Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
We use Psalm 51 frequently in our liturgy. Sometimes it is difficult to think of comments to make without sounding like a broken record. But this week, as I read the Psalm again, I'm struck by verse seven and the confidence David expresses before the Lord.
"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (ESV). Hyssop is a stalky weed. It serves a very useful function, that of making brooms and brushes. If you want to sweep the steps, you will use a bundle of hyssop tied onto a stick. If you want to whitewash the house, you will use a similar tool, though maybe you will try to have it pretty flexible for a nice smooth paint job. When the Israelites put blood on their doorposts at the first Passover, you guessed it. They used a brush of hyssop, dipped into the blood of the lamb.
In Psalm 51:7, David asks God to sweep him up, or paint over his sin. Or maybe he is thinking particularly of the brush used to apply the sacrificial lamb's blood to the doorposts. He certainly wants God to take away his sin. How can God do this? He does it with a brush. Maybe he sweeps it up into a dustpan and discards it. Fine and dandy. Maybe he sees that smudge of sin and paints it over so the wall looks nice and fresh. That would be excellent. Maybe he sees that sin will bring us destruction, so he marks our doors with a sign that tells the death angel to pass over us and to accept a substitute instead. That should humble us indeed. And maybe David is thinking of all three images.
What's even greater than those images, though, is David's confidence. When he is purged, he will be clean. No question about it. When he is washed by God he will be whiter than snow. Not the snow we find by the side of a road that's had a snowplow, five thousand cars, and a bunch of ice melting chemicals on it. No, whiter than fresh new snow that nobody has ever touched. That white.
When God cleanses us, we are truly clean. When we call out to our Lord, as repentant sinners, we can have confidence. He won't allow sin to remain. He'll do whatever is necessary to get rid of it. And as we have cried out to him for help, he will get rid of sin but keep us. He would rather die than have us bear our sin and guilt. This is how much our Lord cleans us. So great is God's love for us that he gives himself to die in our place. This is measureless love.
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