Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me…. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Saviour, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. (Psalm 51:11-15)
David composed these words in those broken moments when the prophet’s accusation still echoed in his throne room: “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). You are the man who received the crown of Israel but then stole the wife of your most loyal servant (12:8). You are the anointed protector of the sheep who has now slaughtered one of his own (12:9). You are the man whose sin will claim the life of your son (12:14) -–not only the precious child conceived within Bathsheba, but also a more distant Son who will die spiked on a blood-soaked cross. Because–and only because–of this more distant Son, “The LORD also has put away your sin” (12:13).
The heart of Psalm 51 is David’s plea for restoration (Psalm 51:7-12), and the climax of this plea is his yearning cry for “the joy of your salvation” (51:12). David hadn’t forfeited God’s gift of salvation, but he had lost the joy of what God in his grace had provided.
When, though, did David lose this joy of his salvation, and why? It is possible that David’s sinful actions were, at least in part, the fruit of his failure to recall that the lasting joy of God’s salvation far outstripped the passing pleasure of Bathsheba’s flesh. Perhaps David had already lost sight of the joy of God’s salvation before he saw the young woman bathing on the roof and chose to call her into his chambers. A false and fleeting pleasure could never satisfy his soul. Now, the penitent king begged God to restore his lost joy.
Purity flows from a heart that recognizes the joy of God’s salvation as a gift more satisfying than any competing pleasure the world can provide. Such joy is cultivated by prayerful reflection on the grace of God and his actions for us in the Lord Jesus. This joy is enriched by creative meditation on the cross and it is accompanied by inward transformation (“a willing spirit,” 51:12) and results in outward proclamation (51:13).
My Father and my God,
Give me a willing spirit– a spirit willing to trust–
that there is no pleasure greater than the joy you have granted in Christ,
that there is no pleasure so great that it is worth trading for your holiness
and that there is no gift I need, that you, through your Spirit, will not provide.
In the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord,