Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean; I am pure from sin?
Proverbs 20:9 (NRSV)
Keep the above verse in mind as we turn to the Psalter and examine Psalm 51, a psalm of David. David is the offender and the penitent. In verse 1, he prays, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” David, (the King of Israel) cannot make his heart clean. David (the former humble shepherd boy) cannot declare himself pure from sin. God alone is the One who can forgive David’s sins, make his heart clean and declare him pure from sin.
David continues his prayer. He says, “For I know my transgression and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You alone have I sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified in Your sentence and blameless when You pass judgment.” David has sinned against God and he cannot absolve himself and declare his purity.
David continues, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” David acknowledges that God can make him clean. God alone can wash him so that he is whiter than snow. The cleansing and the washing are activities of God.
David acknowledges that his need to be made clean extends from his hands to the innermost part of his being. He prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right 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 sustain in me a willing spirit.”
The offender cannot say to the Offended I have made myself clean and I am pure from sin.” In Psalm 14, we read, “Fools say in their heart, there is no God.” They are foolish not only for denying God’s existence, but for believing that they can forgive themselves if indeed they acknowledged in the first place that they had sinned against others.
Later David says, “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” There is no one who can say, “I have made my heart clean; I am pure from sin.” Only God, against whom we have sinned, can make our hearts clean and purify us from our sins. Thanks be to God!
Create is us clean hearts, O God, and put a new and right spirit within us. Then will I teach transgressors Your ways and sinners will return to you. O Lord, open [our] lips and [our] mouths shall declare Your praise. Amen. (Psalm 51:10, 13, 5)