Create a Clean Heart in Me: Psalm 51 (part 11)

“A heart that is clean, you must create in me, O God;

and a spirit that is steadfast, you must continually renew in my being.”

(Psalm 51:12 {Psalm 51:10 in English Bibles})

 

Oh, how little man can do on his own!  It is God who providentially equips him to do anything of lasting value.  Artists, composers, architects, writers, musicians, etc… all get their talent from the hand of God—whether they will admit to it or not!  Yet, there is one thing within which man can make no strides of his own—we are not providentially equipped or gifted in this area in any way.  This area God reserves for himself.  And that is the process of saving a man or woman and preparing that person for glory.  Paul poses the question of whether man seeks after God in Romans 3:10-18, and his answer is drawn from scripture, beginning with the words of the psalmist in Psalm 14:1-4.  Does any seek after God?  And scripture gives us a resounding, “NO!”

Oh, beloved, how highly we tend to think of our own actions!  Yet, salvation does not come from our works or from our will, but it comes from the will of God (Romans 9:16) and the exercise of his divine compassion on those he has chosen for his own.  In addition, as we reflect on both parts of salvation—the justifying work of God and the sanctifying work of God—we are reminded that both are again in God’s hands.  One is justified—made right with God in Christ—but only once in life—what God has done and promised to do, he will not relent upon.  Yet, there is an ongoing process of sanctification that is designed to grow us in our holiness, making us more like Christ, to prepare us for glory.  This work is ongoing, and it is a process that will not be complete until you cross over into eternity.  Yes, by seeking to be obedient to scripture and to apply the Ten Commandments to our lives, we participate in the process of our sanctification.  But a tilled field without seeds and rain will still produce nothing but weeds.  It is the Holy Spirit that convicts us of the sins we need to put to death, empowers us to put them to death, and who works in our heart to illumine us toward right living. 

There is a clear recognition of this principle in this verse.  David has two requests of God (they are in the imperative, so do not miss the force of David’s plea to God):  a clean heart and a steadfast spirit.  Yet, the theology of these two requests lies within the verbs.  The first verb is the word, ar:b” (bara), which means, “to create.”  In scripture, this word is only ever used of God and it is only ever used of God’s creative work from nothing.  There are different words that describe when mankind makes something, but creation is limited to the hand of God.  David recognizes that the heart of man is not one that is basically good and just needs some cleaning up.  No!  The heart of man is dark and wretched, putrid and warped.  There is no cleaning up the heart of man, for sin has forever bent it toward evil.  Thus, when God calls a sinner to himself through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, God does not simply go into the heart of man and scrub him out with steel wool, but he tears out that old wicked heart and creates a new heart and implants it into the new believer.  This is a once only act and it is an act that no one but God can do.

The contrast, though, is found in the second petition.  David asks that God would renew within him a steadfast spirit.  Rather than being the standard form of the verb (as we found in the first request), the verb is in the “Piel” construct, which implies not only intensification, but ongoing and repeated action.  In other words, in this verse, David is saying, “give me a new heart and never stop sanctifying my soul.”  Oh, were these things that we sought in our own lives!

The question that may be asked is whether or not David was “saved” prior to the writing of these words, for he is asking for a clean heart (something he would already have were he a believer).  Given the remarkable relationship that David had with God from the earliest days of his recorded life, it is hard to argue that he was not a believer.  Yet, even believers can loose their sense of assurance in the wake of grievous sins, which is what I would suggest we are looking at here.  This psalm is David’s desperate cry to God after one of the most wretched sins that a man can commit (adultery and murder of a friend).  How much we can learn from the saints that have gone before us, even in their darkest times.

Loved ones, may these words of David be your continual cry before the Lord.  In Christ you have been given a new and clean heart, but the old man still wages war against you on this side of glory.  That is why you need a daily, even moment by moment, work of the Holy Spirit in your life, to renew your spirit to the glory of God.  Oh, how dependent we are on the work of God in our lives!  And praise the Lord that it is no other way!

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,

Leaning on the everlasting arms;

What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,

Leaning on the everlasting arms;

Leaning, leaning, save and secure from all alarms;

Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

-Anthony Showalter & Elisha Hoffman

Author: preacherwin

A pastor, teacher, and a theologian concerned about the confused state of the church in America and elsewhere...Writing because the Christian should think Biblically.

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