Posted by: rcottrill | June 8, 2012

Cleanse Me

Words: James Edwin Orr (b. Jan. 12, 1912; d. Apr. 22, 1987)
Music: Maori (a traditional melody of the Maori, the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: In some books, the song uses the opening line as its title, Search Me, O God. The story of how this 1936 hymn came to be written, and have a Maori tune attached to it, is told in the Wordwise Hymns link.

This lovely (and convicting!) hymn takes its theme from Psalm 139:23-24 which says:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties [my anxious thoughts]; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Many times we lack the sensitivity to perceive the true sinfulness of our hearts, or to view our conduct as truly sinful–whether it involves a sin of commission or omission. This psalm of David’s shows a humility of spirit, as he asks the Lord to identify anything in his life that would hinder their relationship, or his service for God.

CH-1) Search me, O God,
And know my heart today;
Try me, O Saviour,
Know my thoughts, I pray.
See if there be
Some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin
And set me free.

In the Bible, much is said about cleansing from sin, about the need for God not only to forgive us, but to purify our inward selves.

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Ps. 51:1-2).

“I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me” (Jer. 33:8; cf. Ezek. 37:23).

The cleansing, purifying work of God is inward and deep (Ps. 26:2; 51:6). Just as sin begins deep inside us, so does righteousness need to reside there. The Pharisees made the mistake of judging themselves and others merely on the basis of outward behaviour. But the Lord Jesus said of them: “You Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness” (Lk. 11:39).

As the saying goes, we need to keep short accounts with God. That is, not allow sin to gain a foothold in our lives, but to deal with it quickly. David tried to hide his adultery with Bathsheba by having her husband killed and marrying her. But God knew all about it, and David spent months struggling with the misery of conviction.

When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah [Think of that!]” (Ps. 32:3-4).

As Christians, we are called to “confess” our sins to the Lord. The word means to agree or acknowledge–to agree with God about the evil nature of the sin, and the urgent need to get it out of our lives. And here is His promise:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9).

CH-2) I praise Thee, Lord,
For cleansing me from sin;
Fulfil Thy Word,
And make me pure within.
Fill me with fire
Where once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire
To magnify Thy name.

1) What factors may make us harbour sin and fail to confess and forsake it? What can be done about this?

2) What are some practical differences between a believer with sin on his/her conscience, and one that has been purified by the Lord.

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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