A New Year’s Resolution
Between now and January 1 many of us will be making resolutions—resolutions we have every intention of keeping, even against the odds that say we won’t. We know from past experience, and all we read and all we hear, that our chances of keeping any of those resolutions for even a month are slim. Yet, hope springs eternal, and we start the New Year fresh, with great intentions for changing old habits.
· We’ll be more careful about what we eat, trying for a more balanced diet, including more fruits and vegetables and less fried foods and sweets.
· We’ll start—and continue—that exercise program we need to stay healthy and make sure the weight comes off—and stays off.
· We’ll give up smoking, or cut down on our drinking, or get more sleep, or…
What we wouldn’t give for more will power—or, as someone who really understands the human condition once said, more won’t power.
David wasn’t making a New Year’s resolution when he wrote Psalm 51, but he knew he needed to change. He was responding to the words of the prophet Nathan, who had let him know that God condemned his behavior.
David’s sin began not with his sexual liaison with Bathsheba, but when he failed to fulfill his duty as king. “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel….But David remained in Jerusalem” (2 Samuel, 11:1). Davis’s sin began as so many of ours do, not with commission, but with omission. The king belonged at the head of his troops—but David stayed home.
In the same way, many of our resolutions go by the boards not because of something we do, but because of something we fail to do. We know we should rid the house of unhealthy snacks, but we keep them around, making the “just one cookie” a possibility. We know we should get up earlier and exercise before we get too busy with the day, but we stay in bed that extra half hour. Sins of omission are just as dangerous as sins of commission—perhaps more so.
So David finds himself alone with God and with the full horror of his sin. He has failed to be the leader his people needed and expected him to be. He has seduced another man’s wife and impregnated her. He has arranged for that man to die in battle—murder just as surely as if he had wielded the sword himself.
After confessing his sins to God in some of the bitterest words in Scripture, David begins his resolution. “Fashion a pure heart for me, O God; create in me a steadfast spirit” he prays. “Do not cast me out of Your presence, or take Your holy spirit away from me. Let me again rejoice in Your help; let a vigorous spirit sustain me” (Jewish Study Bible).
David realizes that the changes he needs to make cannot be achieved in his own strength. He needs God’s help to turn himself around and again become God’s faithful servant. Admitting his helplessness, he asks God to change him. Only then can he say, “I will teach transgressors your ways, that sinners may return to you….O Lord, open my lips, and let my mouth declare your praise.”
As we contemplate the changes we wish to make in ourselves and our habits for the coming year, let us look first to those things God is pointing out to us. What changes do we need to make to become more completely the people God wants us to be? How can we achieve a pure heart and a steadfast spirit, and be more faithful to God?