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The way of cleansing

by Jacob Ninan

There is a lot we can learn from the way David repented from his sins and confessed them after his failure with Bathsheba and Uriah. When we fall it is not enough to say a quick sorry to God and move on, if we want a deep cleansing in our life and we want to become purer than we have been before. Let us examine Psalm 51 and pick up the ingredients of a true repentance.

1. Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.

David recognised that he had no chance of going before God trying to justify himself or find excuses. He knew he had sinned and that the only way he could be forgiven was through receiving unmerited favour from God. This was the first stance that he took before God.

2. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin.
3. For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.

Here he was admitting honestly that he had sinned and that he was aware of what he had done and its seriousness. The first thing he sought from God was a washing away of the record of his guilt. Only when he knew that God had forgiven him could he know that he was free from his guilt. This washing David sought was based on his knowledge of God's graciousness. Now we know that this graciousness has been expressed to the full through the giving of His Son Jesus to die for our sins.

4. Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.

This was how David understood the seriousness of his sins. Adultery and murder were serious enough in the sight of people. But what made David bow low before God was the realisation that it was God to whom he was ultimately responsible and that he had sinned against this God who loved him and had given Himself for him.

5. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

This was not David finding a way to blame God or his parents for his sins as some people try to do, but acknowledging that in himself, that is in his flesh, he was sinful through and through (Rom.7:18). He was admitting that his nature itself was sinful and asking God for not just forgiveness but also deliverance.

6. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.

This shows how closely he knew God. Even though he was under the old covenant characterised by obedience to the Law, David knew that God wanted something more than external obedience to the commandments. He knew that God was looking for the reality of 'truth' being there in the deepest levels of heart and mind.

7. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

David wanted a really deep cleansing inside. Of course, at that time he did not know about the blood of Jesus which alone can cleanse us deeply from sin. But according to the best he knew, he wanted a thorough cleansing.

8. Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
9. Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities.

David wrote this psalm just after Nathan had confronted him about his sin. He was still reeling from a sense of guilt and wretchedness. He was crying out to God for restoration of knowing that he was accepted by God.

10. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

A clean heart, a steadfast spirit – both were what he needed from God in the place of his own heart that had been defiled and his spirit that had wavered in his relationship with God.

11. Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.

David didn't forget about righteousness and justice of God when he sought His grace. He knew that God would be perfectly right if He chose to throw him out and take back the Holy Spirit. This was what he feared, and he was pleading with Him not to do it.

Compare the attitude and approach David had towards God and his sin with our tendencies to treat sin lightly and to take forgiveness for granted. Some Christians exaggerate the grace of God so much that they do not even bother to repent or confess their sins. Of course, God longs to be gracious towards us (Isa.30:18), and He will immediately forgive when we confess our sins to Him (1Jn.1:9). But if we take sin and forgiveness lightly, the chances are that we will never overcome sins.

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