Day 30: Tuesday, 9 April
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Saviour,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
David is in deep, deep trouble with God. The introduction tells it as it is. David knows better than to deny the truth like some local and transatlantic leaders may have done, and the shame of what he did has the rare honour of being repeated once every seven weeks until Kingdom Come in the Anglican Daily Prayer cycle.
David was a murderer. No two ways about it. Nathan had the task of telling him so. As I frequently say, ‘Who’d be a prophet?!’
Verses 1 to 4 cover the span of the wretchedness of humankind to the infinite compassion, love and mercy of God. David is crushed, and he knows he deserves to be punished severely. He falls upon God’s mercy. He also admits to having been in a state of sinfulness from his mother’s womb, from the moment of his conception. This is consistent with the Church’s teaching on original sin. We could talk much about this, but another time. If only the mighty and powerful in our world could but utter these words.
Hyssop is a purgative. David was probably talking figuratively here, but he knew that he desired from God a deep cleansing through his whole being so that he was clean inside, and outside through cleansing to snow-whiteness.
Read this psalm again, and again, today. Read it loud, read it soft.
Was David right in saying that he had sinned against God only?
How would you describe sin to someone who asks?
Are children, being born into sin, sinful people?
How would you respond if someone were to ask you if he or she is a sinner?
Father God, there is no getting away with anything before You. You see it all, you hear it all. You see what I try to hide from You, and you turn your nose up at my excuses. Until I admit my sin You cannot forgive me. I stand open before you. Amen.
– Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised Edition) Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, a Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. "NIV" is a registered trademark of Biblica – UK trademark number 1448790.