To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.
Psalm 51:1-2 NKJV
Did you take a bath or shower today? Now I agree that might sound like a rather personal question to many, but we live in a society where personal hygiene plays an important part of an individuals social acceptance, not to mention the fact of potential health problems stemming from a reluctance to keep oneself clean. Consider the following statement from Dr. Jennifer Shu on CNN Health.com.
Infrequent bathing can be socially, although not legally, unacceptable in our society, and poor hygiene has been associated with skin and soft tissue infections. Bathing is important for removing germs from one's skin as well as washing away odors from sweat and dirt.
Personal hygiene will affect our personal relationships with those around us, be it a spouse, friend, or coworker. A lack of cleanliness is simply something most people find offensive, and choose not to tolerate in others. So why am I discussing this subject? This week I was reading through the Psalms when I came across this chapter that David wrote after his sin with Bathsheba, and I was struck by his thoughts and words concerning his relationship with God, and the obvious references to cleanliness.
If the first thing that David asks of God is to make him clean, it seems to me that David is acknowledging that his sin has affected his relationship with God. When we encounter someone who suffers from an obvious lack of cleanliness, our first reaction is to step away and avoid them. Is David saying that God has stepped away from him because of his sin? Is it really possible that God would take a step back from us because of our sin? It certainly appears that David thought so.
Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Psalm 51:11 NKJV
Most of us spend time every day looking at ourselves in the mirror because we understand the importance of how we appear to those around us, yet I wonder if our time would be better spent examining our spiritual appearance to make sure we are not offending God in some way? The Bible is the believers “spiritual mirror” and it is in God's Word that we need to spend time in order to see if we are reflecting the image God desires of His children. I think something we may all suffer from is the idea that as we mature as believers, we somehow rise above our sin nature and the need for self examination lessens. Again, from Dr. Shu.
Older people with decreased senses of smell or vision may not notice odors or dirt as much as before and may not feel the need to bathe more regularly. Also, if they are not very physically active or don't go outdoors much, they may not want to bathe for several days until they feel very sweaty or dirty.
The sad fact is that our bodies do not change. We still shed skin, produce odors, and attract dirt and smells from our environment which need to be washed off. Spiritually we never grow to the point where we can assume our sin nature has gone away or works less to the degree that we don't need to worry so much about asking God to forgive us. David acknowledged to God that he was born with a sin nature that would never go away.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
So how did David deal with the problem of his uncleanliness? First of all he took the step of owning up to God the fact that he had sinned, and that it was coming between them.
For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin [is] always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done [this] evil in Your sight--That You may be found just when You speak, [And] blameless when You judge.
Not a day goes by where we do not in some way or another offend God. We all posses a sinful nature and by thought or deed it will manifest itself on a daily basis. Our sin may be accidental, doing something that offends God without the thought of offending Him, or it might be deliberate, doing something you know God says you should not do but doing it anyway. Either way, not only will it come between you and God, it opens the door for God to judge you. David's confession was a result of God's conviction and judgement pronounced by Nathan the prophet, but the truth is that David already knew what he had done was wrong. His mistake was thinking he could get away with it.
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden [part] You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, [That] the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities.
The second thing David did was to ask God for forgiveness. It was only after he was willing to confess his sin that David able to ask God to restore the relationship to what it was before he sinned. David knew that only God could “clean” his heart and make him pure again. How often do we feel our relationship with God is not as it once was and try to restore it by getting busy doing everything we think might please God without acknowledging that we might have sin in our lives and need to ask for forgiveness? We must continually acknowledge our sinful nature and ask for forgiveness in order to enjoy the “joy” of our salvation.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me [by Your] generous Spirit. [Then] I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.
Psalm 51:10-13 NKJV
Have you taken a “spiritual shower” lately? Have you been honest with God about your need for forgiveness? Have you confessed your sin to Him in order to enjoy the “joy” of a relationship with our Father? All of us to be honest with God just as David was, and allow God to reflect our lives through the mirror of His Word to see where we need cleaning. It is only then that we can be truly clean, and enjoy the relationship with God that He intends for those who truly love Him.