“Completely wash me from my iniquity;
from my sin, purify me.”
(Psalm 51:4 [Psalm 51:2 in English Bibles])
Once again we find David employing a chiastic structure (something he will do through the bulk of this psalm) to add emphasis, bringing together two parallel ideas, yet mirroring them in their order. These are not casual words of David, but the language that he employs demonstrates the intensity of this prayer. And that intensity is heightened even more by David’s choice of the Piel stem for the two primary verbs (wash and purify). In Hebrew, the various stems of the verb are used to convey different ideas (passive tense, causative action, etc…), not unlike what we do with adverbs in English. The Piel stem conveys not only an intensification of action, but it also conveys the idea of an action that must be repeated over and over. And, indeed, David understands his own need—our own need as humans—to be constantly on our knees before our God repenting of our sin and pleading for his forgiveness.
Beloved, there is an intensity that comes through in this prayer that must not be missed—oh, how often we take repentance casually, as if it is something that we deserve because of who we are. Not only is that not the case, but that concept could not be any further from David’s mind. David clearly understands that he does not deserve the mercy of God, yet here he is, before God’s face, pleading for just that—not based on his own character, but upon the character of God. Pleading that God would wash and cleanse him from his sins. How we can learn from David as he expresses his grief; how we should learn to model our own prayers for forgiveness upon his. Beloved, one of the reasons that God has given us the psalms is to teach us how to express every emotion that we have in a way that is glorifying to him and edifying to us—do not neglect this tool that he has given us—use these psalms within your own life and use this one especially as you seek our Lord’s face in humble repentance.