David: Cleanse Me
Have you ever felt so dirty that you just can’t stand it any longer?
There is nothing like a good hot bath after camping for a few days, or working in the attic or barn—when you feel dirty, completely grimy, sweaty and stinky.
That was how David felt. It is Psalm 51 time in his life. Months of sweating out in the wilderness of sin, trudging through the filthy wasteland of guilt had brought David to a sad and bitter end of himself.
He was dirty and he knew it. One remedy was all he wanted. Scrub, cleanse, and purge me so I will be clean; wash me and I shall be white!
David cries out to God from a heart that longed to know again the sweet fellowship of his early years, the deep spiritual intimacy of his mature years and an assurance of security for his final years.
When David cries to God in the first seven verses of Psalm 51—wash and purge me, the context of that cry is deeply rooted in the promise of sacrifice and atonement. God designed a way that sinners could know God and receive His wonderful salvation. Today as we look back at that sacrificial system, we see the most comprehensive explanation by God of just what Christ accomplished once and for all on the Cross.
Join me in the 51st Psalm as we listen to David.
Sometimes those words are so familiar that we need to hear them to a different tune. The following is a modern paraphrase of the 3,000 year old words of David’s prayer to God.
Please stand with me, open to Psalm 51 and follow along in your Bible as I read this paraphrase. Though the language may shock you, hold on to the concepts that this Psalm gives us about the deadly work of sin and God’s offer to purge us from its curse.
1. Generous in love—God, give grace!
Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
2. Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
3. I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.
4. You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
5. You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
6. What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.
7. Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
8. Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
9. Don’t look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
10. God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
11. Don’t throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
12. Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
13. Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
14. Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
15. Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I’ll let loose with your praise.
16. Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
17. I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.
19. Then you’ll get real worship from us,
acts of worship small and large,
Including all the bulls
they can heave onto your altar!
We are returning to one of the greatest examples of God’s forgiving love in the entire Bible.
David sinned, he was chastened and convicted, he turns back to God in humble contrite repentance—and now he pleads for the cleansing only God can give.
We saw last time how clearly David saw that his sin was against God. This must be the starting place for any relief, any forgiveness, and any cleansing.
I Am Guilty
That is the first thing David says (51:1a), next David says—
Wash Me Psalm 51:1b–7
Remember that when it comes to our spiritual side, our minds, our consciences and that part of us that is eternal—only the Lord can WASH US CLEAN.
This next section of Psalm 51 is so very important, if not this moment, then in the not too distant future each of us will seek for cleansing when we sin. That is what God explains through this inspired record of David’s prayer.
Read along with me Psalm 51:1-2 again. Note the end of verse 1 and then verse two the very clear cry to God made by David:
Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your loving-kindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
o Blot out my transgressions.
o 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
o And cleanse me from my sin.
We saw last time that there were three requests for cleansing: blot, wash, cleanse.
Now we need to examine what it was that David wanted cleansed away from his life. Notice, there are not only three words for cleansing, there are also three types of stains being washed away. Those three are: transgressions, iniquity, and sin.
The three verbs David employed for removing his sins are a comprehensive look at how deeply we are stained and how completely Christ can clean us up.
- Blot out (machah, “wipe or blot out”) v. 1b “Blot out my transgressions”. David compares his sins to a human record that needed to be erased. In the New Testament Paul also uses this idea in Colossians 2:14:
“…having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
The word Paul uses is Exaleiphoµ (canceled out) means “to wipe off,” like erasing a blackboard. Ancient documents were commonly written either on papyrus, a paper like material made from the bulrush plant, or vellum, which was made from an animal’s hide. The ink used then had no acid in it and did not soak into the writing material. Since the ink remained on the surface, it could be wiped off if the scribe wanted to reuse the material.
Paul says here that God has wiped off our certificate of debt, having nailed it to the cross. Not a trace of it remains to be held against us. Our forgiveness is complete. David asked God to wipe out the record of his sins, God erased them, and David rejoices.
- wash away (kaµb_as) “thoroughly wash”. v.2a ‘Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity’. The word David uses compares forgiveness with washing clothing (often viewed as an extension of a person), so he says completely wash me like dirty clothes that need a complete cleansing. In the world of the Bible this meant in cold water, beating the clothes against rocks and bleaching them in the sun.
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.
Revelation 1:5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,
- and cleanse (taher, “clean as not to contaminate others.”) v. 2b “And cleanse me from my sin”. This word used by David stresses the need for ceremonial cleansing so that his sin would not keep him or others from being able to approach God. David did not want to hinder anyone else by what he had done.
Sin contaminates everything—our souls, our lives, our homes, and our society. David cries cleanse away the contamination so no one else gets defiled by my sin.
Read this sermon conclusion tomorrow July 8th.
Peterson, Eugene H., The Message, (
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