Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear joy and gladness, create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
As I write this it is snowing. It is not the first snow of the season and living in New England, I am quite certain it is not the last we will see of it this winter. There is something different though tonight. Perhaps the various things going on in my life are the reason for the significance of the snow in my mind. Maybe it is just that snow brings about a wide array of feelings, emotions, and attitudes…frustration, delight, weariness, exhaustion, and impatience. “It is so pretty to look at!” or “When is it ever going to stop?”, or “I am going to be late for dinner…the traffic is a mess!” I am not sure why, but isn’t it funny how something as innocuous as a snowflake can evoke such strong and impassioned responses. It is amazing that snow is used in scripture to depict the purity and completeness of the forgiveness we receive as believers.
Often times the verses above which are found in Psalm 51 are claimed for the encouragement they bring. Phrases like “restore to me my joy…”, “make me hear joy and gladness” and “whiter than snow” remind us of the gracious, loving work that God does in our hearts. The newness of life that only He can provide is an immeasurable blessing. The restoration and righteousness we have by the working of Christ on the cross is awesome and impactful. We should find joy and gladness when we consider those things. However, the verses above must also remind us of our own personal plea to God for forgiveness. They remind us of the desperate need for a Savior and the wonder and delight of being renewed by the Spirit. They remind us of our times of disobedience and rebellion. They remind us of our neediness and ongoing desire to be drawn close again to our Lord and Savior.
In this particular passage David is seeking forgiveness for the sin with Bathsheba. He had been confronted by Nathan and knew the sin had separated him from God. How could David, having sinned as he had, get to a point where he would once experience that “joy and gladness”? How could he have once again have a renewed, “steadfast spirit”? The answer is found in the first four verses of chapter 51 where David repents and confesses his sin and throws himself at the mercy and grace of his heavenly Father.
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight—
David pleads to God for mercy not according to his own ever-present sin, but according to God’s lovingkindness. What is so powerful is that David realizes perhaps the one thing that we often miss…David has sinned against God and him only. Does it mean that he did not sin against Bathsheba…no, of course not. But it just does not hold the same gravity when compared with sinning against a Holy God.
When we consider daily our own actions, thoughts, attitudes and the Holy Spirit convicts us of something, we need to do as David did and fall before the throne of our Lord and seek forgiveness. We need to acknowledge and repent of our sins and then to lay them at the foot of the cross. The assurance found in Romans 8:1 reminds us that for those who are in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, that there is no condemnation. We are forgiven. The sin is never too great, for our God is greater. His love, grace, and mercy for us are as none other. As John wrote in his gospel, “Christ did not come into this world to condemn it, but that the world through him might be saved.”
Christmas is an amazing time of year as we are more focused on the birth of Christ. It is also a wonderful time to remember the finished work of Christ on the cross.
Have you visited the foot of the cross today? Have you been washed as white as snow?