Create in me a clean heart…
Context: When King David spoke these words in Psalm 51, he was publicly denouncing his heart's depravity after being confronted with his sin against Bathsheba. When a psalm's title says, "for the choir director," it indicates a song to be sung in the people's assembly. This was not a private request David prayed. This is further revealed when David asked God for the willingness to teach others what God has taught him about his heart (12b, 13). He does not hide away in shame for what he has done; he asks for the opportunity to share the joy (7, 8, 12a) of redemption with others. David knew that a clean heart would only come from honest confession and repentance. God is only interested in the honesty; God desires truth in our "innermost being" (6).
Primary Message: God's concern is never merely “bad” behavior, nor is His concern only “good” behavior - including any outward/public display of moral performance (v.16); God is always concerned with the heart.
God, David knew, was not only concerned with the misdeed with Bathsheba (though it was appalling). God was concerned with the depth of sin in David’s heart that led to his sinful behavior; therefore, David turned to God in honest confession.
David didn't offer a sacrifice because he did not merely seek pardon for his sin. David sought unqualified heart reformation and confessed that 'original sin' had infected him at birth and continued to wreak havoc. In his prayer, David asked God to graciously, with lovingkindness and compassion (v. 1), wash him and cleanse him thoroughly (2). He asked God to purify him (7) so to restore (12) and deliver (14) him from sin's damage. He was seeking the total annihilation of the effects of original sin on his heart (5). King David sought a new heart - one not blackened by sin, but a pure, clean heart. He asked God to "create" a heart of flesh from his heart of stone. David is asking the Creator to do it again: take the bony rib of a stone-cold heart from me and create a heart softened by the Holy Spirit. Graciously God has promised to do just that (Ezekiel 36:26, 27).
Application: When we speak, think, or act in a way that is contrary to the decision we made to follow Christ, it reveals an area of our heart that still needs purification. God's focus is never on a behavior; God's focus is always on the condition of the heart that led to such action. Our decision is whether we will allow God to reveal the depth of sin in our heart (even though we are redeemed children of God) or whether we will choose to merely focus on the "bad" behavior.
We have a choice; we can keep that area of our heart in hiding, or we can submit it, as did David, before God in honesty and ask Him to transform our hearts again. Transformation doesn't come by religious effort or "trying harder." Change comes by giving God permission to go to the core of the issue that enabled sin to take root in our hearts. When God reveals that issue to us, He gives us the responsibility to give our heart to Him for cleansing (Prov. 20:9). But we must be willing to go beyond the sin we see and allow God to reveal the root of sin to us. We must be willing to allow God to create and recreate our new heart again. This is not a one-time process because this is not about salvation or justification. This is about sanctification.
Father, Graciously, with lovingkindness and compassion, break my heart with the knowledge of depravity of my heart. Don't let me be satisfied with quick forgiveness, but encourage me to grow to a place of desiring a new heart. I know that my new heart is not possible without a great price. Help me to remember that no acts of "righteousness" will ever be enough to earn my forgiveness. I am forever grateful that the price has been paid in full by the blood of the Savior. Thank you that his blood purifies me wholly. As you reveal the truth in my inmost being, may I be willing to allow you to recreate my heart and renew the work of Your Holy Spirit within me. Amen.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances”
Ezekiel 36:26, 27
What’s next: When we begin our walk with God, not everything is changed in an instant. Because we are infected by Adam’s sin, we will often walk according to the flesh rather than the Spirit. However, we can always turn to God because we serve a faithful Father who is moved by our prayers.