URC Daily Devotion 3 January 2024

Psalm 51: 6 – 14

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.


The fifty-first Psalm is one of the Bible’s greatest moments of repentance. The ascription sets it as David’s heart-searching when his adultery with Bathsheba and conspiracy to have her husband killed are called out by the prophet Nathan. Not so many of us are going to reach quite that desolation! But these ancient words continue to invite us to a very current conversation within ourselves and with others and, crucially, with God. We are being reminded that our lives are woven from all sorts of choices, experiences and encounters. Some stuff just happens to us. But there are plenty of times when our actions, decisions, assumptions, biases (unconscious or otherwise), and more place us firmly in the driving seat. Sometimes, maybe more often than we dare notice, we get stuff wrong. What then?

The Psalmist offers a beautifully evocative set of possibilities. God knows us. We cannot and need not hide our brokenness. Instead, we are being drawn into the difficult but ultimately life-giving journey of repentance and confession. God responds to us the more we open our true selves to God’s gaze. My willingness to come clean ushers in God’s transformation within me. The language is intimate. It is a journey inwards to my “secret heart” that God and I take together as I confess. The outcome is transformation; my renewal, God’s restoration of salvation’s joy in me. These gifts of mercy and love are offered to us all. They are such glorious gifts that they beg to be shared. The psalm moves from the profoundly private to the powerfully public, from my heart to my sharing with everyone the truth of repentance and forgiveness.

We end in the songs of worship. It is a good place to have reached. Confession is my own journey but it is also a shared pilgrimage of possibility in the community of faith. Little wonder, when Christ teaches us the Lord’s Prayer, that it is our sins we confess and not only mine. 


Help me to trust in your forgiveness, Lord.
Help me to confess what I need to confess today.
Let me taste again the depth of your love
as I let you in to the truths within me that I regret,
the truths I hide,
the shame I carry,
my longing to be forgiven.
Let me never treat your forgiveness lightly.
Let me live for others in ways that shine with the marvel of your mercy.  Amen


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