A Clean Heart and a Steadfast Spirit
King David had a moral crisis when he lusted after and committed adultery with a beautiful woman named Bathsheba. He complicated and multiplied his sin by deceit and murder after it was revealed to him that she was pregnant with his child. The husband of Bathsheba, Uriah, was a trusted soldier of David’s who was numbered in the elite thirty-seven of 2 Samuel chapter 23. Uriah was ordered from the front lines for the sole purpose of obscuring his wife’s pregnancy as a product of adultery. When Uriah refused to keep company with his wife while his men were roughing it on the battlefield, David took the sin to an even lower level of murder. He wrote orders for Uriah to be put in the most dangerous position of battle guaranteeing his death. This strong faithful soldier faithfully carried his own sealed, death sentence to the commander of the army. Yes, he died in battle and David brought Bathsheba into his palace as his wife.
I am sure David’s guilt gnawed at his heart. When the Prophet Nathan confronted David with an allegorical story of a wealthy man stealing a poor man’s only lamb, David was infuriated by the calloused act and ordered the man to be killed! Then Nathan’s pronouncement unveiled the true story, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7 NLKJV)! How David’s heart must have crumbled to the floor! As King, he could have had Nathan executed but he repented with the words, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13 NKJV)!
Psalm 51 was written by David after this incident and we hear the repentant heart of the king as he aspires to be righteous, “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” (Psalm 51:10-12 NKJV).
Psalm 51 is the proper response of someone who loves God, yet, has failed Him miserably. The cries of the broken heart of God’s child who has disappointed Him is a wailing from the deep recesses of the soul that can only be heard by God. Disappointing others is one thing, disappointing oneself is even harder to bear, but to disappoint and sin against God our Father is the deepest level of self-disdain. David experienced it and wrote about it.
Our culture has embraced sin, often glorified it, and at the very least tolerates it. Societal standards can rise and fall but God’s standards are timeless. David knew he had allowed his heart to be pulled off-track by his own fleshly lust. We may use many excuses for our sinfulness but there are really no good excuses for sin. Excuses should never be our scapegoat but like David, we need to confess and repent of our sins before God.
David cried out to God to “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 NKJV). After he repented of his sin; he asked for a firewall of prevention from this happening again. He realized his departure from God wasn’t simply a “one night stand” but his heart had surely veered off course before hitting the bottom of the ditch.
“Lord, create in me a clean heart!” A heart cleansed from lust, greed, and pride will never slide aimlessly into sin. No, we are not perfect nor should we be perfect sinners. A heart that is continuously washed by the Word, constantly warmed through prayer and worship, and held accountable by righteous brothers and sisters will not find itself in contempt with God.
“Renew a steadfast spirit within me.” The acorns of steadfastness sown in the disciplines of discipleship will cause a steadfast oak to grow big and strong and weather every storm of temptation and attack.
We need to learn from the failures of others as well as the successes often celebrated. David’s failure does not have to be our failure. Yet, his prayer for a clean heart and a steadfast spirit are prayers we need to pray. The preparation of strength before the temptation is much better than the penitence prayed after the failure.
If we have sinned, we have an advocate with the Father—so repent. If we have no current major failures, let’s pray for clean hearts and steadfast spirits today, so we can be strong tomorrow.
My prayer: Lord, create in me a clean heart—one that is clean from outside influences and pure from wrongful inside motives. I ask for a steadfast spirit, so I am not swayed by every wisp of temptation that blows my way. Oh, my Father, I ask, at the very least to obey you and at the very most to please you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen!
–Harry L. Whitt