Purging the Inward Parts
“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps. 51:6–7).
In today’s passage, David expands upon the confession of original sin that he made in Psalm 51:5. Beginning with verse 6, Jesse’s son goes into further depth about man’s “inward being,” helping us to better comprehend the extent of our corruption and the cleansing we need from the Lord.
Verse 6 recognizes that God delights in truth that comes from within ourselves, wisdom learned in the secret heart. Basically, David reminds us of the Father’s concern with our inner motivations and disposition. External sins do break the rules He has laid down for us, but we can be free from sin on the surface and yet be full of iniquity within. Jesus makes this point repeatedly in His confrontations with the Pharisees (for example, Matt. 23:25–26). If we are chaste in body but not in mind, we do not live by the inward truth in which our Creator delights. Neither is He pleased if we smile with our mouths and hate with our thoughts. We are born in corruption (Ps. 51:5); therefore, God’s truth must penetrate into our hearts and transform us if we are to be holy. If we do not recognize our need to be circumcised in the heart (Jer. 4:4) and live by the power of the Spirit as those cut out from the world, our repentance is lacking.
Psalm 51 also emphasizes the necessity of thorough cleansing from sin in verse 7. Hyssop, a small bushy plant thought to be from the mint family, is part of the cleansing ritual for leprosy conducted to ensure the leper was completely free of the disease (Lev. 14:1–32). In referencing this plant, David is likewise revealing that true repentance involves a desire to be without even the slightest trace of sin.
Finally, David recognizes the hand of the Lord in convicting him of his sin (Ps. 51:8). The Spirit has crushed his bones, metaphorically, and they need healing. As God pricks our consciences and impresses upon us the stark reality of our sin, we will feel our souls breaking under the weight of His holiness. Yet because He loves us, His goal in drawing us to repentance is to restore a right relationship to Him and bring us joy. This is far different from the accusations of Satan who reminds us of our sin in order to drive us into despair.
The process of repentance can be rough and hurt at first. But remember that the Lord chastises us at times because that is the way He chooses to restore us to full health (Hos. 6:1). If you are crushed under the weight of your sin, understand God breaks you in order that He may heal you. If in your evil you are tempted to despair and believe the Lord cannot forgive you, know that He will if you repent and stand firm against the Devil’s accusing tongue.
Passages for Further Study
- Prov. 3:3; 20:9, 30; 30:12
- Zech. 13:1
- Luke 11:37–44
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