“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
Psalm 51: 7
King James Version
“Why God Loved David?” Part VIII
“Make and keep me pure within.”
What does it mean for me to be whiter than snow?
“Still to the lowly soul
He doth Himself impart,
And for His cradle and His throne
Chooseth the pure in heart.”
“Purity lives and derives its life solely from the Spirit of God.”
To Purge – Hebrew: To make pure. To make atonement.
Hyssop – An unidentified plant mentioned in the Bible as the source of twigs used for sprinkling in certain purifying rituals.
For the first few verses in Psalm 51, David talks to his Father about the mercy he desires will be extended to him during a time of wayward disobedience. David speaks of the emotional toll which has been taken upon his heart and soul. And he confesses to his Father his sin as well as his longing to rise above the iniquity which surrounds him.
However, in Psalm 51: 7, David becomes very practical. He begins by describing objects which are recognizable. First, David refers to hyssop, a plant mentioned in Exodus 12: 22, Leviticus 14: 4 and Numbers 19: 18. In Exodus 12, hyssop was the plant used by the Israelites when they were getting ready to leave Egypt. Moses instructed the people, “Ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.” The hyssop was a practical utensil which carried the blood to the home’s doorposts. In Leviticus 14: 4, again we find hyssop used to cleanse and finally in Numbers 19: 18, hyssop is again used to purify, but this time with water.
Against this purifying agent, the results, as David pictures it, is a white snow that is brighter and more beautiful than any snow ever seen.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw it snow in the Red Rock country where Jim and I live. We are in a tight light cul-de-sac and not one car had driven through the freshly fallen snow. As I stepped outside in the early morning, I must admit I’d never seen whiter snow. As we can tell from the text today, David was asking God to wash him with hyssop and then scour and scrub him long enough to make him look like soft, fresh fallen snow.
David’s words in Psalm 51 may have led the hymn writer James Nicholson to write the words to an old-favorite, “Whiter Than Snow.” The fourth verse so wonderfully reflects the words David wrote in our text today:
“Lord, Jesus, Thou seest I patiently wait;
Come now, and within me a new heart create,
To those who have sought Thee,
Thou never said, “No!’,
Now wash me and I will be
Whiter than snow.”
I love these words of Reinhold Niebuhr whose thoughts convey the same heart’s desire that David had of an inner purity in his life: “O Lord, who has taught us that to gain the whole world and to lose our souls is great folly, grant us the grace so to lose ourselves that we may truly find ourselves anew in the life of grace, and so to forget ourselves that we may be remembered in Your kingdom.”
“Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart which no unworthy affection may drag downwards. Give me an unconquered heart which no tribulation can wear out. Give me an upright heart which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon me also, O Lord my God, understanding to know thee, diligence to seek thee, wisdom to find thee, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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