Create In Me a Clean Heart
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:10-11)
David has been pouring his heart out in penitential prayer. Having accepted by faith the forgiveness and inner cleansing he desperately needed, he now begins to consider his future relationship with God. He accomplishes this with four distinct words that conjure up meaningful pictures from the past.
He begins this section of the prayer with the words, “Create in me a clean heart.” The word create (Heb. berâ’), is the same word used to describe the world’s formation in Genesis 1:1. David understood he needed something brand new to take the place of the old, fallen nature that had so readily given in to temptation. This petition is an anticipation of what God would promise His people through the prophets: “Moreover, 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.” (Ezekiel 36:26) This would ultimately be possible only through the shed blood of Christ on Calvary.
The second term he utilized was “renew.” This word has in mind rebuilding something that was once in existence. The literal usage of it can be found in 2 Chronicles 24:4 where Ezra wrote, “Now it came about after this that Joash decided to restore the house of the LORD.” David sees that the spirit which had once served God faithfully had been shattered through neglect. He implores the Lord to rebuild it.
The next phrase (Do not cast me away…) at once brings to mind the terrible picture of Cain. After receiving God’s judicial sentence, he cries out in anguish, “My punishment is too great to bear! Behold… from Your face I will be hidden.” (Genesis 4:13-14) David cannot imagine being banished from the Lord’s presence, but he knows that is what he deserves.
The last picture presented (…do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.) was one that David personally witnessed. It was actually on the occasion of David’s anointing by Samuel that this happened to Saul. “Then… the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And… the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD terrorized him.” (1 Samuel 16:13-14) David probably shuddered to think of the internal anguish that marked the old king’s final days.
Whether or not all of these pictures were in David’s mind when he penned these words, they certainly bring to light the sense behind these four terms. Even if we have not committed horrendous sins, these four phrases offer meaningful prayers to keep in our arsenal.
And how about you? Can you relate to these four phrases of David’s prayer? If you can, perhaps this would be an appropriate prayer for you to keep in your arsenal: “Lord, keep my heart clean and my spirit strong. Keep me close to Your presence and let Your Spirit thrive within me.”