Living Coram Deo

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:9–11).

- Psalm 51:9–12

When news programs broadcast the arrest of wanted fugitives, it is not out of the ordinary for the accused to hide his face from the camera. We may never face the law after being on the lam, but surely all of us can understand why a criminal would want to hide his face. We do not want our misdeeds to be exposed to public scrutiny.

David’s plea for the Lord to hide His face in verse 9 of today’s passage is borne from the acute sense of guilt he experienced. Knowing that he has wronged his Creator in his sin with Bathsheba, David realizes his end will only be destruction if God looks on him with His wrath. To be exposed in our sin to the Lord’s gaze is a fearful experience, one that will undo us unless it is tempered with grace.

However, to be looked upon by the Almighty is not always a frightful reality. The stare David fears is one of wrath, but there is also the benevolent gaze of God. Mary, the mother of Jesus, for example, is overjoyed when the Lord looks upon her with favor and chooses her to bear the Messiah (Luke 1:46–55). The ancient Israelite knew the greatest blessing a person can have is Yahweh’s face shining upon him with grace (Num. 6:22–27). Paul looks forward to the day we will see God face-to-face (1 Cor. 13:12).

The benevolent gaze of the Lord motivates David to ask that he not be cast out of God’s presence (Ps. 51:11). True, he implores the Lord not to look upon His sin, but once he has repented he wants assurance God will view him with favor. This penitent king of Israel knew the sheer joy of living life coram Deo — before the face of God. The Father can look at us with pleasure when we turn from our evil and endeavor to serve Him. His gaze should cause us to rejoice exceedingly before Him. To be cast out of His presence is lamentable, and the truly repentant will call upon the Lord to keep His love upon them even while knowing they are undeserving of it.

Verse 13 has Jesse’s son promising to teach other transgressors the ways of God if he is forgiven. Our forgiveness is a catalyst moving us to share the good news of salvation with others.

Coram Deo

In verse 10 of today’s passage, David begs the Lord to “renew a right spirit” within him. The “right” or “steadfast” disposition to love God affects our sin. We may go through extended periods of devotion, but when our love for Him grows cold, it is easier to fall into evil. If you are struggling in sin, search your heart and ask the Lord to help you love Him consistently. Delight in His presence today and remember that He looks with favor on His people.

Passages for Further Study

Deut. 31:16–18
Ps. 27:9–10
Luke 22:61–62
2 Cor. 4:14

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