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Psalm 51:7

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 7. Purge me with hyssop. Sprinkle the atoning blood upon me with the appointed means. Give me the reality which legal ceremonies symbolise. Nothing but blood can take away my blood stains, nothing but the strongest purification can avail to cleanse me. Let the sin offering purge my sin. Let him who was appointed to atone, execute his sacred office on me; for none can need it more than

  1. The passage may be read as the voice of faith as well as a prayer, and so it runs -- "Thou wilt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean." Foul as I am, there is such power in the divine propitiation, that my sin shall vanish quite away. Like the leper upon whom the priest has performed the cleansing rites, I shall again be admitted into the assembly of thy people and allowed to share in the privileges of the true Israel; while in thy sight also, through Jesus my Lord, I shall be accepted. Wash me. Let it not merely be in type that I am clean, but by a real spiritual purification, which shall remove the pollution of my nature. Let the sanctifying as well as the pardoning process be perfected in me. Save me from the evils which my sin has created and nourished in me. And I shall be whiter than snow. None but thyself can whiten me, but thou canst in grace outdo nature itself in its purest state. Snow soon gathers smoke and dust, it melts and disappears; thou canst give me an enduring purity. Though snow is white below as well as on the outer surface, thou canst work the like inward purity in me, and make me so clean that only an hyperbole can set forth my immaculate condition. Lord, do this; my faith believes thou wilt, and well she knows thou canst. Scarcely does Holy Scripture contain a verse more full of faith than this. Considering the nature of the sin, and the deep sense the psalmist had of it, it is a glorious faith to be able to see in the blood sufficient, nay, all sufficient merit entirely to purge it away. Considering also the deep natural inbred corruption which David saw and experienced within, it is a miracle of faith that he could rejoice in the hope of perfect purity in his inward parts. Yet, be it added, the faith is no more than the word warrants, than the blood of atonement encourages, than the promise of God deserves. O that some reader may take heart, even now while smarting under sin, to do the Lord the honour to rely thus confidently on the finished sacrifice of Calvary and the infinite mercy there revealed.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 6-8. The right conviction of sin comprehends its being acknowledged not only in our works, but also in our entire being. Agustus F. Tholuck.

Verse 7. Purge me with hyssop. Do I well to prescribe to God with what he shall purge me, as though I knew all God's medicines as well as himself and which is worse, I to prescribe and he to administer? But excuse me, O my soul, it is not I that prescribe it to God, it is God that prescribes it to me; for hyssop is his own receipt, and one of the ingredients prescribed by himself to make the water of separation for curing the leprosy ... I must confess I was glad at heart when I first heard hyssop spoken of; to think I should be purged so gently, and with a thing that may so easily be had, for hyssop grows in every garden; and then I thought I might go fetch it thence and purge myself, but now I perceive this is not the hyssop of which Solomon writ when he writ from the cedar to the hyssop; but this hyssop is rather the herb grace, which never grew in garden but in that of Paradise, and which none can fetch thence unless God himself deliver it. The truth is, this hyssop was sometimes a cedar; the highest of all trees because the lowest of all shrubs, only to be made this hyssop for us: for Christ indeed is the true hyssop, and his blood the juice of hyssop that only can purge away my sins. Sir Richard Baker.

Verse 7. Purge me with hyssop. (ynajxt) Properly, expiate my sin with hyssop. The Psalmist alludes to the purification from the leprosy Leviticus 14:52 , or from the touch of a dead body Numbers 19:19 , both of which were to be done by the sprinkling of water and other things with hyssop. Samuel Chandler.

Verse 7. Hyssop. The lasaf or asaf, the caper plant, the bright green creeper which climbs out of the fissures of the rocks in the Sinaitic valleys, has been identified on grounds of great probability with the "hyssop" or ezob of Scripture; and thus explains whence came the green branches used, even in the desert, for sprinkling the water over the tents of the Israelites. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, in "Sinai and Palestine." 1864.

Verse 7. Hyssop. Between twenty and thirty different plants have been proposed, but no one of them comes so near the above requirements as the caper plant (Capparis spinosa). It grows "out of the wall;" its stalks supply both bunch and rod admirably fitted for the ends indicated; and it has ever been esteemed in the East as possessing cleansing properties. John Duns, D.D., in "Biblica; Natural Science."

Verse 7. Hyssop. What a pity that Solomon's botany is lost, in which he spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that springeth out of the wall! The cedar we know, but what is the hyssop of the royal botanist? Mr. B---, French consul of this city (Sidon), and an enthusiastic botanist, exhibited to me two varieties of hyssop; one, called ztar by the Arabs, having the fragrance of thyme, with a hot, pungent taste, and long, slender stems. A bunch of these would answer very well for sprinkling the paschal and sacrificial blood on the lintel and posts of the doors, and over the persons and houses cleansed from the leprosy. Mr. B---, however, thinks that a very small green plant, like a moss which covers old walls in damp places, is the hyssop of Solomon. This I doubt. The other kind also springs out of walls, those of the garden especially, and was much more likely to attract the attention of the royal student. W. M. Thomson, D.D., in "The Land and the Book."

Verse 7. The paraphrase of this verse in the Chaldee is: "Thou wilt sprinkle me like the priest, which sprinkleth the unclean with the purifying waters, with hyssop, with the ashes of an heifer, and I shall be clean." John Morison.

Verse 7. I shall be whiter than snow. But how is this possible? All the dyers on earth cannot dye a red into a white; and how, then, is it possible that my sins which are as red as scarlet should ever be made as white as snow? Indeed such retrogradation is no work of human art; it must be only his doing who brought the sun ten degrees back in the dial of Ahaz: for God hath a nitre of grace that can bring not only the redness of scarlet sins, but even the blackness of deadly sins, into its native purity and whiteness again. But say it be possible, yet what need is there of so great a whiteness, as to be "whiter than snow"? seeing snow is not as paries dealbatus, a painted wall, white without and foul within; but it is white, intus et in cute, within and without, throughout and all over; and what eye so curious but such a whiteness may content? Yet such a whiteness will not serve, for I may be as white as snow and yet a leper still; as it is said of Gehazi that "he went from Elisha a leper as white as snow:" it must be therefore whiter than snow. And such a whiteness it is that God's washing works upon us, makes within us; for no snow is so white in the eyes of men as a soul cleansed from sin is in the sight of God. And yet, a whiter whiteness than this too; for being purged from sin we shall, induere stolam album, put on the whiter robe; and this is a whiteness as much whiter than snow as angelical whiteness is more than elemental. Sir Richard Baker.

Verse 7. In the Hebrew language there are two words to express the different kinds of washing, and they are always used with the strictest propriety; the one, to signify that kind of washing which pervades the substance of the thing washed, and cleanses it thoroughly; and the other to express that kind of washing which only cleanses the surface of a substance which the water cannot penetrate. The former is applied to the washing of clothes; the latter is used for washing some part of the body. By a beautiful and strong metaphor, David uses the former word in this and in Psalms 51:2 : "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin;" wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. So in Jeremiah 4:14 , the same word is applied to the heart. Richard Mant.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 7. Here is,

  1. Faith in the act of an atonement for sin. "I shall be clean."
  2. Faith in the method of its application. "Purge me," etc. Sprinkled as the blood of sacrifices.
  3. Faith in its efficacy. "I shall be whiter," etc.
Read Psalm 51:7