Behold, you desire truth in the innermost being; and in the hidden part you will make me know wisdom. (Psalm 51:6 NASB)
As a writer, I am a bit jealous of those who communicated in ancient Hebrew, a rich imagery buffet of words and concepts that yielded choice meals of truth. And often served in a special presentation, such as rhyme or repetition. This verse is a perfect example, because David employed LOTS of repetition here, which we miss in English.
The phrase “innermost being” is actually the same word repeated twice, which in English does mean “innermost.” And the later phrase, “hidden part,” is a synonym that means concealed or hidden, and it is ALSO repeated twice. So a literal reading of this would be,
Behold, you desire truth in the innermost innermost;
and in the hidden hidden you will make me know wisdom.
Note that this is part of Psalm 51, which David penned when he was confronted over committing adultery with Bathsheba and then having her husband murdered — an act David found necessary because her husband was of such high integrity that he would not even go home and sleep with his wife while his own soldiers slept in the fields, and thus provide cover for the fact that a pregnancy was now underway in his absence.
Psalm 51 stands out as THE place to turn when one sins really big against God, and needs to find his way back from what feels like the unforgivable thing. It provides all the vocabulary one needs to talk to God in such an awful moment.
While David’s evil acts seem totally out of character with his reputation and public personna as the God-loving warrior king of Israel, David has seen that they were first conceived from a place deep within his soul and spirit where the real truth is found about his character – his innermost innermost. Scripture assures us that sin always begins from a place within us that desires something:
… but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full- grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15 NIV)
Possessing “truth in the innermost innermost” means that what is down at the core of one’s being actually lines up with how one behaves and what he claims to value. In other words, God is looking for the one who truly desires righteousness at the very core of his being.
David’s actions have clearly revealed that this was not the case. Horrified at what he has done, he acknowledges that it isn’t enough to say, “I’m sorry, God, help me not to do that awful thing again;” he understands that he needs to be cleansed of wrong desires and have them replaced with God’s wisdom in that place where all values and choices are birthed — in the hidden, hidden. Hidden from man, and often even from ourselves, but never from God.
Today it is popular when encouraging an athlete to score in a sporting event to say, “Take it to the house!” Well, the innermost innermost hidden hidden is the house I share with the Lord, and if one doesn’t score there, it doesn’t count for much. I too have had my actions reveal that my “core” values didn’t match what I believed and proclaimed publicly. And realizing that I need help to change, I learned from David to cry out to God to instill his wisdom in my innermost innermost, to replace those wrong desires. Experience has taught me that the shortcut to change isn’t wrestling myself into it, but asking for and surrendering to the power of God’s Spirit, who dwells in my innermost innermost hidden hidden.
What I love about verse 6 is that David takes us past the “terrible-me-I’m-no-good-how-could-God-ever-forgive-me” moment — which can become a hopeless permission to stay as you are — and brings you face-to-face with the Lord who can truly make you better. It begins with honesty, and leads to real change — change you can’t do by yourself. The idea that a really big sin requires you to feel horrible about yourself for a very long time as a means of doing penance is the devil’s idea, not God’s. Long-term guilt may or may not bring about some change, and shame does not draw us closer to our God. Our God prefers to follow your sincere repentance with His swift redemption, because he loves to share unfettered fellowship with you. He knows, as all fathers do, that staying close to his heart is a much better motivator to do what is right than plain old nagging guilt and shame.
Hopefully most of us will never be guilty of adultery and murder (much less both!) but the fact is that truly there are no big sins and little sins. We should feel just as grieved over lying to someone as we would over marital unfaithfulness, when we look into the eyes of Christ, who alone knows us in the hidden hidden innermost innermost.
Our innermost innermost hidden hidden is where we share life with God. It should be a place of truth between us, a place from which we really live and express the life of Christ to the world around us. We are the temple of the Living God, and we need to keep it real real and righteous righteous in there where no one is looking but Christ. (Yeah, I can’t let the ancient writers have all the fun.)