Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:9-12)
We are continuing to look at Psalm 51, David has acknowledged his sin against God, and is pleading for mercy. He knows that he cannot demand, or assume, God’s forgiveness, but nonetheless he knows that “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8).
In these verses we find David not only praying that God will forgive him, such that his iniquities are blotted out, but more than that he prays that God would bring about a change in his heart. In the Bible, the heart is understood to be the source of our will and our desires, and David knows that he needs a fundamental change. It not simply that he wants forgiveness, but he wants to change. A thousand years later, Paul would echo this way of thinking when he wrote: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
David was all the more aware of his need because he knew that his joy had been extinguished. In the end, sin places a cloud between us and the glory of God. David wishes to experience once more the full warmth and brilliance of God. He wishes once again to know the presence of God’s spirit.
All of this goes to show not only the deadening effect of sin, but also the path to being restored to God. We have a God who is merciful, and when we acknowledge our faults to him in prayer, he works in us to overcome these shortcomings. Honesty lies at the heart of our relationship with God, and is a path to joy.