Psalm 51 is the prayer of David after the utter and complete wickedness of his heart was revealed to him regarding his actions towards Bathsheba and Uriah. David put himself in the wrong place at the wrong time not fulfilling his duty as king, coveted another man’s wife, committed adultery with that woman, found out she was pregnant, pulled Uriah out of the battle in attempt to get him to sleep with Bathsheba so the baby wouldn’t appear to be David’s, and when that didn’t work David sent Uriah back into the most contested part of the battle, telling the rest of the army to pull away from Uriah so he would be killed.
David thought he got away with it.
However, when David knew his sin was found out, he cried out to God, confessing everything he had done. It’s in David’s cry to God that we read what I think is the critical statement of the entire psalm. Verse 10 says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
This word create is a special word. In the entire Old Testament, God is the only one that is ever the subject of the Hebrew word for create. God is the only one that creates. So, this is the same word used in Genesis 1:1 when it says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
David knows that he doesn’t just need to have a few things patched up, a few cracks in his life to be repaired. David knows that being a better version of his current self is not good enough. David is not asking God to make a bad man a good man.
No, David is calling on God to perform an act of creation inside of him. David is crying out to God to be completely recreated from the very center of who he is. “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” David is asking God for a complete new heart that is clean so that every thought, every desire, every motivation, and every want is entirely and utterly different than they were before. “Renew a right spirit within me.” David is asking God to make him new again. Don’t make me better, make me new. Instead of asking God to make a bad man good, David is asking God to make a dead man live!
This is what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” We become a new creation in Christ, and in Christ alone. The old dies, and the new comes. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
Paul says it another way in Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
“Do not be conformed to this world.” David knew he couldn’t go on as he was. And, neither can we go on doing anything and everything the way the world around us does it. Instead, Paul says “be transformed.” That’s the Greek word we get the word metamorphosis from. It’s to be completely changed. Do you know what happens to a caterpillar when it goes inside its cocoon to become a butterfly? The caterpillar is completely dissolved. Nothing of it is left. And, do you know that it is this same Greek word used of Jesus when he was “transfigured” in front of Peter, James, and John?
How do we “be transformed?” “By the renewal of our mind.” Every thought, desire, motivation, and intention of our thoughts has to be completely and totally changed. Only then can we know what the will of God is, what is good, what is acceptable, what is perfect.
But, note how Paul makes his appeal to the church in Rome. “By the mercies of God.” How does David start his prayer in Psalm 51? “Have mercy on me, O God.” It all begins with God’s mercy. We must recognize that and cry out for it so that He can recreate us, make us new, transform from us, so that He can make dead men live.
There is much more that could be said in the connection of Psalm 51 and Romans 12:1-2, which are two excellent passages of scripture to meditate on together.