THE PSALM OF PENITENCE
“I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in Thy sight.” — Psa_51:3-4.
“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” — Rom_3:23.
THIS PSALM is a temple-staircase, worn by the feet of myriads of penitents. The page is wet with the tears alike of the most saintly and the most sinful. Augustine had them written on the walls of his tiny cell at Hippo, that he might appropriate them constantly. Perhaps they are more precious to us at the end of life than the beginning.
Note the definitions of sin. It is an erasure or blot on the fair page of life; hence the cry, “Blot out my transgressions.” Oh that God would blot out the scribblings and smudges of our later years, and bring back the fresh beauty of our youth! It is a stain on the white robe of the soul; hence the petition: “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity.” There is but one way into the Holy City: “Blessed are they that wash their robes, and make them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” It is leprosy; hence the cry, “Cleanse me from my sin; purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” There was special significance, then, for thee and me when Jesus reached forth His hand and touched the leper, saying: “Be thou clean.”
Note the condition of forgiveness. It is confession. Transgression must be acknowledged. We must realise that sin is not only against man, but God, to whom man belongs, and who is affronted by all sin as committed directly against Himself. And our confession must not be superficial, but deep and heart-searching. We must go back to our earliest origins, to our connection with a sinful race, to our inward and hidden parts.
Note the cry for purity and righteousness of life. The clean heart has to be created, for there are no materials within us out of which it can be shaped or moulded. Eph_4:24 tells us that full provision has been made for this. We desire a “right,” or steadfast spirit, which shall not deviate to the right or left, but bear straight onward to the goal. The Greek word for sin is “missing the mark.” We long for a spirit that shall not be deflected. We desire a “free” or willing spirit (R.V. marg.). Yea, what a transformation is here! But it has been effected in myriads (1Co_6:11).
Heavenly Father! Forgive us our many sins, ignorances, and failures, and cleanse us from all iniquity for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord. May we hate sin as Thou dost, and may Thy grace sink deeper into our hearts, purifying the springs of thought and action. AMEN.