying out to God to have mercy on me, wash me, and give me a brand new start.
The Psalm and the song I sang so long ago, speak to my deep desire to be made right with God.
There are some who don’t seem to be bothered by their sin. They either look past their sin, minimize it, laugh it off, compare their sin to other more grave sins, or believe their sin is fine because, after all, God has to forgive them…it’s his job. They don’t care. Like David, they go off and continue to live their lives.
Others aren’t so flippant. They are grieved by their sin. They, like David, realize they are guilty and there isn’t anything they can do. They have fallen into the hands of God and God is justified in whatever verdict he pronounces. Their brokenness is more than fear of judgment. They also know they have fractured their relationship with God.
Psalm 51 was written from that deep place of failing God. Those who do not take their sin seriously cannot enter into the depths of this Psalm. They don’t weep when they read the words, “Against you and you alone, have I sinned…” They don’t understand the desire to be made right with God, “purified from my sins…” and washed “whiter than snow.”
I know what it is like to have my sin ever before me. I know what it is like to be disappointed in my inability to walk with God in love and holiness, unable to rejoice because of my broken spirit. I know the desire to be washed whiter than snow.
I cry out “Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.” God has. God has had mercy on me, washed me, cleansed me, purified me, and restored me. Not once has he turned his back on me or forsaken me because of my sin. Instead, Jesus has come and died for me. So that, my lips might be unsealed, and I might be restored to life.
The Psalm reminds me that sin is a big deal. It creates walls between me and God. But Jesus has torn down those walls. We can celebrate and rejoice because God is with us and he has restored us!
May sin not rule our lives! May you find God’s amazing love and forgiveness surrounding your heart is broken and restored.
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