Today is Ash Wednesday, the first of forty days in Lent (six weeks) on the Christian Calendar which is designed to remind us of our mortality, God’s grace, and the great need for repentance and faith in Jesus. There is perhaps no better place in Scripture to go than this psalm of David. It is the consummate prayer of confession and repentance.
If we struggle to know how to respond to our sin when we become aware of it, then this psalm is meant for us. We are to use it and adopt it as our own. The words of Holy Scripture are not simply ancient texts for a bygone era; they are living words to be read, prayed, meditated upon, memorized, and engrafted into the soul. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” Notice that David asked for mercy based upon God’s character, and not on the ground of the quality or intensity of his confession.
If we trust only in our hearts, then our hearts will eventually condemn us because they can be desperately wicked. But if we throw ourselves headlong into the vast ocean of God’s mercy, then we shall receive forgiveness of sins and assurance of pardon because God’s steadfast love never changes. Ashes upon the forehead today are to be a reminder of our frailty and propensity toward sin; they are a symbol of repentance and desire for mercy. Of all days, today is the day to set aside the pride of achievement and the pretense of appearing to have it all together, and humbly submit to God in repentance and faith.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.