Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. How often have we read, sung, prayed, and proclaimed these words? But more than fodder for lyrical fanciness or a great statement of supplication, has these words become the reality of your life?
David has been caught and confronted by God (through the prophet Nathan) about his sin with Bathsheba. David has repented and in anguish cried out Psalm 51. After asking God to deal with his sin David realizes God is righteous when He judges and so he again asks God to purge and wash him of his sin.
He continues his plea by crying out:
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You. (Psalm 51.10-13)
An Act of Creative Power
The word “create” in the Hebrew is bara’ which means to create, shape, and form. This is the same word used in Genesis 1.1 when God created the heavens and earth. God took utter nothingness and crafted something from it. Think about it. You have nothing, absolutely nothing, and suddenly God reaches into this nothingness and creates!
This is the same thing He does in our souls. He reaches into our black “nothingness” of sin and depravity and by an act of creative power, He shapes something that was never there before. God doesn’t just purify and cleanse me (Psalm 51.7), He gives me a new heart!
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5.17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW CREATION; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new!” God has created something out of “nothing”!
It is not that we need a new blood-pumping organ; but we do need a new “heart” (our seat of emotions – our mind, will, understanding, inner man). David has gone overboard in verses 1-9 talking about how corrupt he is (we are too), but he realizes that God desires to cleanse his heart. The word “clean” is the same word in verse two denoting a ceremonial cleansing to make pure and righteous. Amy Carmichael said it well when she wrote: “A pure heart is one in which all that is not of God is strange and jarring.”
Is that the case in your life? Has the things NOT of God become repulsive and shocking? Have you become so in tune with Jesus that anything that is not of His character and nature seems odd and foreign and grotesque? I would go so far as to say that if the world seems attractive and its vices appealing (all of which are not of God), then you do not have a pure heart and a right spirit. Will you allow Jesus to have full access in your life to CREATE and correct so that your crooked spirit is righted and your wicked-cold heart becomes pure?
Give me Intimacy!
“Cast me not away from Your presence,” David cries. “To cast” is to throw or hurl something. “Presence” means in the face of. Thus David says, “Do not take me from before Your face and hurl me away.” This idea is again repeated when he continues: “And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”
It is all about intimacy and David realizes he must have it. Most scholars think that David lived in his sin for at least nine months but possibly up to two years – a long time without closeness and intimacy with God. David is convicted and realizes that he is in desperate need for oneness, communion, intimacy with the King of kings.
Have you become so accustomed with sin in your life that you haven’t noticed a lack of intimacy with Jesus? Not that you don’t think about Him, go to church and hear about Him, even read your Bible … but there is no passionate oneness, intimacy, and deep communion with Him on a daily basis. Sin blinds and separates you from having relationship with God.
The Psalmist wrote:
How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God….
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand [elsewhere].
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
(Psalm 84.1-2, 10)
Can you, in all honesty, declare those words as well? Or do the tents of wickedness have an appeal to your soul?
Why does the Psalmist have such an ecstasy about the tabernacle and the courts of the Lord?
Because it is about INTIMACY – it is the place (in the Old Testament) where God dwelt. Entering into the tabernacle meant you were close to Him. But we have received something FAR better!! We have the privilege of being the tabernacle to house the Living God – “Do you not know your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Corinthians 6.19). Until God cleanses my heart and rights my spirit, I cannot have intimacy with Him, because He cannot dwell in a “house of sin.”
A Joyful Restoration
Do you remember when you became saved? Oh what joy that fills one’s soul! People often describe it as weights being lifted off one’s shoulders, or the happiest moment of their life, or their facial muscles could not keep from smiling. Tremendous joy!
David fell into sin and had lost the joy of his salvation; so he asks God to restore his joy. What I absolutely love about this passage though, is David does not ask for the joy of HIS salvation to be restored but the joy of GOD’S salvation to be restored.
How joyful do you think God is over salvation? My guess is words could not contain the exuberance. I mean, He sent His son for that very purpose. Even angels get ecstatic over one individual who finds it (Luke 15.10).
Sure, I may have a lot of joy when I receive salvation but God’s joy makes mine look like a drop in the ocean. It is this immense joy that David wants deposited within his soul. Interestingly it is the very thing God wants to put there.
In Galatians, Paul says that the fruits of the spirit are: love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When you get into the passage, you find that each of these fruits are merely the outflow of Jesus being in your life. If you have Jesus, you can’t help but have all these fruits start to blossom forth. In other words, Jesus becomes each of these fruits in our life. He IS our love. He IS our joy. He IS our patience and peace and kindness and and and. He is EVERYTHING we need for life and Godliness (2 Peter 1.3).
Is your salvation a joy? Are you wrapped up in close intimacy with Jesus? Has He become everything in your life?
Read the other Bible Studies in this series: