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A Clean Heart

Posted by Pastor Jonathan Yeoh on

Our Best Thought is a weekly devotional thoughtfully penned by leaders in DUMC arising from their daily devotions. The devotional’s title, “Our Best Thought” is taken from the hymn, “Be Thou My Vision” as a reference to God: “Thou my best thought, by day or by night.” Publishes on Sundays.

Psalm 51 is one of the psalms of repentance attributed to King David, written after Nathan the prophet confronted him about his sin. His confession and repentance from personal sin is the focus in this composition. But today we will focus on verses 10-12.


Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

 Psalm 51:10-12 (NIV)


To ancient people, the “heart” often referred to one’s inner thoughts and conscience. But today we know that it is the brain that does the cognitive functions that gives rise to emotions. Nevertheless, expressions of emotions are often referred to as matters of the heart, because of the emotions we feel coming from within.

Augustine, one of the early church fathers once said*:

“One must look deeply into the human heart to see in what direction it is turned, and on what point its gaze is fixed.”

David referred to the need for a new heart, “create” and “renew” (v. 10), both of which connotes a need for a fresh heart to start with after having sinned. Acknowledging that he needed a clean heart, and God’s spirit afresh in him. He knew that it is the spirit within from which his purposes and actions flow.

David pleaded with the Lord not to remove him from His presence, not to take the Holy Spirit away from him. He knew that everything he had up until his fall, is because of God’s presence being with him. Without God he would be nothing. “Cast me not away...” and “take not your presence….” were his pleas to God.

David pleaded with the Lord to restore the joy of God’s salvation in him, upholding him with a willing spirit.

In these verses, we see David acknowledging that he needed to be transformed from within first, before his relationship with God is restored. A transformed inner life is imperative, before a right relationship with God can happen.

The characteristics of “clean heart”, right spirit” and “willing spirit,” all need to happen within David himself, before any visible external signs of transformed life is possible. With these collectively, then only can he hope to be sustained once again by the lasting presence of God. David believed with this empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and renewed assurance of deliverance combined, will bring about sustainable hope for all. He highlighted subsequently in v. 16, that all the physical sacrifices, offered for worship in the temple are useless, if there is no true repentance inside. The condition of his heart is what matters to God. God desires the inward change and not just outward actions.


God desires for us to be open to Him in all areas of live, even those we keep hidden from our loved ones and the public. Here, in David’s experience, he tried to hide his sins from God. When Nathan confronted him, he had to acknowledge openly, confessing, and repenting, before God’s restoration of joy of salvation in him once again.

How often do we come before God’s presence, to ask the Holy Spirit to search our heart, bringing illumination that our hidden / forgotten sins, may be brought to light for confession and repentance before God?

As David indicated, it is not about ritual sacrifice (religious externals), but about the inner life (heart) being pure before God first. In today’s context, it is not about what we do nor how much we are seen to be serving in ministry, rather it begins with what is the condition of our heart before God.

What we are inside, determines the motives and reasons for our actions on the outside.


Dear God,

Search my heart today, see if there be any areas of my life that is not pleasing nor right before you. I confess of those areas before you now. I repent and ask for your forgiveness. Restore to me the joy of your salvation once again. Grant me a fresh indwelling of your Holy Spirit that I may once again walk in intimacy with you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

*Found in Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle A by Thomas Oden and Cindy Crosby (2007), page 65. Published by IVP Books, Downers Grove.

Pastor Jonathan Yeoh is Pastor of Children's Church.

Our Best Thought is a weekly devotional that follows DUMC's Bible Reading Plan. Posts on Sundays.