Create In Me A Clean Heart | Psalm 51

For the past four weeks we have been looking at the Psalms we have grown to love. Google lists the Psalms that we are looking at up till and including Father’s Day, as the most popular psalms that people look for.

We looked at what the Book of Psalms are about and we also looked at perhaps the most popular Psalm – Psalm 23 – The Lord Is My Shepherd.

We looked at Psalm 34 and verse 8 “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalms 34:8 NIV). Two weeks ago, we studied Psalm 42, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God”. Last week we looked at Psalms 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God”.

Today we head to another loved song, popularized by the song “Create In Me A Clean Heart”.

A few weeks ago, we spoke about David before he was king. One of his more notable feats is his killing of Goliath. Goliath was over 9 feet tall and his physical appearance frightened the Israelite army. However, David had faith in God, and he went and challenged Goliath, eventually killing him with a stone from his shepherd's sling. After the battle the women came out to meet Saul dancing and singing: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7 NIV). From then on Saul became very jealous of David and several times tried to kill him. Jonathan, Saul's son and David's close friend, warned him to escape and he became an outlaw. Saul hunted him without mercy, although David twice spared his life.

One day, when Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle against the Philistines, David was crowned king in Judah. Two years later all Israel accepted him as their king. David was a brave soldier and won many victories. He was very popular with the people and ruled them well. When he had captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites David made it his capital. He brought the Covenant Box (the ark) there and planned to build a temple. This is why the city of Jerusalem is so special to the Jews today.

David was a great king, a brave soldier and a creative poet, who wrote many beautiful psalms of praise to God. The Bible describes him as ‘a man after God's own heart’ (Acts 13:22).

As most here would know, David was far from perfect. In fact, one particular act of his and his alone is just despicable. Verse one, in the title of Psalm 51, gives us the context of this Psalm and this terrible act. It says, “For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba” (Psalms 51:1 NIV). The whole sad account is found in 2 Samuel 11. When I read this story of what David had done, I get so mad at him! He was such a deceiver. One night when David’s army was of fighting a battle, David went for a casual stroll around the roof of his palace (v2). As he was strolling around he saw a beautiful naked woman having a bath - and he liked what he saw! The following actions by David were terrible. He got someone to find out any information there was about this woman (v3). The person said that her name is Bathsheba, that she was married, and her husband’s name is Uriah.

Knowing full well that she was married, David ordered for her to come to him. She went, and they had sex together. Oh, David, what a thing to do! Sleeping with a married woman. While her husband was of fighting for David, David was sleeping with her.

Bathsheba fell pregnant. So, she sent word to David about the news. Now David was obviously concerned about his reputation as king. Yet David, who has devised plans that built cities and taken enemies, had a plan to cover this situation. This is what he did. He ordered her husband, Uriah, to come back from the fighting (v6). David invited him to the palace, made a lot of small talk, gave him a gift, then told him to go home and sleep with his wife. His plan was to make him look as if was the father. David went to bed and woke up to find out that his plan didn’t work. Uriah didn’t go home but slept at the door of the palace. When David asked him why, Uriah said that he couldn’t go home and sleep with his wife while his mates were fighting. He felt too guilty.

David couldn’t believe it! So, he invited Uriah back for dinner that night. This time David got him drunk. But Uriah still didn’t go home.

David was desperate. Desperate times calls for desperate measures. David sent a letter to the commander of the army. This is what the letter said: “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die” (2 Samuel 11:15 NIV). David sent this letter with Uriah himself.

Well, it happened. The Israelites were fighting another city and the commander did what he was ordered to do. He placed Uriah on the front line and Uriah was killed. David murdered Uriah!

News came back to David of Uriah’s death and then Bathsheba heard it. She went into mourning over the death of her husband. After a little while had passed, David brought Bathsheba into his house and she became David’s wife. The scriptures end this tragic part-one of the story by saying: “the thing David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27 NIV).

When I was a teenager, I went and had a chat one night with mum and dad. I was looking for some assurance and encouragement. After I shared my heart mum said to me, “David, beware you sins will find you out”. Now I have no idea why mum would say that to me for. I mean, out of all the words of encouragement and comfort mum said to me, “beware your sins will find you out”. Well, for David, his sin did find him out.

This is the second part of the story which actually begins about a year later. Maybe for a whole year David thought he got away with his deviate action. But eventually his sin found him out. It happened like this. Nathan, who was a prophet was sent to David by God. Nathan shared a parable (a story) about a certain unjust man. When Nathan finished the parable, David was burning with anger towards this man in the story. He said that this man should die, that he had no pity. Then Nathan said to David: “You are this man!” (1 Samuel 12:7). Nathan continued, pointing out David’s sin. He had violated four of the Ten Commandments in one insidious sin: “You shall not commit murder, you shall not steal, you shall not commit adultery, and you shall not covet your neigbour’s wife”. David’s sin had found him out and he knew it!

Part Three shows that David was very remorseful of his sin and had repented. And this is where our psalm comes in. Psalm 51 is a song of David’s repented heart. Verse one David pleads for mercy. Verse 2 he asks for cleansing from his sin. Verses 3 to 5 he confesses that he is a sinner. Verse 9 David asks God to hide his face from his sins. Then in verse 10 he asks God to create in him a pure heart and renew his spirit. In verse 11 David asks God not to cast him from His presence nor take the Holy Spirit from him. Instead, as verse 12 says: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalms 51:12 NIV).

David knew that he needed forgiveness. Forgiveness is one topic that we all have to face. Forgiveness because someone has hurt you, forgiveness because you have hurt others, and forgiveness from God because you have hurt Him.

When we fail, and we will, how we handle it will determine if it is final for us or commence a road of recovery that one day God may use.

The issue is, we have to face our sins. The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV). The New Living Translation puts verse 23 this way: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT). God has set a standard and we have all fall short of it. Doesn’t matter how good we are, we fall short of God’s standard because we are inherently sin. King David fell short perhaps by a long way, from God’s standard. I have fallen short of God’s standard. You have fallen short of God’s standard.

David acknowledged this standard in verse 6 saying, “Yet you desired faithfulness…” (Psalms 51:6 NIV). Other translations have “Sincerity and truth are what you require” (GNB); Surely You desire integrity (HCSB). Amongst us all, I’m sure we have been guilty for lack of integrity at time, or lack of sincerity or not telling the whole truth, or not be as faithful as we should have. We have fallen short of God’s standard and we need to recognise this and confess it.

David recognised his terrible sins and confesses. Look again at verses 1 to 5, “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. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalms 51:1-5 NIV).

Don’t beat around the bush in regard to acknowledging and confessing your sins – even your sins that no one knows about – you know, those secret sins.

One theological term we apply to God is, omniscience - He is all-knowing. God's knows our secret sins.

  • Psalm 44:21 - "God... knows the secrets of the heart?

  • Psalm 90:8 - "our secret sins [are] in the light of your presence”

  • Ezekiel 28:3 - "Is no secret hidden from you?"

We can hide our personal and secret sins from each other, but not from God. Paul wrote in Romans, “This will take place on the day when God judges people's secrets through Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16 NIV).

So, first, acknowledge your sinfulness.

Second, actively repent. We need to repent. In David's psalm of confession, we read how he repented of his sin: “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity” (Psalms 51:9 NIV). Repentance is a change of heart that leads to a change of action. David's prayer is for that - listen to what else he wrote: “Then I will teach Your ways to rebels, and they will return to You” (Psalms 51:13 NLT).

For us, we need to be repentant of our sins. In Acts, Peter plainly taught this: "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19 NIV). Remember, God knows your heart. He knows if you are sincerely repentant or not. I think David describes this well in verse: “The sacrifice You desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God” (Psalms 51:17 NLT).

So, first, acknowledge your sinfulness.

Second, actively repent.

Third, accept God’s gift of forgiveness and restoration. Failure doesn’t have to be final. Sure, there will be consequences for our sins. Because of David’s sin, he missed out on experiencing the amazing Temple that was THE most important structure for the Jews. But remember, failure doesn’t have to be final. Acknowledging your sinfulness and actively repenting results in forgiveness and restoration.

Look at what David is saying in these well-known verses – 10 to 12: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalms 51:10-12 NIV). David is praying for a new heart, a revived spirit, to be in God’s Holy presence, and that joy of knowing that He is saved. What a beautiful prayer! What an amazing reality! That is the New Testament concept of grace. We don’t deserve a new heart, a revived sprit, to be in His Holy presence, and to experience His gift of salvation, but God’s grace says, you don’t deserve any of this but guess what, I’m giving it to you.

God is in the business of forgiving and restoration. The message of forgiveness is a message of hope because Jesus died for our sins. Speaking about His own death, Jesus said these words of hope: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28 NIV).

Man, we are sinner. We all are falling short of God’s standard. But where our sin is great, God’s grace is greater. Jesus went through more pain and suffering for you than we can ever imagine. Think of the Cross! Think of Jesus! You are forgiven. You are healed. “by his wounds you have been healed” (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24 NIV).

When David wrote in verse 13, “grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:12 NIV), it’s like David felt like the emotional wind has been knock out from him. You know what its like. You wronged someone. You know it and they know it. You feel yuck. Yet through acknowledging our wrong and actively being sorry you can be forgiven and restore. The Message Bible puts verse 12 this way – I like it: “put a fresh wind in my sails!” (Psalms 51:12 MSG).

Accepting God’s gift of forgiveness and restoration feels like fresh winds are blowing in your sails again.

And this ought to be our prayer, “God put fresh winds in my sails”. “God put fresh winds in our church’s sails”. God breathed your Spirit of new life in my life, into your life, into my kid’s life, into my marriage, into our church”.

Yesterday at the Reedy Biker’s breakfast, we heard from Wayne Bryan, a former associate of the Hells Angels in New Zealand. He shared how he grew up in a very legalistic strict church which contributed to him walking away from the church. Because of his love for bikes, one thing led to another and he got caught up with doing things that he isn’t proud of. In fact, he didn’t talk a lot about those things. I found over the years that some people who did some bad things and have since become Christians don’t like talking about their past because they don’t like glorifying in it and they feel ashamed. Its real repentant stuff. But what he did say was that Jesus saved him from what could have been imprisonment and even death. Jesus restored Wayne’s life and now He is proclaiming that Jesus is our Saviour. God is breathing fresh wind into His sail and God can breathe fresh wind into your sail to.

First, acknowledge your sinfulness.

Second, actively repent.

Third, accept God’s gift of forgiveness and restoration.

The Apostle Paul has written what He had experienced himself: “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT).

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