Faithful Friday: “Restoring Joy”-Insights From Psalms 51
In response to my Twitter poll about what we should discuss today, I received an overwhelming response of one vote for Psalms 51:12-Restoring Joy. In all seriousness, though, with the year we’ve had, it’s no wonder people are looking for something tangible to hold onto during difficult times.
After all, Romans 12:2 says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Sounds easy, right? In reality, it’s not. You see, we live in a world where people expect instant gratification. They expect things right here, right now; otherwise, they’re not satisfied
in 2 Samuel 11, we find King David in a similar situation. Enamored by the beauty Bathsheba, he devises a plan to make her his own. Long story short, he sends her husband to war, insisting he is a part of the frontlines; that eventually gets him killed, leaving Bathsheba a widow. Later, David takes her as his wife.
It is only when the prophet Nathan visits that he realizes the error of his ways. In response, he pens Psalms 51. But, before we go further, I want to make this very clear. I’m not saying that every difficulty is a result of our sin or disobedience- some are just a matter of circumstance- an impact of “original sin” done by our ancestors Adam and Eve.
Still, let’s take a look at what Psalm 51 has to say about restoring our faith. In writing this Psalm, David is not only asking for forgiveness but an overall cleansing; he isn’t asking God to ignore his sin but make it so it no longer exists. By doing so, he relies not only on God’s forgiving Grace but also on his transforming Grace.
Transforming Grace & The Holy Spirit
The difference is quite simple. Forgiving Grace believes that God has the power to forgive you, whereas transforming Grace believes that God can change one’s heart from the inside out. In Psalms 51, David does not ask him to ignore his sin but rather cleanse him as if it never occurred. This spiritual renewal is part of God’s new covenant with his people. He promised to send a “helper” when he ascended into heaven. God himself became the ultimate sacrifice, no longer requiring animal sacrifices for sin.
Spiritual renewal is available for everyone who has trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior. The Holy Spirit not only equips the believer for their “calling” in this world but seals them for when they get to heaven (Ephesians 4).
Although most commentaries tend to focus on the “cleansing” role of the Holy Spirit, it does way more than that. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us; it sets us apart from everyone else and makes us different. David is not concerned with his reputation as Saul once was; instead, he wants to make sure his corrupt nature is changed for the better. It is evident when he prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God!” He sees how much he has changed and realizes Jesus is the only one who can transform him once again. According to the Matthew Henry commentary, “He created the world by the word of his power as the God of nature, and it is by the word of his power as the God of Grace that we are clean (John 15: 3), that we are sanctified (John 17:17)
David also prays for continuing blessings in his life. He knows what he’s done and prays God will continue to do his good work in him that David might have continued favor and his protection wherever he went. He also asks that God continue to direct his path, giving him wisdom. Finally, he prays that his bad decision will not destroy the “communion” he has with God; after all, David is called “the man after God’s own heart. Begging God, Matthew Henry notes that David is effectively saying: “Let me not be banished thy courts, but always have the liberty of access to thee by prayer.” He does not downplay God’s judgment because he knows what he deserves: “God’s will be done; but, Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath. If the sword come into my house never to depart from it, yet let me have a God to go to in my distresses, and all shall be well.
Even so, David relies on God’s Grace. He knew that he had grieved the Holy Spirit by sinning and provoked him to withdraw. Because of God’s Holiness, he is justified in doing so (Genesis 6:3); this worries David more than anything else. It is hopeless if God takes his Holy Spirit from us. Saul was a sad instance of this. Matthew Henry remarked “How exceedingly sinful, how exceedingly miserable, was he, when the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him! David knew it, and therefore begs thus earnestly: “Lord, whatever thou take from me, my children, my crown, my life, yet take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (see 2 Samuel 7:15), “but continue thy Holy Spirit with me, to perfect the work of my repentance, to prevent my relapse into sin, and to enable me to discharge my duty both as a prince and as a psalmist.”
Despite his reconciliation with God, David still has to deal with the overall consequences of his sin. That’s why he prays for complete restoration; he knows that “a child of God knows no true nor solid joy but the joy of God’s salvation, joy in God his Saviour, and in the hope of eternal life.” But unfortunately, he willfully deprived himself of joy in sinning and gave into his temptations; as a result, his foundation was shaken. In total repentance, David runs to God, knowing he is the only one capable of a full restoration “It had made him weak, and therefore he prays, “Uphold me with the free Spirit: I am ready to fall, either into sin or into despair; Lord, sustain me; my spirit” (though the spirit of a man will go far towards the sustaining of his infirmity) “is not sufficient; if I be left to myself, I shall certainly sink; therefore uphold me with thy Spirit, let him counterwork the evil spirit that would cast me down from my excellency..” (Matthew Henry commentary)
Though sin is a major cause of many circumstances, it is essential to remember that some circumstances are beyond our control. Our Heavenly Father wants nothing but the best for us. Don’t believe me? Check out these verses if you need more proof:
- Matthew 7:11- “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
- James 1:17- “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
- Luke 12:24- “Consider the ravens; they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”