“’Even if I must die with you,’” Peter said to Jesus, “’I will not deny you!’ And all the disciples said the same’” (Matt. 22:35). We sneer at Peter’s words when Jesus prophesied his denial. His bold declaration followed by his threefold rejection of Jesus within the same chapter informs us of his shaky commitment to the cause. However, the story of Peter’s denial, and his subsequent restoration to Jesus, illustrates the seemingly constant cycle of our own walk with the Lord. Despite being denied by all of His followers, Jesus pursued the cross to pay the debt of all of their sins—past, present, future—and of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2). Jesus resurrected, conquering death, and came to restore Peter before He ascended into Heaven. Even when our sin may not consist of something as grave as denying the Lord, we must seek to kill the sin which threatens to kill our faith and be restored by Jesus.
King David had seen many hard days. He ran for his life from his own people for years, watched his children and closest friends die, and was betrayed by those he trusted. Through it all, David declared God his “strength and refuge, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). God Himself called David “a man after [My] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). However, David was still human and failed when God stopped being a priority. In David’s best days, when God had given him peace all around, he committed heinous acts of adultery and murder. His plea to God for forgiveness was recorded in Psalm 51 and demonstrates for us the need for restoration.
David told God, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Ps. 51:3). The connection between him and God was disrupted, he recognized. Sometimes, when we feel far away from God, rampant sin may be blocking our eyes from the light—could anything else explain David’s oversight? David said, “Against you, you only, have I sinned” (51:4). Surely David had sinned against many others in his actions, but especially against the holy, inscrutable God he faced. Confronting sin reminded him of the infinite contrast between his sinful tendencies and God’s purity.
Before only God did he sin; only God could cleanse him. David pled to God, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Ps. 51:7). Hyssop was an herb used in the Bible to symbolize purification. Those healed of skin diseases were to be anointed with a concoction containing hyssop (Lev. 14: 1-7). During the first Passover in Egypt, the blood of a lamb was to be applied to one’s doorframe with a stalk of hyssop in order to be spared from God’s coming judgment (Ex. 12:22). David’s request, then, is to the God of forgiveness to remove that stain from his heart. “Create in me a pure heart, O God… restore me to the joy of your salvation” (51:10, 12). Sin deceives us with a trap: “It’s just natural,” or “It’ll be fun.” Yet, for the man after God’s own heart, delight in God was the cost. He wanted to abandon his destructive lifestyle and return to the only true satisfaction that quenches our restless hearts: God’s joy.
Outward duties cannot bring about inward restoration. David said to God, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it” (51:16). In the Old Testament, animal sacrifices were the outward expression of thankfulness and repentance towards God. Though some falsely believed that the act of sacrifice pleased God, it did not. The sacrifice was an outward act to display an inward reality: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (51:17). Whether you are a regular church attendee, do good deeds, and tithe regularly, all of this is for nothing if you do not offer your heart to God. Mature Christians, new Christians, and non-Christians all have the same continual need: we must surrender our hearts, not merely our actions, to God. To Him we will be held accountable. He alone can restore our wayward hearts.
Grace and Peace,