Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. (Psalm 51:8)
On one day, we may feel that we can soar like an eagle. On another, it feels like we have crashed and burned. Life is like that. Disappointment can deflate us. So can failure. Fear can grip us. But nothing can crush us as badly as the fist of our Maker who slams us with a guilty conscience. King David learned this by personal experience. The 51st Psalm is a cry for mercy, a call for help. He was not bleeding from a battle wound. He was sound of mind and body. The pain leaked from his soul. The great warrior-king, the famous giant-killer, had stumbled into adultery and murder. He lived for a year safe from discovery and punishment. No one knew of his crimes. No one except his God.
Denial of the evil is a common approach to living with guilt. Strong denial seems to block pain and avert punishment. The wish is to move on in life as if the bad never happened. But the cover-up of sin, like the denial of a cancer, doesn’t remove it. It only allows it to fester. There will be consequences. The Lord God sent his messenger to point a finger at the black mass growing in the soul of David. An MRI would not have detected it, but he who knows the thoughts and intents of the heart had already seen the spiritual cancer when it was only a lust and temptation.
With a story about a man who took a pet lamb from a family so he could feed a special guest, David was led to see a picture of his sin. In righteous anger David declared “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die.” (II Samuel 12:5) “You are the man!” the prophet replied. The lamb represented Bathsheba, whom David took as his own; then had her husband, Uriah, killed to cover up his adultery. David’s sins were exposed. Denial was no longer possible. He had pronounced his own death sentence. He had to admit, “I have sinned against the LORD.” In reply, he was told, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”
David was forgiven. The blood of the Lamb of God washed away his crimes. But in this psalm, David reveals the anguish the sin had caused his soul. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion.” When joy is gone, life is empty. Like a repentant David, we know where to then turn for hope. When joy is gone, only God can bring it back.
We pray the prayer of David: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida-Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military