Reflecting on Psalm 51
Create in me a clean heart, and renew Your Spirit within me. Imagine waking up on the Fifth Sunday of Lent with the open, wide-eyed wonder of your childhood self. With just a bit of guidance, you could see God’s work everywhere, and the rivers of joy coming from God’s Spirit would animate your life once again.
I think of young King David, shockingly breaking the ninth commandment by coveting the wife of poor Uriah the Hittite. He wanted the beautiful Bathsheba—whose father, grandfather and husband he knew—and what the King wants the King gets.
Just like some modern-day kings in the Middle East, he summoned her to his bed and she was obliged to go. She soon turned up pregnant, of course, and hence the bungled cover-up commenced. Nobody needs to know, thought David. He tried all kinds of ways to keep his sin undiscovered, but in the end the only thing that worked was an obvious ruse to get Uriah killed on the front lines.
Bathsheba was then free to marry King David, but, to their despair, their child did not live. And it’s smack in the middle of that despair—and the strong rebuke by his prophet Nathan— that, tradition says, King David composed Psalm 51, the Miserere, that we sing today: Create in me a clean heart, oh God. Renew Your Spirit within me.
It’s the job description of sin to find endless ways to bring misery, and it did. The sword never left the House of David (2 Samuel 12:10) from that day until the day the Prince of Peace was born in the City of David.
That’s the backstory on today’s psalm.
How is God creating a clean heart in you this Lent?
Kathy McGovern ©2021