No doubt when David was trying to cover his sin, he was “missing God.” Keep in mind that David is the same man who wrote most of the Psalms, the man who told us that he longed for God like a deer longs for water. He wanted the joy he once had to be restored. So when he confessed his sin, he added, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice” (Psalm 51:8, ESV); and again, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:12, ESV). In the wake of his sin and its inevitable consequences, his joy was back.
Many people who commit sexual sin confess and repent of their sin, but they do not allow themselves to be joyful. They believe that, as part of their discipline, they must continue to wallow in the emotional mire caused by their sin and loss. But once David had thoroughly dealt with his sin, he could enjoy the presence of God again, an experience that always brings joy.
Please keep in mind that David’s request for joy did not minimize the wrongs he had done to his family. He was not frivolously joyful as he watched his family disintegrate. If you’ve read the rest of his story, you know that his own personal pain was deep and lasting. But—and this is important—even when we have brought grief to ourselves and others, when we know at our very center that we have been forgiven, the sense of the presence of God returns. There is joy even in our distress.
We must pause and think this through: David rejoiced in God’s forgiveness even though the consequences of his sin continued unabated. His repentance could not bring Uriah back from the dead; all the tears he shed could never bring back Bathsheba’s child or her purity. David could do nothing to forestall the awesome destruction his family would face because of his sin.
Even so, he could sing again.
Why could David rejoice though he was under God’s discipline? Guilt drives us to God, but once we are forgiven, it is not a part of God’s discipline.
Consequences are a part of God’s discipline, but guilt isn’t. Once the guilt is pardoned, it is gone; the conscience can be cleansed. In other words, God brings acceptance and peace to our inner world, even when our outer world is spiraling out of control.
Erwin W. Lutzer, Making the Best of a Bad Decision: How to Put Your Regrets behind You, Embrace Grace, and Move toward a Better Future (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2011).
We have just released a new Bible study on The Life of David as Reflected in the Psalms.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
The Early Years / Psalm 19, 8, 29
The Exile / Psalm 37, 59, 52
The Exile, Part 2 / Psalm 56, 54, 57
The King / Psalm 18, 33
The King, Part 2 / Psalm 24, 110, 60
The Tears of the Penitent / Psalm 51, 32
Chastisements / Psalm 41, 39, 55
The Songs of the Fugitive / Psalm 3, 4, 63, 62, 37