Psalm 51, in my Bible, has its page slightly disfigured by a sticker bookmark which keeps it permanently marked, for better or for worse (considering the tape needed to mend the resulting small tear, probably for the worse.)
It is my 'salvation psalm'. As a seeker, desperately searching the Bible for words which would give me light in my darkness, this psalm caught me by its echoes of my sobbing heart. I remember choking on the vivid feeling of realizing someone understands how you feel. David wonderfully expressed the riot of emotions and desires which had torn my soul.
Guilt. Fear. Shame. Helplessness. Despair. Desperation.
And trembling hope under it all, hope for redemption, forgiveness, life, love.
Even afterwards, as a young Christian learning to walk, this psalm continued to echo my heart.
Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight--
That You may be found just when You speak,[a]
And blameless when You judge.
Our sins may be against others, but deep down inside, the greatest guilt of all is against God our Maker and Creator. We have rejected Him. We have hated Him and hurt our fellow creatures and sinned willfully, against them, but primarily against Him, because sin is is the antithesis of His being.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
The 'hidden part'. Depths in myself which I never knew existed. Emotions and desires I had never had before, which I couldn't explain, but were the most poignant soul-cries I had ever experienced. I had never wanted holiness, righteousness, so badly that it felt my life depended on it. I had never been so desperately afraid of God and yet at the same time, so desperately wanting to love Him and be loved by Him. I had never been so sure I needed Christ and yet so unsure how to satisfy this need.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
9 Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.
...sin...sin...sin! If it could be taken away! If I could just be freed from it--
10 Create in me a clean heart, O 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.
A clean heart is created, once and for all, in an irrevocable work of the Holy Spirit. But our spirit will, and can, waver; be distracted; forget. We need it constantly renewed by experiencing God's presence and the Holy Spirit working in our lives.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
If we truly have joy in Christ, our delight in sin and attraction towards idols fades by default. Watching advertisements for holiday tours is dull and unsatisfying once you know you have air tickets for a real holiday in your pocket.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.
What should motivate us to evangelize? Guilt? Duty?
Joy. Joy in the grace which saved us.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart--
These, O God, You will not despise.
No matter how foolish, how misled, how overdue, God never despises our brokenness..
It is always, always, precious to Him.
What comfort to have, even if we're confused and struggling with everything else.
18 Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.
And it doesn't end there. We look forward to sacrifices of righteousness (yes, actually righteousness! hooray for sanctification!)
We look forward to God's pleasure...to His building us up--doing good to us...
This is just the beginning.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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