Create in Me a Clean Heart
2 Samuel 11 – 12; Psalm 51
God seemed to focus on the character flaws of the major patriarchs – Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joseph, and David – with inordinate details than most others. He certainly had no intention of portraying them as sinless saints, publicly displaying their misdeeds for our instruction. Here, we have a remarkably transparent psalm by King David, penned after the Prophet Nathan confronted him with his heinous crimes of adultery, treachery, and murder. Despite his long history of accountability with God, David’s blame-shifting and obliviousness to his own guilt were appalling, but not surprising; as power per se inevitably corrupt fallible human conscience (2 Sam 12:1-6), on the top of our incredible capacity to simply ignore or minimize our own or sympathetic causes’ injustices. However, God’s holiness and particularly His covenant with David did not permit the king’s wrongdoing to go unnoticed (2 Sam 11:27). We would be that much poorer spiritually for the lack of Nathans in our life! Reading through this Psalm gives us a sense of the inevitability of God’s judgment, and the depth of David’s subsequent conviction over his sin, with its guilt and shame. The shock for David, realizing suddenly the enormity of his crimes, must have pulverized his integrity and crushed his confidence! However, to his credit, he faced it squarely, and rediscovered God’s grace, rising above his punishment, to write about his traumatic self-inflicted journey.
When confronted with his crimes, David immediately understood Nathan’s implication, referring to them as ‘my iniquity, my sin, my transgressions’ (Ps 51:2-3; 2 Cor 7:9-10), and a burning realization that his sins directly assaulted God, separating them: it was “against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (Ps 51:4). It is critical to note that David’s remorsefulness produced a repentant spirit, as being remorseful – a self-engaging process – may not necessarily lead to repentance. His theology was amazingly precise as he acknowledged that there was nothing he could do about his own evil nature (Ps 51:5-9), except to ask presciently for an inside-out change that looked very much like ‘a new birth!’ These incredible requests were astounding: “create in me a clean heart,” “renew a steadfast spirit within me,” “do not cast me away from your presence,” “do not take Your Holy Spirit from me,” “restore to me the joy of Your Salvation,” and “sustain me with a willing spirit” (Ps 51:10-13).
Repentance, a rarely heard word today, perhaps only on the evangelistic circuit, is the overarching theme in this Psalm. Its cognitive and emotive components are: (1) A conviction of our offenses against God and man: Our conscience remains a poor guide in the face of our own consistent misdemeanors, and more often than not, it is unable to decide for us what is right or wrong. Ultimately, it is only God’s Word that is able to determine that, as we need to view sin from God’s perspective. (2) Our confession of those specific sins: This implies our intentional ownership of the specific misdemeanors that separate us from God, and an honest confession of them. Unless we plan to do evil, none of us end up perpetrating it if we knew we would get caught! That is the reason why our hearts are so deceptive. (3) Grieving over our propensity for sinning: The basis of sin is its travesty against God; as it is against God’s imago Dei in man, and because of it, Christ’s death was a necessity. Hence, sin cannot be taken lightly! And (4) Revulsion over our further transgressions that would change us: For David, the consequence of being punished for his crimes by God was acceptable as a foregone conclusion; but after it, he became a changed man as he loved his God and desired that his every word and action remained accountable to Yahweh. Pathology aside, no one would hurt or sin against those whom they love!