Create In Me A Clean Heart, O God

The whole of scripture reveals the reality of human sinfulness.

We don’t like to think of ourselves as sinners, but that is what we are. Though, more often than not these days, we think and act as if others are sinners and we are somehow pure and innocent, at least by comparison. But by thinking this way we make a serious mistake, one that could be dangerous to our immortal souls.

The whole of scripture reveals the reality of human sinfulness. Indeed, it is for this very reason that Jesus came among us to show us that, even though we rebel and sin against God and one another, God’s love and compassion toward us is never diminished and is always available to those who believe. David understood this fact with an uncommon clarity and revealed his existential, heartfelt understanding in what we know as Psalm 51.

With his whole being, David cries out, “Have mercy on me, O God/ according to your unfailing love;/ according to your great compassion/ blot out my transgressions./ Wash away all my iniquity/ and cleanse me from my sin” (v. 1-2). In these short lines we encounter two truths; that we are sinners and all of our sins are transgressions against the love of God, and that God’s love for us is unfailing and compassionate.

David is our model here. Nathan has forced him to look within and he has come to see the bitter reality of his own sinfulness and to realize that what he did in secret was not private, known only to him, but that it was done in the sight of God who sees and knows all that we do. And he is filled with remorse and deep sorrow. He recognizes his deep need to be reconciled, to restore his intimate relationship with God. He prays for this because, even though he has rebelled against God and man, he still believes in the infinite love and compassion that God has for him.

He prays, “Create in me a pure heart, O God,/ and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation/ and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me” (verses 10 and 12). He recognizes that God does not want sacrifices, or burnt offerings from us. The sacrifice God desires of us is the inner realization of our brokenness and our need for God’s love. “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;/ a broken and contrite heart/ you will not despise” (v. 17).

Because we sin daily, this beautiful psalm can be our daily prayer. We sin in our thoughts, our words, and our deeds, and no sin is insignificant in the eyes of God. To recognize this, to see what our sinful choices do to others and to ourselves; to see that such things offend against the infinite love of God, and to experience a deep remorse and sorrow for our sins, is pure blessing, yes, a blessing of God’s grace. Let us then turn with, “broken and contrite hearts”, to God trusting in his “unfailing love and great compassion”. We have reason and evidence to believe this; the Cross.

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