Blake Allen, Student and Outreach Minister, LHBC

Psalm 51:1-12
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

As I reflect on Psalm 51, I am reminded of the fact that there is no true joy living in darkness. There’s a story told of a rich man who took advantage of a poor man by stealing his only lamb, a pet, which he killed to feed to his guests. Anybody who would hear such a story would be enraged, and rightly so.

This was David’s exact response when the prophet Nathan told him this story. David responded by saying, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity” (2 Samuel 12:5–6).

But what David didn’t know was that the story was a parable used by Nathan to describe David’s sin with Bathsheba. David took someone else’s wife and committed adultery with her. Not only that, but he had her husband killed. Nathan said to David, “You are the man in the story!” (2 Samuel 12:7). 

This is the context for Psalm 51. David realized there was no joy to be found living in darkness. Sin really is just a dead end; there is no going forward in joy when we are on dangerous paths. 

This is why David asked the Lord to give him a clean heart and restore the joy of his salvation. David did not lose his salvation. This is important to understand when reading this story. When he asks the Lord not to take away His presence and the Holy Spirit away from him, he is referring to the anointing of the Holy Spirit in terms of his kingship. The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit did not take place until Pentecost (Acts 2). But in the Old Testament the Spirit came and went and worked in different ways. The Spirit came “upon” or “over” David in 1 Samuel 16 but not “in” David. 

Though he did not lose his salvation, he did lose the joy of his salvation as he fell into a state of despair. When we grieve the Holy Spirit by living in sin, we too will discover our joy being stripped away. He also feared losing the anointing of the Holy Spirit in terms of his kingship just as King Saul did when he chose to walk in darkness (1 Samuel 15 & 16). 

As a result of David’s sin he fell into a deep state of despair. Some describe David as one who was depressed during this time. This is not hard to imagine for as a result of his sin a man died, a family was destroyed, David’s son through Bathsheba died, and his joy was nowhere to be found. But David recognized something: confession is the first step to joy. 

God’s grace is greater than our sin. He proved just how much He loves us by sending His son to die for us (Rom 5:8). He is ready to forgive us if we will confess and believe (Rom 10:8-10). He is ready to restore the joy of our salvation. Whatever darkness you have walked through, know that there is grace and joy in Christ our Lord. 

Father, forgive us when we fall short of your glory. Create in us a clean heart and restore to us the joy of your salvation, and uphold us with a willing spirit. Amen.

Micah 6:8
He has told you, O man, what is good;

    and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

    and to walk humbly with your God?