Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
The oak tree that stood in their front yard was almost like a shrine. It had been planted four generations earlier and was considered a part of the family. From great-grandma to the youngest grandchild, each member had climbed the tree, swung from its branches or rested under its shade at one time or another. When the leaves of that tree began to exhibit small brown spots, the family got to work to fix the problem. First, they tried to clean the spots from the leaves with water, but that did not work. Next, they scrubbed the leaves with soap and steel wool, but that only damaged them more. Finally, they decided simply to paint the leaves to cover the spots. The tree looked back to normal, but the disease which caused those spots would kill that tree only several days later.
If we try to be good, we will fail. Producing good fruit from a bad tree is a spiritual impossibility. The psalmist here pleads with God for change to come from within, which is the key to our spiritual walk. It does not matter how good we are able to make ourselves look if the deceitful hearts within us are not submitted to God for true change. The prayer here is not only for that heart to be cleansed but for the spirit within the man to be steadfast, which is to be faithful in endurance. This is not an instant event but a process. The transformation of the spiritual heart is not a sprint but a marathon because this cleansing is the process of sanctification that we will endure throughout our entire lives in this order of things. In fact, not even the prayer is a momentary event. We must continually seek God for further refinement daily.
The encouragement here is that God offers the promise of change no matter how hard our hearts have become. No matter how deep seated sin is within us, transformation is possible. We might hold on to unforgiveness that has taken root in us for so long that it seems impossible to release, but we can get there. Whether the issue is anger, resentment, lust, jealousy or any combination of sins, we can reach victory over all of it. After all, we have no hope in God if we do not believe that every dark spot within us can be cleansed and redeemed. Focus on his power, his promise and his patience. Seek him humbly, and change will come. Father, thank You that You can purify and restore completely each and every one of our hearts, and we ask You to continue to do that today.