“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Psalm 51:10-12 (Read all of Psalm 51)
We sing these words in the Offertory (which follows the sermon on Sunday mornings), but what do they mean and why do we sing them?
The words are a part of David’s penitential psalm – Psalm 51 – written after his sin with Bathsheba. Though David sinned against Bathsheba by committing adultery with her, and though David sinned against Uriah by taking his wife and then arranging his death in battle to cover up his sin, against whom had David really sinned?
As David confessed in verse 4 of Psalm 51, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.”
And was David in danger of being cast away and having the Holy Spirit taken from him? Most certainly, for he hid and covered up his sin and remained impenitent for months (perhaps more than a year) before he finally acknowledged his sin and turned to the LORD God for mercy and forgiveness! Bathsheba had given birth to his son before Nathan the prophet went to David and confronted him regarding his sin (2 Sam. 11-12).
And, if the LORD had cast David off and taken the Holy Spirit from him, David would have remained impenitent and would have been lost forever. But God reached out to David in mercy and, through the prophet’s admonition, brought him to acknowledge and confess his sin to the LORD God and seek God’s mercy! Cf. Psalm 32.
Do we deserve that God would cast us off and take His Holy Spirit from us? Most certainly, for we, like David, are guilty before the LORD! Each of us fails to love the LORD God with all our being. We fail to love our neighbors as ourselves. We break God’s commandments in our thoughts, words and deeds. And, if God would deal with us as we deserve, we would be left to our ways, remain impenitent and become hardened in our unbelief and sin.
But God, through His Word, admonishes us and reveals our sins and failings. He shows us our guilt and the punishment we justly deserve. And then He does an amazing thing! When we see and acknowledge our sinfulness, He comforts us with His mercy. He assures us that Christ atoned for our sins by His sacrifice on the cross and that in Him there is forgiveness for all our sins and a place in God’s family and kingdom!
Instead of taking His Holy Spirit from us, the Spirit reveals our sins and then works faith in our hearts which trusts in God’s mercy, receives His forgiveness, and moves us to amend our ways and live for our God and Savior!
With David, we sinners pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” (Ps. 51:10-12).
We pray that God would, for Christ Jesus’ sake, have mercy upon us and blot out our transgressions. We pray that He would restore to us the joy of His salvation and uphold us by His gracious Holy Spirit.
And God, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit, does move us to repent. He cleanses our hearts in the shed blood of Christ Jesus. He restores to us the joy of His salvation. He upholds us with His free Spirit (v.12). And, as we tell others of God’s mercy in Christ Jesus, other sinners are converted too and come to faith in our Lord Jesus (v.13).
Have mercy upon me, O God, and by Your Spirit, grant me repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, my Savior. Do not cast me away or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Uphold and keep me by Your free Spirit. Amen.
[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]