Scrub me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7 Author
It’s all over for me! I am done for, because I am a man with unclean lips and I live in the midst of a people with unclean lips, and I have seen the King, Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies with my own eyes.
Isaiah 6:5 Author
When we compare Psalm 51 and Isaiah 6, we see an interesting, and even an arresting, similarity. It is the concept of “uncleanness.” Isaiah does not say that his lips are finite, or mortal, or temporal, but that they are unclean. Likewise, David is clearly oppressed by a sense of pervasive uncleanness. He wants God to take a hyssop branch, the Israelite version of a scrub brush, to him and make him clean. He goes so far as to ask Yahweh to “create” a clean heart in him.
Clearly, these men had a remarkable understanding of the impact of sin in a life. Doing what is contrary to God’s will and purposes, whether in action or speech, has an intrinsic effect on the one doing it, and not merely an extrinsic one. It changes our condition and not merely our circumstances.
What is the idea here? What is uncleanness? It is to attend a party where the men are in tuxedos and the women in formal gowns and be dressed in greasy, sweaty overalls. It is to walk into a hospital with manure on your boots. It is to go into a sickroom carrying the Covid virus. When we sin, we are changed, and we can no more exist in the presence of God than a pig can fly. That is what Isaiah knew, and it is what David knew. Sin is not a little peccadillo, a minor mistake, a “slip-up,” or an “oopsie.” It is filth in the presence of the eternally clean. Thus, to coddle it, to make a place for it, to excuse it, is not merely an error; it is a tragedy. Think of the heroic efforts around the world to confront Covid. Can the contagion that is killing us eternally be treated any less seriously? No!
To be sure, it is God who must cauterize those unclean lips; it is he who must make that stinking heart like the driven snow. But will we believe him to do it? Or will we expect to arrive at the wedding supper of the Lamb dressed in filthy rags, claiming that it is alright because a certain legal transaction has taken place? The legal transaction, dealing with the circumstance, is necessary, but it is not enough; our condition must be changed too: our words and our actions have to be made clean.