“Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Psalm 51:11
We sing these words in the Offertory (which follows the sermon on Sunday mornings), but what do they mean and why do we sing them?
The words are a part of David’s penitential psalm, Psalm 51, written after his sin with Bathsheba. Though David sinned against Bathsheba by committing adultery with her, and though David sinned against Uriah by taking his wife and then arranging his death in battle to cover up his sin, against whom had David really sinned? As David confessed in verse 4 of Psalm 51, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight — that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.”
And was David in danger of having the Holy Spirit taken from him? Most certainly, for he hid and covered up his sin and remained impenitent for months, maybe a year or more, before he finally acknowledged his sin and turned to the LORD God for forgiveness (cf. Psalm 32) — Bathsheba gave birth to his son before Nathan the prophet went to David and confronted him with his sin (2 Samuel 11-12).
And, if the LORD had cast David off and taken the Holy Spirit from him, David would have remained impenitent and would have been lost forever. But God reached out to David in mercy and, through the prophet’s admonition, brought him to acknowledge and confess his sin to the LORD God and seek God’s mercy!
Do we deserve that God would cast us off and take His Spirit from us? Most certainly, for we, like David, are guilty before the LORD. We fail to love Him with all our heart, mind and soul. We fail to love our neighbors as ourselves. And, if God would deal with us as we deserve, we would remain impenitent and become hardened in our sinful ways.
But, God, through His Word, admonishes us and reveals our sins and failings. He shows us our guilt and the punishment we justly deserve. And then He does an amazing thing. When we see and acknowledge our sinfulness, He comforts us with His mercy. He assures us that Christ atoned for our sin by His sacrifice upon the cross and that in Him we have forgiveness for all our sins and a place in God’s family and kingdom. Instead of taking His Spirit from us, the Spirit works faith in our hearts which trusts in God’s mercy, receives His forgiveness and then moves us to amend our ways and live for our God and Savior!
God, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit, restores in us the joy of His salvation and upholds us (v.12). And, as we tell others of God’s mercy in Christ Jesus, sinners are converted to faith in Christ Jesus (v.13).
With David, we sinners pray: “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” We pray that He would, for Jesus’ sake, have mercy upon us and blot out our transgressions. We pray that He would restore to us the joy of His salvation and uphold us by His generous Holy Spirit.
Have mercy upon me, O God, and by Your Spirit, grant me repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, my Savior. Do not cast me away or take Your Spirit from me. Uphold and keep me by Your generous Spirit. Amen.
[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]