In 1995, Steve and I went to Kenya with a small team to do some discipleship and teaching among the Christians there. My assignment was to teach various groups of women several lessons about the biblical doctrine of SIN. While I was preparing for those lessons, I spent a lot of time pondering Psalm 51.
I discovered several words for sin in this passage and dug into the nuances of each one. SIN, TRANSGRESSION, INIQUITY, EVIL. I had been taught throughout my life in Sunday School and church that sin was “anything that separated me from God.” The dictionary describes it as: “breaking a divine law,” “a willful or deliberate violation of a religious or moral principle,” “any reprehensible or regrettable action.” The word “transgression” brings up similar phrases, but “iniquity” gets a little more forceful by using the phrase “gross injustice or wickedness.” And then “evil” is defined as “
We all know what these terms mean in our own lives. In our heart of hearts we know exactly which sins are causing our relationship with God to be damaged. We know which ones we need to get rid of, which ones are causing harm to ourselves and to others. That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is the wonderful focus Psalm 51 has on asking for forgiveness and how amazing it feels to experience spiritual cleansing.
V. 1 – Blot out transgressions.
V.2 – Wash me; cleanse me.
V.7 – Purify me; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
V.10 – Create in me a clean heart; renew a steadfast spirit with me.
V. 12 – Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation.
V. 14 – Deliver me from blood guiltiness.
Isn’t that the way we all want to end 2017 and begin 2018? Forgiven, cleansed, purified, delivered, restored.
Verses 16-17 remind us that God doesn’t want burnt offerings from us. He wants to see a “broken and contrite heart.” In other words, He’s looking to see if we are genuinely sorry for our sins.
I believe that will ultimately be a far superior way to begin a new year, better than resolutions. Don’t you think? Something to ponder in the next few days.
Here is Psalm 51 in the Living Bible paraphrase. Take time to study it in your own Bible.
51 Written after Nathan the prophet had come to inform David of God’s judgment against him because of his adultery with Bathsheba, and his murder of Uriah, her husband.
O loving and kind God, have mercy. Have pity upon me and take away the awful stain of my transgressions. 2 Oh, wash me, cleanse me from this guilt. Let me be pure again. 3 For I admit my shameful deed—it haunts me day and night. 4 It is against you and you alone I sinned and did this terrible thing. You saw it all, and your sentence against me is just. 5 But I was born a sinner, yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. 6 You deserve honesty from the heart; yes, utter sincerity and truthfulness. Oh, give me this wisdom.
7 Sprinkle me with the cleansing blood and I shall be clean again. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 And after you have punished me, give me back my joy again. 9 Don’t keep looking at my sins—erase them from your sight. 10 Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires. 11 Don’t toss me aside, banished forever from your presence. Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. 13 Then I will teach your ways to other sinners, and they—guilty like me—will repent and return to you. 14-15 Don’t sentence me to death. O my God, you alone can rescue me. Then I will sing of your forgiveness, for my lips will be unsealed—oh, how I will praise you.
16 You don’t want penance; if you did, how gladly I would do it! You aren’t interested in offerings burned before you on the altar. 17 It is a broken spirit you want—remorse and penitence. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not ignore.
18 And Lord, don’t punish Israel for my sins—help your people and protect Jerusalem.
19 And when my heart is right, then you will rejoice in the good that I do and in the bullocks I bring to sacrifice upon your altar.