Paying Our Debt – Psalm 51:7-12

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…
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

So much faith is seen in these words written by David. As I read through them, after having read the account of what happened prior to this in 2 Samuel 11, I wondered if perhaps they also reflect a sense of David’s pleading for the faith to believe what he is writing.

Because I know I’ve been there. Remembering what I’ve been taught, calling to mind who my God is and what His Word says, and feeling desperate for assurance that it’s true.

As we take a few moments to dwell on David’s cry to his God (and ours), I pray that God will impress His truth on our hearts in such a way that we know, without doubt or question, that His Word is true and His grace is real.

David wrote this psalm after his adultery with Bathsheba. After getting her pregnant. And after coordinating a battle to ensure that her husband—one of his elite and faithful soldiers—died, so that the sin could be hidden.

Confronted with and convicted by the weight of this deep transgression, this man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) pens this psalm from which I believe we can learn much regarding our response to our own sin.

When we feel the weight and depth of our sin, when it is ever before us, guilt and shame and remorse can be overwhelming. “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4).

There is a tendency to experience that sense of conviction and then end up carrying it around, searching for punishments we feel we deserve. Ways to drag out the feelings of guilt and make ourselves pay sufficiently for what we have done.

But you don’t see that here.

This is not David seeking for punishment so he can feel like he has paid his debt.

He isn’t drawing away from God out of a sense of needing to fully feel his shame and the depth of what was done, avoiding the presence of the Holy One.

David asks for a renewed spirit. For God to make him clean. For restoration of joy. For the Holy Spirit of God to remain with him.

1 John 1:9 doesn’t say if we confess our sins, God will duly punish us as He sees fit so we really get the point, and then He will forgive us. It doesn’t say we should confess our sins and punish ourselves and keep the transgression before our eyes. No, it says that if we confess our sin, God forgives us—in faithfulness and justice, because this debt was already paid on the cross of His Son—and He cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

Notice—we don’t cleanse ourselves. He does it. Jesus paid the debt. God does the cleansing. Everything points to Him. All we do is humble ourselves enough to fall at His feet and be covered in His grace.

That is what David is seeking here. He recognizes that God doesn’t want sacrifices—God doesn’t want us to weigh our sin and determine its level of wickedness so we can try to sacrifice ourselves to the extent “necessary.” God sees our broken and contrite heart, He hears our confession, He forgives, and He cleanses. Whiter and purer and more beautiful than snow.

If it is for freedom that Jesus Christ has set us free, then let us live joyfully in that freedom (Galatians 5:1). Casting off sin and every weight that hinders (Hebrews 12:1). Rejoicing that we do not depend on the law to determine our righteousness and salvation, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).

The Lord is our righteousness. He creates in us a clean heart. He renews a right spirit within us. He restores our joy. He continues to meet us here, to abide and uphold and strengthen.

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