Psalm 51:1-13 - Sacrificing oneself in marriage to Yahweh

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; *

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness *

and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, *

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned *

and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak *

and upright in your judgment.

6 Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *

a sinner from my mother's womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *

and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

8 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

9 Make me hear of joy and gladness, *

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins *

and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God, *

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence *

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again *

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.


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This is the first choice for a Psalm reading for the fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. It follows a reading from Jeremiah, where we hear read, “says the Lord, … I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” That precedes a reading from Hebrews, where it is written: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications.” The Gospel selection this song accompanies is from John, where Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”


This is a song of praise to Yahweh, sung from the perspective of one having realized the errors of one’s ways and thereby having been saved by the grace of God. In David’s first verse is recognized this salvation as being due to the “mercy” of Yahweh, “according to [His] loving-kindness.” The soul of David knows God by his soul feeling the “great compassion” that marriage to God’s Holy Spirit brings. That union is only possible after one’s past “offenses” have been erased [blotted out].


Verse 2 is then a statement of baptism by the Holy Spirit, where the Hebrew that states “wash me thoroughly” is set within brackets, preceded by the word not translated, “har·bêh.” That word becomes a signal that “much” is silently done that both washes clean oneself from one’s flesh; so, it is not simply physical but all-encompassing – heart, mind, and soul. The translation as “through and through” reflects a soul ["through"] within a body ["and through"], so all inclusive is this cleansing of past sins.

Saying "No!" to sin only happens when one has married God and become His Son reborn.


Verse 3 is then a statement of intellect, such that one’s soul has been placed in a state of shock or worry, so the brain has been enabled to understand the danger it has entered, through sinful acts. The words expressing “my sin is ever before me” says the physical world will never cease presenting lures to sin, just as it has done in the past. The mind has been able to discern how one's soul is incapable of resisting the temptations to sin at all times. Therefore, the brain knows is will always sin if left without the help of Yahweh.


Verse 4 then states, “Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” This is an admission of one’s sins that are known to break the Covenant of marriage to Yahweh. By doing evils that are known to break that union, one is confessing to have turned one’s back to the Lord. A soul hides, as did Adam and Eve, to keep one's evil deeds from being seen by Yahweh; but God sees all.


Verse 5 [actually a continuation of verse 4, in the Hebrew text] then advances this confession as a statement of mental awareness to one’s sins. It becomes an admission that the sins one has done have hurt more than oneself. By seeing that, one has ceased being the center of one’s universe. Standing outside oneself, one can then see the truth of the marriage vows established by Yahweh and understand “[Yahweh is] justified when [He] speak and upright in [His] judgment.” There are deep feelings expressed here.


Verse 6 [actually verse 5] is then a judgment of one’s mortality, as a body of flesh given life in a world that promotes sinful pleasures and selfishness. When David was inspired to admit, “Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, a sinner from my mother's womb,” this becomes the marvel of Jesus having been seeded into the Virgin Mary, making him not be the norm of children born into the world. The miracle is Jesus was born of a woman and not born as a sinner. Jesus reflects God incarnate in the flesh. All mortals must marry God and be reborn as Him incarnate in aged flesh. As innocent as babies and young children are, they are born mortals and thereby bound to sin before death.


Verse 7 [actually verse 6] is then singing praise for how one has been made aware of this mortal flaw. David singing, “For behold, you look for truth deep within me, and will make me understand wisdom secretly” speaks of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, which not only knows what secrets have been hidden but also speaks the truth to one’s mind, elevating one’s knowledge to divine wisdom.


When David then sang in verse 8 [actually verse 7], “Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed,” the Hebrew refers to Yahweh as “hyssop,” which is a herb used in Jewish ritual of cleansing with water. The aspect of “purge” is then repeating a confession of sins done that must be washed away, in order to be made clean and pure. To use of “purge” says Yahweh is the only way possible for a soul to be made pure.


Verse 9 [actually verse 8] then makes this a song of praise, singing, “Make me hear of joy and gladness, that the body you have broken may rejoice.” The Hebrew here can actually be translated to say, “may rejoice the bones you have broken,” where “‘ă·ṣā·mō·wṯ” is written. The root word, etsem, means: “bone, substance, self.” This should then be read as a breaking of one’s soul controlling the deeds of the flesh, which becomes the joy, gladness, and rejoicing that reflects a marriage celebration and the ways of the self have been replaced by the ways of the Lord. Rejoicing is celebrating a rebirth, or being born from above.


Verse 10 [actually verse 9] then speaks of the breakage of self, where one’s own “face” then “hides” the “face” of Yahweh upon one’s own “face.” This speaks of the halo over one’s head, which is flesh invisibly wearing the face of God upon it. This is not singing praises that one will continue to turn away from God [one cannot wear any face other than God’s before Him], but instead praises how one’s past of sinning has ceased with marriage to God [wearing His face forevermore], so all self-generated iniquities have forever been blotted out.


Verse 11 [actually verse 10] then praises the presence of Yahweh within one’s heart, where “heart” becomes metaphor for a living body of flesh. The “heart” is what gives life to that body of flesh, thereby the "heart" is the soul. When one’s soul has married God, through a soul’s merger with God’s Holy Spirit, where the two become one flesh, then that presence means “a right spirit” has become oneself – one’s soul. The ‘renewal” means a wayward soul has been "repaired." However, the Hebrew that says “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” actually is the soul begging to become an “elohim,” singing, “The inner me [heart], clean create in me gods [elohim] --- and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” The plural of “gods” is then a recognition that one’s eternal soul is just one of many souls married to Yahweh, all then becoming His elohim - a God of gods.


In verse 12 [actually verse 11], David sings, “Cast me not away from your presence and take not your holy Spirit from me.” Here, the marriage to Yahweh is clearly announced as “wə·rū·aḥ qāḏ·šə·ḵā” [roots “ruach qodesh”], which can only be present from marriage. This is not a statement of request not to be divorced from God, but a praise that says a soul that has been joined forever with Yahweh cannot then be cast away. The sinful state-of-being prior to marriage was that “cast away” soul, or lost sheep; marriage means having been found and saved.


In the last verse [actually verse 12], David sings, “Give me the joy of your saving help again and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.” Here, the key word of focus is “again,” as the Hebrew actually asks for “restoration.” The “joy” received, thus a gift from Yahweh, is salvation. When that gift has been received, then one is upheld by the Holy Spirit, so one’s soul no longer can fall from grace and wallow in a world of sin.


As a song of praise purposefully chosen to sing aloud during the final Sunday in the season called Lent, when self-sacrifice is an admitted necessity for salvation, this clearly paints a picture of that being the result of marriage to Yahweh. The season of Lent must be seen as a love story and not some unwanted task or dreaded sacrifice of something sinful still wanted. This psalm of David tells it like it is, there are only tow possibilities: a single soul always seeing its coming sins before it; or, a married soul that no longer has to worry about falling prey to the world’s temptations. It is this way that David’s song of praise sees marriage to Yahweh as a period of honeymoon when love abounds.