Create In Me A Clean Heart

One of my favorite worship songs is “Create In Me A Clean Heart” by the late Keith Green. The words for this song are taken directly from Scripture out of Psalm 51. In fact, the credits on his 1984 album “Jesus Commands Us To Go” (released posthumously) list all of the songs as being written by Keith and/or his wife Melody Green except for this one – it simply says “Arrangement by Keith Green.”

It’s not only one of my favorite songs, it is also a favorite – probably the favorite – among the group of offenders I meet and worship with at a nearby Indiana correctional facility. I play along on a guitar and we all sing this song, some in tune and some out of tune, nearly every time we meet in the chapel. These are men who have made some serious mistakes in life and need the loving forgiveness of our Heavenly Father. We sing earnestly and pray for our spirits to be renewed and our hearts made clean so that we can be disciples of Messiah Yeshua and walk as he walked.

Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever! (Deuteronomy 5:29).

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

The liner notes in the album (yes, my copy is vinyl) have the following words before the song lyrics:

King David wrote these words after committing adultery with Bathsheba and arranging for her husband Uriah to be murdered. No one knew about it. No one that is, except God. And God told Nathan, the Prophet. When Nathan confronted David, he responded with a broken and sorrowful heart, not denying his sin. He begged God for His mercy and forgiveness and God gave it to him. Imagine that! Someone who fell into murder and adultery being forgiven by God. God’s love for us is unfailing. David totally blew it, but God received him back because he was not too proud to admit he was wrong and turn to god for strength to change. If there was hope for him – there is certainly hope for us as well!

We, too, are confronted with the things we have done wrong that have hurt God, ourselves, and others. If we harden our hearts against the truth we cannot be cleansed. But if we yield to our loving heavenly Father, like David, no matter what we have done, He will cleanse us, heal us, and bring us to Him. Let David’s prayer be our prayer too as we yield our lives to Jesus …1

The guys at the facility really love doing liturgy, blessings and prayers from the Siddur in Hebrew, and they like singing some of the Messianic and traditional Jewish songs in Hebrew. So a while back, one of them came to me and asked if we could sing this song, their favorite, in Hebrew. Realizing it was straight from Scripture, I thought that would be pretty easy. But it wasn’t. After struggling with it for a while, I printed the passage out in Hebrew and gave it to the gentleman who asked. He is a musician on the prison chapel worship team and accepted the challenge. A few weeks later he sang it for me, and it was beautiful.

I am so blessed to study and worship with these men. When we sing together, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation,” we truly experience the presence of The Almighty and the joy King David wrote about in another Psalm.

You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
(Psalm 16:11)

When we conclude our time in the prison chapel, I always recite the Aaronic Benediction over my brothers. And I follow up that blessing with the final two verses of Jude from the New Testament. They speak of standing in the presence of God “without fault and with great joy,” the kind of joy that comes from knowing Yeshua, Yah’s salvation.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.  (Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV)
To him who is able to keep you from falling
And to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy–
To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.  (Jude 1:24-25 NIV)

Keith Green died in a private plane crash in 1982 at the age of 28. I had been a fan of his music and his writing for several years and his death was quite a shock. What I didn’t know until much later was that he and his wife were Jewish believers in Jesus. I’ve often wondered where his music and ministry would have gone had he lived. Did he, or would he ever have sung this song in Hebrew?

Here are the song lyrics, taken from Psalm 51, in English and transliterated Hebrew. I’ve also included them in Hebrew for those who are interested. Since I’ve never heard anyone sing it this way, I recorded it myself. It’s nothing fancy, just my guitar and me in my living room with my laptop computer and the built-in microphone. This is my own arrangement, based on the Keith Green recording and the help of an incarcerated man (the same person I wrote about here).  I hope it is enough for you to be able to hear it and learn it yourself. I think it gladdens the heart of the Father when his children pray this Psalm.

Create in me a clean heart, Oh God
And renew a right spirit within me
Create in me a clean heart, Oh God
And renew a right spirit within me

Cast me not away from thy presence, Oh Lord
Take not thy Holy Spirit from me
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation
And renew a right spirit within me1

Lev ta-hor b’ra liy ‘Elohim
V’ruach nakon chadesh b’qirbiy
Lev ta-hor b’ra liy ‘Elohim
V’ruach nakon chadesh b’qirbiy

Al-tashliykeniy mil-phaneyka Adon
V’ruach Qad’sheka al- tiqach mimeniy
Hashiyvah liy se-son yisheka
V’ruach nakon chadesh b’qirbiy

לֵב טָהוֺר בְּרָא־לִי אֱלֹהִים
וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי
לֵב טָהוֺר בְּרָא־לִי אֱלֹהִים
וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי
אַל־תַּשְׁלִיכֵנִי מִלְּפָנֶיךָ אָדוֺן
וְרוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ אַל־תִּקַּח מִמֶּנִּי
הָשִׁיבָה לִּי שְׂשׂוֺן יִשְׁעֶךָ
וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי

(Psalm 51:12-14(10-12), arrangement by Keith Green)


1From the album “Keith Green – Jesus Commands Us To Go” © 1984 Pretty Good Records a division of Last Days Ministries
Unless marked otherwise, Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation


2 thoughts on “Create In Me A Clean Heart”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing, Larry! Love your inmates and their hearts – I am humbled and convicted!! And please share our gratitude to the one who made this Hebrew version become a reality for us! Come prepared! It is going to be in our books on Shabbat!!


Leave a Comment