Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
I. THE RECOIL OF THE SOUL FROM SIN. Many find pleasure in sin; but when once the soul is quickened, there is an end to this. Sin is felt to be vile and loathsome. Its touch is defilement; its presence is abhorrent; its effects are dreaded as the most terrible.
II. THE YEARNING OF THE SOUL FOR PURITY. All things around us that retain their freshness and their purity condemn us and put us to shame. They show what we have lost; they intensify our pains and our sorrows. At the same time, they help to keep alive our hopes. While they testify that we are fallen, they testify also that sin is not of our true nature - that it is not something that rightly belongs to us, but that it should be abjured and abhorred. The more we compare ourselves with God's Law, and the more truly we realize God's will concerning us, the more earnestly shall we cry for deliverance.
III. THE SUPREME TRUST OF THE SOUL IN GOD. There is the cry, "Wash me!" This implies weakness and submission. We cannot "wash" ourselves. Our tears and prayers, our penitences and endeavours, are in vain. We cast ourselves implicitly upon God. Let God, who is holy and good, do this great thing for us, and do it in his own way. It is not the priest, it is not the saints; God only can save. There is also the glad faith. "And I shall be whiter than snow." The lost purity will be restored. What God does, he does perfectly. What joy in being "whiter than snow"! - not only pardoned (Isaiah 1:18), but cleansed (1 John 1:7; Revelation 7:14). It is heaven begun. - W.F.
I. THE REQUEST, OR PETITION, WHICH HE MAKES TO GOD IN BEHALF OF HIMSELF. "Purge me with hyssop... wash me."
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.
I. It implies conscious defilement. There is the consciousness of sin.
II. AN INTENSE DESIRE FOR CLEANSING. This does not always co-exist with thee sense of defilement, Many men love their sin too well to give it up, and hence could not pray this prayer.
III. THE CONSCIOUSNESS THAT CLEANSING MUST COME FROM OTHER HANDS THAN HIS OWN. It is a confession of inability on the sinner's part to cleanse himself. Else he would not come thus to God.
IV. BELIEF THAT GOD CAN CLEANSE HIM. "Purge me and I shall be clean, wash me," etc. And he believes that the cleansing will be complete. Many men are willing to be partially cleansed, but not wholly. But this man not only desires perfect cleansing, but believes that God can thus cleanse him. He says, "I shall be whiter than snow."
V. THIS PRAYER IMPLIES FAITH IN THE ATONEMENT OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. Some amongst the heathen, and yet others, have desired entire deliverance from sin, but have not known how it is to be accomplished. But this prayer points to that which was the type of Christ's Atonement — the blood sprinkled with hyssop. Now, unless we accept these teachings, which are all plainly implied in this prayer, we can never make it our own: but if we do, then be sure our prayer shall not long be left unanswered.
(J. Addison Alexander, D. D.)
1. He makes use of hyssop, and so has a regard to the outward observation; which shows us what is to be done also in the analogy and proportion by us which are Christians. We are to honour the ordinance of God, and those moans which now under the Gospel God hath appointed as helps of our faith; though in themselves, and in outward appearance, never so mean. There is the same general reason, which holds now, that held then, though the things themselves be abolished; and those which are good Christians will accordingly have respect hereunto, even to be as careful of those performances which now lie upon us, as they were of what lay before them. The baptismal water is in its own nature but common and ordinary, but the use and improvement of it supernatural; the Eucharistical bread and wine in themselves the same with others, but resemblances of higher things. The preaching of the Word in appearance but as other kind of speaking, yet according to Divine appointment and institution, even the power of God to salvation to them that believe. Thus those things which simply considered are but mean and contemptible, yet God's ordinance sets a high price and reckoning upon them, for which cause they should be esteemed so by us.
2. The second is his improvement of it, while he rests not in the outward ceremony, but is carried further to the inward grace, which is signified by it. In every ordinance which is used by us there are two things considerable, somewhat which is done on our part, and somewhat which is done on God's; ours is the external performance, His is the inward blessing, and gives power and virtue to the performance; now, this latter is that which David begs here of God, and so should also be done by us.
II. THE SPECIAL GOOD AND BENEFIT WHICH HE PROMISES TO HIMSELF FROM THIS PURGING; and that is in two expressions more: first, in the positive, "I shall be clean"; and, secondly, in the comparative, "I shall be whiter than snow." First, we see here in general how David was rightly opinionated of the means of grace; he was sound in this article of justification and reconcilement by Christ. And we see further of what use it was to him in the condition in which he now was, as thereby to hold up his spirit, and keep him from despair, which otherwise he might have fallen into. These words here are not a motive or argument which he uses to God for which He should purge him; but only a comfort and encouragement to himself, when he considers with himself what effect would follow hereupon of His purging of him. As a sick and diseased person, who is repairing to some skilful physician, and, while he goes to him, thinks of that health and recovery which he should obtain by him, so does David here in this place. But then for the particular words themselves:" "I shall be clean, and I shall be whiter than snow." It is doubled for the certainty of the thing, and also to show the largeness of David's affection to it. But we must know what is meant by them, and what they refer unto. Now, for this there is a double whiteness or purity of the saints; the one is in point of justification from righteousness imputed, and the other is in point of sanctification from righteousness inherent. Now, it is not the latter, but the former, which is hero intended: our sanctification in this life is imperfect, and the whiteness which we have from that is not so transcendent. But David in this text speaks of his whiteness from being washed in the blood of the Lamb, and having this blood sprinkled upon him in justification and remission of his sins for Christ's sake; and so there is in it, That that person which is justified by Christ, and hath His blood sprinkled upon him, he is perfectly free from all guilt in the sight of God, and is in God's account as if no sin had been committed by him. When we say that a justified person is thus perfectly clean and white, as to the pardon and forgiveness of his sins, we mean it in these two respects especially: first, as to the discharge of him from punishment and condemnation; God will not exact any penalty of him for them: He may chastise His servants (as He did David) after pardon, in a way of discipline; but He does not punish them in a way of satisfaction. Secondly, in regard of God's love and affection. He is now as perfectly friends with him as He was before, though perhaps He may not express Himself so lovingly towards him; as it is thought also He did not now to David, who lost much of his former sweetness in God. The ground and reason of all is, the sufficiency of Christ's satisfaction and obedience which he hath exhibited to God's law for ourselves, both passive and active (Ezekiel 16:14). Now therefore because the righteousness of Christ is such as is whiter than the snow, therefore are we so upon His account.
(Thomas Horton, D. D.)
I. THE CLEANSING OF THE LEPER, WHICH DAVID HERE REFERS TO, IS FULL OF SIGNIFICANCE. The two birds to be taken speak of Him who is of two natures, human and Divine. The cedar-wood speaks of the fragrant wood of the cross. The hyssop, the lowly plant used for purifying, sets forth the personal application of Christ's pardon to the soul. The scarlet is the royal robe of Him who "reigns from the tree." And these are all bound to the living bird, typical of the Divine nature in Christ, from whom all ordinances derive their significance. Arid then there is the sprinkling of the blood and water on the penitent, and the living bird carries away the taint, as it were, with him, in his escape to the open field. Truly as we gaze upon the Cross, shining more and more clearly through the symbols', we see His figure bending towards us; we hear Him saying, "This is He that came by water and blood."
II. "THOU SHALT PURGE ME WITH HYSSOP." Do we quite believe it? That the hyssop is bound to the scarlet robe of the King, and tied to the cedar of the cross, and dipped in the blood and water, and bound up with the living bird — the Divine nature of Jesus Christ? Do we quite believe it, that we can have something more to help us, beyond the strong resolution, so often broken; more than the effort of our own will — the grace of the blood of Jesus Christ Himself, to help us to overcome the old sin.
III. "WHITER THAN SNOW." More than cleansed: white — whiter than snow; that is, something to be afraid of defiling; something to fear falling away from; not a mere pall of whiteness, hiding corruption beneath, to be trodden down by the busy traffic of life, but in itself white and pure, attracting the rays of heavenly love. In the days of the martyrdoms, it is said that a Christian the night before his sufferings fell asleep in his prison, and dreamed a dream of Paradise. He was walking in a garden of delight, where all was made of the purest transparent glass, clear as crystal. The trees glanced and flashed as they waved their boughs, the ground sparkled and shone; and the people themselves, who moved up and down there, they were of glass too; but as he went along his way, he noticed that hands were pointed at him in amazement. Men shrank from him in horror, and he looked. He was of glass as well; and on his breast was a dark spot, a shadow amidst all this light. In an agony of shame he clasped his hands over the place. In vain! they also were of glass, and the defilement shone through them. And he remembered that he was not in charity with a fellow-Christian; some trifling difference he had thought it, but it was a dark spot in Paradise, and a strange spectacle among the blessed, lie sent for him, he asked his pardon; he was called to Paradise. If a Christian could feel thus of an act or thought simply wanting in charity, what of our whiteness; what of our hearts?
IV. "THAT THE BONES WHICH THOU HAST BROKEN MAY REJOICE." The broken bones of our life may yet be sources of icy. Selfishness may be so completely crushed out as to leave us the real virtue of self-respect. Cowardice, which shrunk from danger, may lead us, still feeling the danger, to be the first to meet it. Faults of temper, want of self-control, undisciplined life, indolence — in all these points, where we sink back beaten, we may yet rejoice. Is not this something for us to do this Lent?
1. A deep sense of sin.(1) Sin is a disease odious in its nature. It. is contrary to the nature of God, and defiling to the soul of man.(2) Sin, like leprosy, is contagious in its influence. All ranks and orders of men are pervaded with it.(3) Sin, like leprosy, is fatal in its effects. If it be not speedily cured, it will issue in death, an everlasting separation of soul and body from God.(4) Sin, like leprosy, is incurable by any remedy of our own prescription. It bids defiance to every hand but God's.
2. A believing discovery of the only effectual way of deliverance from sin.(1) The blood of Christ is of value sufficient to cleanse from all sin.(2) In order to enjoy its virtue, it must be applied.(3) Wherever it is thus applied, its transcendent efficacy will be made apparent.
II. IMPROVEMENT.(1) The encouragement which the Gospel affords to awakened sinners, and to drooping saints.
2. The character of those who will be welcome guests at the table of the Lord.
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)I. THE DEEP CONVICTION OF SIN IN AN AWAKENED SINNER.
II. THE POWER OF GOD TO CLEANSE FROM SIN. "Purge me with hyssop," etc.
1. Sin and its stains may be removed from the soul. "The blood of Jesus Christ" is but another word for the love of God, which found its supreme expression in Christ's death for us.
2. The cleansing power of the Word of Christ is more than sufficient for the removal of the stains of sin, "whiter than snow."
III. THE WAY BY WHICH THE EXERCISE OF THIS POWER IS SECURED. Some men are cleansed from sin, yet not all men. What is the reason?
1. To be personally effective, this cleansing power must be personally realized. Water is abundant, but only those who apply it to their bodies are cleansed by it.
2. To be personally realized, it must be personally solicited. Asking is the condition of receiving.
1. It is obscure, humble and abject; so that Solomon is said to have written of all trees, from the cedar the highest tree, opposed to the hyssop springing out of the wall, that is to the basest and most common: growing amongst stones, not through man's industry planted, as other trees are. So Christ in whom we believe was contemptible, in Him was no beauty, with Him no riches or earthly honours, which make men come in credit and account.
2. Hyssop is bitter and sour, not pleasant to the drinkers: so the cross of Christ, by which our affections are mortified, is very odious to the flesh, and agreeth not with its taste. His cross is therefore a stumbling-block to the Jews, and folly to the Gentiles.
3. Albeit it be sour, yet it is most wholesome: so albeit the doctrine of repentance (wherein we are taught to run out of ourselves and to take hold on Christ) be irksome and unsavoury to the flesh, yet it is wholesome to the soul. Natural men esteem this doctrine to be an enemy to them, which would slay their corruptions and lusts. Medicine, which at first seemeth bitter, afterwards becometh more comfortable: so the doctrine which is salted with salt and hyssop, is fitter for us than that which is sweetened with honey; for honey was never appointed to be used in the Lord's sacrifices, but salt.
(A. Symson.)I. HERE IS A PRAYER WHICH IS UNIVERSAL, AND YET PERSONAL. Like some great battle-plain at nightfall, where the wild hosts have contended, leaving the shade to cover the dying and the dead, the whole world is vocal with wailings and desperation and pain and hopeless agony. Pierced and bleeding, souls suffer and cry, and each one says "me" and "my" with a dreadful sense of ownership, and yet all seem to say the same.
II. THIS PRAYER IS INTENSELY SPECIAL, AND YET THOROUGHLY INCLUSIVE.
III. THIS IS A PRAYER WHICH IS CHARACTERIZED BY UTTER DESPERATION, COUPLED WITH A SUPREMELY CONFIDENT HOPE. When the guilt-burdened penitent prays, "Wash me," he is certain that he has reached a point at which he cannot wash himself. He lets go of all dependences he had previously tried to lean upon, precisely as Naaman did when he gave up his pleading for the rivers of Damascus, and started for the Jordan, commanded to bathe there and be clean. He accepts help on the helper's terms.
IV. THIS PRAYER IS UNUSUALLY EXTRAVAGANT IN UTTERANCE, AND YET ENTIRELY LEGITIMATE IN ITS MEANING.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
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