We just finished the Advent Season, where we prepared to anticipate and celebrate the arrival of our Christ. Then, as promised, He came, as a child, born in a manger. Christmas can be many things to many people. If it always leads us to our Savior amidst the gifts and giving, friends and family, hustle and bustle, celebrating, and silent nights, we have done it well.
Here we are in the New Year. Some refreshed and prepared. Others drained and uncertain. It’s okay wherever you find yourself. That’s called being human. And certainly have felt our humanity in these last few years. Pandemics. Confusion. Fear. Uncertainty. Agitation.
Maybe it’s time to clean house a bit. Maybe a total make-over is required. The great news is, it’s a perfect time to do so!
Psalm 51 is a familiar Psalm, but let’s take a second and go deep.
David jumps in, starting in verse 1.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” ( Psalm 51:1)
I love seeing an exclamation mark in the Word. It deepens the emotion felt by the writer and its reader alike.
First, let’s look at a word we read often but may not pause to break it down.
Iniquity. For years I’ve glossed over this word, thinking it simply meant “sin.” Why use such a long word if it means the same as its three-letter counterpart? Because it doesn’t mean the same. The Latin roots used in this word translate very differently from just “sin.” Two roots come together here, “not” and “just.” So literally, we could say iniquity means “not just.”
David cried out to God to blot out the parts of him that were “not just.” This matters since David offered up more than just his sin. He needed God to erase the parts of him that were unjust. He needed God to deal with and remove his iniquity and to wash him thoroughly of his unjust parts.
David gets raw and vulnerable with his Savior.
Maybe we can be brave enough to do this, too, in our New Year.
Lest you think your sin may be too much to expose completely before a Just God as David has done in this Psalm, I want to recap what “iniquity” David had dabbled in. Bathsheba. Adultery. Coveting. Murder. Premeditated evil towards God’s people. Nothing surfacy about David’s iniquity.
He was desperate to be cleansed from all of this. Okay, so maybe we haven’t set our loyal friend up for murder, but iniquity is iniquity, and it all separates us from God.
Like David, we need our transgressions blotted out. We, too, need to be cleansed from our own iniquity. Here’s the most amazing part. This cleansing occurs according to who’s steadfast love? Who’s abundant mercy? Abba Father’s. Not our deeds, actions, or wills. Nope. According to His steadfast love and abundant mercy. Our part is to confess, surrender, and let go of it. Receive His love and mercy.
David acknowledges that God does not delight in a sacrifice to appease his iniquity. “For you do not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.” (vs.16)
Why here does God not delight in sacrifice? Because it doesn't let go of the sin David holds in his heart…the sins he committed, sure. But also, the stuff maybe he didn’t act on, that’s still there…deep down. And God is wanting to clean house. He wants to do the same thing with us.
Yes, we all have iniquity lurking. But keep reading. He made a way. Verse 17 floods this pit of sin with hope, truth, and Light.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Contrite here means remorse, penitence, affected by guilt. So, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).
ALL unrighteousness. Not just what brought you to your knees at this moment. But the condition of the heart. The guilt brought about by this sin that infects us. Christ died to redeem us. All of us. The unjust parts. The iniquity we hold n our hearts. The effects of this sin within us. All of it.
A fresh start! A clean heart! That is what’s available to us in this Near Year! Because His “mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22), there’s no time limit or expiration date on this offer!
What are you waiting for? Let your knees bend, and your mouth confess, and your heart let go of every sin and all the iniquity that has built up within us in this past year or decade. Lay your broken spirit, your broken and contrite heart at the feet of your Savior, and let Him clean house! It’s His desire to! It's the hope of all mankind.
Then, in 2023, as David says, God will build up our walls of defense and dwell with us in this new year!
What a Savior!