On Psalm 51—Part 4

(Ps 51:7) Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
(Ps 51:8) Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

In the Bible, hyssop is typically mentioned in the context of sprinkling for purification. Hyssop was used in order to sprinkle the water of separation (Nu 19:18). The water of separation was used to purify those who were unclean because of touching dead bodies. In Lev 14 hyssop is mentioned in the context of sprinkling of blood for the purification that followed the healing of a person (Lev 14:6-7) or of a house (Lev 14:51) from leprosy. Hyssop is also mentioned in the context of applying the blood of the Passover lamb to the lintel and doorposts (Ex 12:22) and in the context of the sprinkling of the blood of the covenant (Heb 9:19-21). These foreshadowed the blood of Christ which cleanses us from all sin.

(Heb 9:13) For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
(Heb 9:14) How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

(1Jn 1:7) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

(Mt 26:28)MKJV For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Now, the word for "bones" in Ps 51:8 is not always used with the sense of physical bones. It also has the meaning of "substance, essence". By applying this meaning to "bones" in Ps 51:8, the word would appear to refer to the inner being of a person. This interpretation would fit also other verses in which the word is used, namely Ps 35:10, Pr 15:30, Is 58:11, and Is 66:14.

(Ps 51:9) Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

In Hebrew, Ps 51:7-8 has no imperative verb forms. All verb forms of Ps 51:7-8 could be translated using the future: "Thou wilt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Thou wilt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Thou wilt make me hear joy and gladness. The bones that thou hast crushed will rejoice". However, beginning with Ps 51:9, the imperative is used again, as in Ps 51:1-2. Thus, Ps 51:9 resumes the sequence of petitions of Ps 51:1-2.

(Ps 51:10) Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

In the Septuagint, the translation of "clean heart" is literal and uses words for "clean" and "heart" that are found together also in several passages of the New Testament (Mt 5:8, 1Ti 1:5, 2Ti 2:22, and 1Pt 1:22). The Lord stated that "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8). We also read "Pursue peace with all, and holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord" (Heb 12:14)Darby. Clearly, those with pure hearts are believers. However, David was a believer and yet his heart was not pure. The Lord said to his disciples "Ye are already clean by reason of the word which I have spoken to you" (Jn 15:3)Darby. Thus, in view of Jn 15:3, we can understand that one is cleansed trough the Word, as we can also infer from Eph 5:26. We can imagine that the Lord answered David and purified his heart in this way. However, David was asking for more than just a purified heart. He was asking for a new heart, for he used the word "create". He asked "Create in me a clean heart". One gets a new heart when he is renewed, that is, when he is born again. However, under the old covenant people were not born again. Nonetheless, the Old Testament did foresee the second birth.

(Jer 31:33) But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

When a man is born again, the new man is created according to God "in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph 4:24). Thus, the new heart is clean (pure), for the new man is pure. This does not mean that there are no unclean things in the mind of the believer, but only that his inner spiritual being is clean. Under the old covenant, though one could not have a new heart, he could have his heart purified. Evidence to this is Jn 15:3, which was spoken before the disciples were born again. Moreover, Mt 5:8 was spoken at a time when there were no born again people (with the possible exception of Enoch, Elijah, and Moses). Now, though people under the old covenant were not born again during their lifetime, there is evidence that they had the second birth later. An indication to this is the request "Create in me a clean heart" (Ps 51:10). Indeed, since Ps 51 was given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the requests made in the psalm are in accordance to the will of God. Thus, the verse predicted that David would eventually have a new clean heart, that is, that he would be born again. The time when David and the other departed Old Testament saints were born from above could be associated with the time when they moved from Sheol to heaven. In the Old Testament times it was well known that people who die descend to Sheol (where Sheol is typically translated "grave" in the KJV). However, Sheol was not what God promised to his saints, for God had foreseen something better for them. Rather, Sheol was a place where they could wait for the fulfillment of the promise. "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise ... that they without us should not be made perfect" (Heb 11:39-40). The fact they were not perfected apart from us, the New Testament believers, is evidence that they were perfected (born again) about the time when Jesus died and rose again. Furthermore, Heb 12:1 mentions them surrounding the New Testament believers. Thus, by the time Heb 12 was written, they were already in heaven, for they couldn't have surrounded the believers from below, from Sheol. Other verses related to this topic include Mt 27:52-53, Eph 4:8, and Jn 12:32.

In Ps 51:10 we also read "renew a right spirit within me". The word translated "right" comes from a verb meaning "to be firm, stable, established". Thus, the verse speaks of restoring a spirit of perseverance in what is good. In Hebrew, the word for "spirit" is used with several meanings. It can denote "wind", or a spiritual being, or a strong and energetic disposition of the mind. This later meaning is meant here. Now, the disposition of the mind can be good or bad, so a man should control his spirit (Pr 16:32, 25:28). A good spirit comes by means of the work of a spiritual being, the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the following verse.

(Ps 51:11) Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

The verse above is written in the context of the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit will not depart from a New Testament believer, but he will abide with him forever.

(Jn 14:16) And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
(Jn 14:17) Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

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