Psalm 51:10-12 (NIV)
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.
There are marked moments in our lifetimes, indelibly and internally etched in a Christian’s memory, where we can each say with confidence: “God did this for me, and I was forever changed.”
I like to imagine that each of us has a number of internal altars where, upon remembering a personal, transformative moment, we have the opportunity to kneel to give thanks again and again. Perhaps we built an internal altar when we experienced a moment of great success, a time when circumstances flowed in our favor and a deep sense of communion with God’s Spirit was made all the sweeter by an advantageous result.
There are other moments, however, like those that preceded Psalm 51 in the life of David, where an internal altar was built because we experienced utter, divine rescue. And that rescue was not from an outward enemy—that rescue was from ourselves. We were headed in one direction, full and strong, and by the mercy of God, the Spirit brought revelation through our pain, our suffering, or as a sovereign gift of divine mercy. We were diverted from a path that led to death (Prov. 14:12), and we are so grateful that we were.
You may have some of those moments in your own life, and are visiting your internal altar of thanks even now. I know that I do. Feel free to pause here, and to sing a song of praise with me.
Psalm 51 is David’s song of praise. It’s a powerful, remarkable external expression of how grateful David was for the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who entered the chaos he had caused and saved him from himself. We know the story. David had sinned with Bathsheba. He had her husband Uriah murdered. He weaved a tangled web, and was using his power to justify it, fix it, and ultimately, to hide it under a rug. He lacked accountability; he was the top of the food chain. Now, on the same track as all the other queens and kings of his time, he was headed toward their fate, following unbridled lusts toward a hell of one’s own making.
But one thing set David apart from all the others. David had the Holy Spirit at work in his life. David had a covenant with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob running through his mind and heart. David had the worship habits of his people ingraining truth into his dispositions and habits. David belonged to God—and the Spirit was making sure he didn’t completely forget who he was and whose he was. The Spirit saw the chaos coming, and out of sheer mercy, stepped in to make something good out of it (Rom. 8:28). Nathan the prophet steps in, speaks by the Spirit, and David chooses to repent. Psalm 51 is the outer altar he builds for the inward altar of remembrance that is now set permanently in his soul.
Pray David’s deep and enduring awakening prayer as your own today: “Do not . . . take your Holy Spirit from me.” David was unwilling to go on without God’s abiding presence searching his life, scanning his heart to expose wicked ways that lead to chaos and death, leading him into ways that are everlasting (Ps. 139:23-24). The Holy Spirit does this for us as well.
Do not take your Holy Spirit from me, O God. Your presence is life to me.
Jesus, I receive your Holy Spirit. I have so many altars in my heart coming to mind at which I can give you thanks! Thank you! Come, Holy Spirit, stir in me the steady songs of praise that will keep me singing, following you on the path that leads to life. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Can you remember one of your “altar moments” when God rescued you from yourself? What words come to mind that you want to say to God in response to his Spirit’s work on your behalf?
For the Awakening,