Wash Me and I Will Be Whiter Than Snow (Psalm 51:1-15)

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This is a guest post from my 15-year old daughter, Reese Couture. She wrote this devotion for a Kentucky WMU Acteens retreat that she helped lead.

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Sometimes the best feeling is to get clean. After a long day of hard work, whatever that work may be, it is satisfying to shower. Being greasy or sweaty or dirty probably isn’t one of your favorite things to be, but feeling fresh at the end of the day might be. No matter how gross or smelly you get, you are only a bath away from being comfortable again. In Psalm 51, we read David’s cry to God for a spiritual bath.

When you start reading these verses, you are in the heat of King David’s conversation with God. So much passion and intention are in these words, it seems like too much to unpack. In order to fully understand what is going on, we need to rewind. David was one of the most remembered kings of Israel. He was described as “a man after God’s own heart.” Unfortunately, he is remembered for both the good and the bad; Psalm 51 comes after the bad.

Long story short, King David saw a woman one day named Bathsheba and he instantly knew he wanted her. Bathsheba was a beautiful woman, but she was married to Uriah, an elite in Israel’s army. Since David had kingly powers, he decided to use them to get what he wanted. He was sexually immoral, he lied, he murdered, and he caused unnecessary pain. The prophet, Nathan, confronted David about what he did, which is where these verses pick up.

There are so many things that are asked of God here: to have mercy, to blot out transgressions, to wash away iniquity, and to cleanse from sin. The magnificent thing is that God can (and will) do all of those things for us, we just need to ask Him. His unfailing love will never run out, no matter how many times we come back to it and ask for it again. Have you been corrected by someone and all you want to do is just tell them all of the things they have done wrong? It is an unfair feeling for someone to seemingly place themselves above you when you are equal. The only person 100% justified in judging you and correcting you is God. He is 100% perfect. When you sin, you are sinning against God and His commandments. Being shown by Him what you are doing wrong can be a scary feeling that makes you feel small, but it is truly such a blessing.

Sin is a paralyzing feeling; it comes little by little until you are trapped. The scary thing is, Satan has been doing this for years and he knows the best way to get you. You come to this point where you can’t escape regret or guilt and it just feels like your sins are permanently hanging over you. You are absolutely devastated at yourself and it feels like you can’t do anything to shake the feeling. David was at this point. He was mourning and grieving, so clearly upset at what he had done. That’s not the end! We don’t just get left at this cliffhanger where our main character is at his all-time low. He asked God for forgiveness. He wanted to experience joy and gladness; he wanted to rejoice. David didn’t throw himself a sin pity party and wallow in his wrongdoings, he was able to have freedom when he gave his wrongdoings to God.

Renew and restore are some of the most beautiful words. They present a new outlook on life and create a new chapter. David asked God to renew a steadfast spirit within him and to not take His Spirit or presence away from David. Once we have God, He is with us forever. To be made new in Christ is something so spectacular; everytime we mess up, we can experience that over and over. It isn’t a one-time-only feeling. David also asks for his joy of salvation to be restored and to have a sustained, willing spirit. The encounters had with God cause great joy in Christians’ lives. It is the best feeling in the world to be filled with the Spirit. When we ask for our same old, boring interpretation of life to be transformed into a joyful outlook, things radically change. Having God’s restoration in your life will open up a pathway for you to be able to teach others how they can be restored as well.

In verse six, David talks about God’s desire for faithfulness. Life is busy, it’s just a fact. Every corner you turn there is something else competing for your time and attention. It gets so overwhelming. God wants us to give Him our schedules and focus. This is obviously so hard to do, but our Father really wants to be a part of every aspect of our lives. He wants not only the Church You, but the Work You, and the Social Life You, He even wants the Saturday Night Movie and Ice Cream You. When you give every part of your life to God, He becomes the most important thing in every part of your life. It is a full-circle moment because when God is at the center of attention in everything we do, we are using our energy to please Him. That in-turn lessens the tolerated sins that occur when we place God on the backburner in our lives.

Worshipping God when He once again helps us is so important. The reason we have the ability to praise God is so we can do just that. He gives us opportunities again and again to freely receive His compassion that we do not deserve whatsoever! Not only do we need forgiveness once, but we need everyday when we struggle on our path to righteousness. I think it is especially hard for a Christian to feel trapped in their sins because they have already been originally forgiven. It can feel like uncharted waters. You need to remember we all struggle and we will all always need God’s unfailing love and compassion. You can always turn around and be renewed and restored. Start a new chapter in your life where you are closer to God than you ever have been. Stop procrastinating and take a spiritual shower because you know you need one. He will wash you and make you whiter than snow.

 

 

Trouble Shooting Your Prayer Life

prayer11The lights on the front of my garage are a mystery to me.  They come on when they want and go off when they want, no matter what I do with the switch.  I’ve checked to see if they are on timer and I’ve replaced both bulbs.  The best explanation that I have is that there is a disconnect somewhere in the electrical circuit that feeds the lights.

This reminds me a little of my prayer life.  Sometimes the lights are on and everything is great.  Other times things are dark and I don’t know why.  The Bible teaches that God hears and answers prayer, but I don’t always feel like my prayers are getting through.  Sometimes there seems to be a mysterious disconnect in my prayer life.  As I began to search for answers I found four prayer short circuits in the book of James.

1. LACK OF FAITH (James 1:5-8)

What sort of things inspire you to pray and what discourages you?  In these verses we see that expectation (or faith) is an essential part of prayer.  Our expectations can be bigger than our circumstances, because our God is bigger than our circumstances.  Those who lack faith are like the waves of the ocean that tossed back and forth by their circumstances.  They don’t pray with expectation because they are overwhelmed by what is happening around them.

The only way to fix this short circuit is to own up to it.  Like the man with the demon-possessed son in Mark 9:24, we must cry out, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” God is not offended by our lack of faith when we are willing to admit it and humble enough to ask for his help.

2. FAILTURE TO ASK (4:2b)

Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt; sometimes it breeds indifference and neglect.  My wife and I have been married for 13 years now.  On more than one occasion, I have had to ask her, “Did we talk about X, or did I just think about it?” God knows us better than our spouses know us.  He knows what we are thinking before the words come out of our mouths, but he still loves to interact with us through prayer.

This short circuit can be resolved by simply speaking up.   Either audibly or internally, God wants to hear from His children.  King David is a good example of this.  In Psalm 5:1-3, he wrote “in the morning I lay my requests before you (God) and wait patiently.”  Go to God with your wants, concerns, and needs and He will do want is best.

3. SELFISH MOTIVES (4:3)

The Apostle Paul included two of his prayers for the Ephesian believers in his book to the (Ephesians 1:15-18, 3:14-19).  What strikes me about these prayers is how selfless and spiritual they are.  Human nature drives us to ask God for things that benefit us.  It also moves us to pray for temporal things above the eternal.  But Paul seemed to be aware of James’ words here.

God’s plans for this world are much bigger than you and your needs and wants.  The way to repair this short circuit is to keep following Paul’s example.  In Ephesians 6:18 he offers prayer “for all the saints” as way to challenge us to look beyond ourselves.

4. UNCONFESSED SIN (5:13-16)

The book of James is a challenging book that addresses a long catalogue of sin.  In just five short chapters, James deals with apathy and inaction (1:26-27), partially and prejudice (2:9), an untamed tongue (3:6), jealousy and selfish ambition (3:14), arguing and murder (4:1ff), pride and boasting (4:16), and stinginess and extravagance (5:3).  In chapter 5, however, James urges his readers to “confess your sins to one another” (5:16).  This crucial for restoring broken relationships on a human level, but it presupposes confessing your sins to God as well.

The clear fix for this short circuit is repentance.  When we confess our sin and turn to God for forgiveness, He rushes to embrace us.  1 John 1:9 states, “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”

When we don’t feel like God is hearing or answering our prayer, it is easy assume that the problem is with God, but that is not true.  Our connection with God can be interrupted by a number of things.  Which one of these short circuits have you experienced?  How did you overcome it?  What would you add to the list?