What Forgiveness Involves
(7) Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (8) Cause me to hear joy and gladness. Let the bones you have crushed rejoice. (9) Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. (10) Create in me a clean heart, God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (11) Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. (12) Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain me with a noble spirit.
This segment of the psalm deals with two related issues: the removal of sin and the restoration of the sinner’s heart. David uses several synonyms for expunging sin: “purify...be clean...wash...whiter than snow...blot out” (vss. 7-9). Then he focuses on the renewal and restoration of the sinner with the phrases, “create in me a new heart...renew a steadfast spirit” (vs. 10) as well as “restore to me the joy...sustain me with a noble spirit” (vs. 12). “Spirit,” occurs three times, twice referring to the psalmist’s inner being and once referring to God’s Holy Spirit.
I. Remove (cleanse...blot out) my sins. (7-9)
II. Renew/restore my spirit. (10-12)
God’s process of forgiving sinners involves first our cleansing from the pollution of sin and then undergoing heart renewal.
The well-known worship chorus, Create in Me a Clean Heart, Lord, is essentially a word-for-word restatement of verses 10-12. When using it in worship, the song leader should consider reminding those in the group that the statement, “and do not take your Holy Spirit from me” (vs. 11), while appropriate in an Old Testament setting, no longer applies to believers in Jesus Christ. King David knew that his rebellion with Bathsheba had placed him in great physical and spiritual jeopardy. He could have lost his throne, and God could have removed from him the indwelling Holy Spirit who had been given as a special enablement when he was anointed as Israel’s king. In the worst case, he could have faced execution because of having committed so many deliberate sins.
However, those who have trusted in Christ as Savior should never fear the loss of their salvation nor the loss of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling because of their sins. In other words, the second line of verse 11 is a request which New Testament believers need never pray. We certainly should ask God for cleansing (vs. 10) and restoration (vs. 12) when we sin. We may “grieve” the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30) and “quench” his empowerment by our wrongdoing (1 Thes. 5:19). However, God will never take back the gift of our salvation nor remove from us his Holy Spirit in whom we have been sealed unto the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13 & 14).
This does not mean that we should ever feel free to abuse the gracious gift of God. As Paul powerfully phrased it: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer” (Rom 6:1 & 2)? We should remember the warning voiced by the writer of Hebrews: “The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Heb. 12:6). Knowing that nothing, not even our sins, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus should be a source of great comfort and encouragement for us as we pursue the path of discipleship.