A devotional thought from Mike Cosper from “The Heart of the Matter”
Psalm 51 comes in the midst of David’s repentance over his sins with Bathsheba (see 1 Sam. 11-12). David saw her bathing on a rooftop, seduced her, and arranged for the death of her husband in order to cover his sins. All of these sins are public, external, and relational. It’s as obvious a case of law-breaking as one can imagine, but David rightly understands that the real issue is there in his heart. “You desire integrity in the inner self,” he said, “create a clean heart,” and “give me a willing spirit.” The only true cure is change in the deepest part of him.
He knows that only God can make him clean – and that he needs more than just a cleansing with water. “Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean,” he prays. Hyssop was used in temple ceremonies, a scrubby brush that would be dipped in blood in order to sprinkle the altar. He isn’t just asking to be washed clean—he’s asking for atonement.
The disconnect between our hearts and God’s law is a matter of life and death, and we should all feel David’s desperation. He needs blood-bought atonement to reconcile his sinful heart to God, and so do you and I. Thank God that in Jesus Christ, we’ve been given exactly that. How beautiful, then, that David ends his prayer with a call to mission; because God has redeemed him, he will tell it to others!
Pause & Reflect:
• What are the connections between external sins—the things you do that break God’s law and hurt others—and internal causes—matters of the heart that lie behind them? How can you trace the connections in your own life?
• We often try to manage our sin and its consequences. We rely on self-help strategies to fix our problems. But David sees that his only hope is for God to make him new. What are some of the other ways we try to manage and overcome sin? How might you be tempted to counsel David?
• David ends by promising to tell others what God has done that they might return to Him. How can your story of sin and forgiveness be a way of calling others back to God? Who are two or three people that you can specifically pray for now? Ask that the Lord open doors and opportunities to share your story.