“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” –Psalm 51:7
Hanging on to our sin is a terrible business. When it goes unconfessed, we usually try to double and triple down on it to keep it off the radar. Then we end up with far more than just the initial transgression we try to hide. And something happens to our conscience during our unholy charade. We stop feeling the weight of our sin. We are simply self-blinded to what we’ve done. And in the end, we tragically feel and see nothing.
David was in this position when he received a rebuke from the prophet Nathan. David had slept with his friend’s wife, whom he got pregnant, then tried to cover it up, and in the end, he had his friend killed. How long did David hang onto these sins without confessing them? Long enough for a baby to be born. And long enough to no longer feel their weight.
So Nathan tells David a story about a poor man who owned only a single lamb, which he loved like one of his children. One day his rich neighbor took the poor man’s lamb and cooked it for his guests. David is enraged over this injustice and demands punishment. In fact, David wants the rich man killed. At that moment Nathan unloads four words that utterly crush David. Four words which expose everything David is hiding. As David calls for the execution of the rich lamb thief, Nathan responds by saying:
“You are the man!”
Nathan confronting David is a helpful narrative picture of what the Law does to all of us. It calls a thing what it is. It exposes the heart. It accuses us—every time.
I understand David’s plight. I’ve been there. I’ve been named “the man”—and I pray you have too. It’s the voice we all need to call us out, and the hammer we all need to break us down. I’m grateful for Nathan. Without the matter-of-fact voice of the Law that he declared, we may have never received the gift that poured out of David after God gifted him with repentance. And we now have this treasury in Psalm 51.
I’ve read Psalm 51, prayed Psalm 51, and sung Psalm 51. As I recently read it once again, verse 7 jumped out at me. As David pleads for forgiveness, he makes an incredible statement. He asks for his sin to be purged—to be made clean. And then the verse states that if God washes him, he will be whiter than snow.
Did you catch that?
Not “white as snow” but “whiter than snow.”
It’s as if David is unable to find an example to accurately compare the purity that flows from God washing a sinner. The winter snow is the best example David can come up with, but it still falls short. You see, when a sinner is forgiven—when they are washed—when they are baptized into the forgiveness and grace of God, they do not come out WHITE as snow, they come out WHITER.
The pure driven snow has nothing on the imputed righteousness of Christ.
The radical truth is this: when the Law comes in and rightly names us “the man” (as God repents us), Jesus enters the scene and states:
“No… I am the man.”
Jesus became every sin that condemned David, and He has become every sin that condemns you or me. Jesus became “the man” for the whole world of sinners. The cross of Christ is where perfection took away sin and sinners attained perfection. This cross is the gory and grizzly display of pure grace in which the world is declared righteous.
For every sinner/saint on the run.
For every transgressor in hiding.
Jesus has been named “the man” for you.
Come stand in the light. You’re not white as snow. You wear Christ’s righteousness, and that’s a whole lot whiter than snow ever will be.
As the son of a Pastor, Daniel Emery Price was raised in church and various kinds of Christian ministry in a small town in rural Arkansas. He began writing and performing music in his teen years and was heavily involved in worship ministry before moving to Seattle in his early twenties to pursue a career in music. He later moved to Phoenix and returned to leading worship and took a leadership position in youth/collegiate ministry, before moving back to Arkansas where he helped plant Trinity Church NWAin 2009, and he now serves as Pastor. Daniel lives in Northwest Arkansas with his wife Jessica and their daughter Anna. He is a regular guest on theological radio shows, podcasts, and is a conference speaker. Daniel is a Contributor to Christ Hold Fast and a co-host of the weekly podcasts, 40 Minutes in the Old Testament and 30 Minutes in the New Testament. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Scandalous Stories: A Sort of Commentary on Parables.