Worth Reading–October 24, 2011
Psalm 51: Change My Heart
By Joel Virgo
David cannot imagine lasting a day without God’s clear help. There is a danger, when we repent, of imagining that things start and end with God’s forgiveness; then we are on our own to try again. But why should we imagine, if that were so, we would do any better next time? We are certain not to do any better—not without God. David has gone down low enough in his own heart to see that for himself. Psalm 51:10-12 shows his dependency on God for grace to change and once again desire obedience and righteousness as he pleads, “uphold me with a willing spirit.”
Change is God’s work
This is not unique to Psalm 51. The Bible exhorts us to radical steps of holiness—but it is not our heroism which will see us through. God is at work.
Philippians 2:12… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
It’s especially worth noting that David prays for JOY. He sees recovery of holiness not as an end to pleasure or happiness—rather the opposite.
Psalm 51:8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
v. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
David has been missing God—he’s been unhappy. This is both a result of his sin and a reason for it.
Sin stems from lack of joy
There were various stages in David’s sin. The first is often viewed as his lazy decision to stay in Jerusalem when his army was at war. But the real first phase is his lack of joy in God.
“A man who is rejoicing in God, indulging himself in the beauty of God, is far less inclined to indulge in immorality.
”The cravings of the flesh are barely felt by a heart set on fire by holy delight. So many of us are busy trying not to sin, but God is not especially pleased with our avoidance of rule-breaking. What he looks for is those trembling with joy (Psalm 2:11) at their salvation.
Time and again in our fight with temptation we will find the battle not won by our sheer resolve or fear of breaking the rules, but by a true view of God’s beauty, which leaves us hungry for more.
David’s focus, even in his repentance, is not on the rules he has broken—but the God whose heart he has broken. Here is a greater weapon against sin.
Repentance is contagious
David does not stop with his personal restoration. Being forgiven and renewed is the beginning to further renewal. This grace can be contagious.
Psalm 51:13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
To judge from Psalm 51:13-17, the danger of cold, formalized, and false worship was not unique to David’s heart. The heart of the King reflected the nation, and the worship of the temple, had become dry and graceless. Unrepentant hearts can still “worship” after a fashion, but it is not true worship. It is going through the motions as an entirely outward affair. Already, in this phase of his own renewal, David is thinking of God’s desire for true worship: his people in the city, offering their hearts in purity and contrition.
The surest way for us to win worshipers in our city, and to build a godly city within the city, is to live true lives of Jesus-loving repentance. Such lives will help us appeal to a lost city of sinners.