Psalm 51:7-8 (KJV) Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Have you ever felt like you didn’t have any more joy in your life? I do not know your circumstances, but I know in my life, when I have felt like that, it was when I was battling some sin or guilt in my own strength. Usually, I was trying to hide from the Lord out of shame.
I am sure that is how David felt when he wrote Psalm 51. David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Then he planned how to kill her husband so his sin wouldn’t be found out. He was adding sin to sin. He was trying to hide from God – whether he would admit it or not. David forgot that God had seen him sin and knew his secret all along. God sent Nathan the prophet to point his finger in David’s face and tell him, “Thou art the man!” I don’t know how long David tried to hide from God, but I can imagine he must have been miserable. I can hear his misery in Psalm 51:
Have mercy upon me, O God!
Blot out my transgressions!
My sin is ever before me!
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned!
After admitting he had sinned, David started praying for cleansing. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice” (Psalm 51: 7-8). Charles Spurgeon said of these verses, “He is requesting a great thing; he seeks joy for a sinful heart, music for crushed bones. Preposterous prayer anywhere but at the throne of God!” I love that! Yes, what a preposterous request, but it is one that God longed to hear from David. He longs to hear this request from us too. Sin breaks our fellowship with God. When He chastises us for that sin, He is trying to get our attention. Sometimes God has to break us. God broke David. But instead of complaining about the brokenness, David acknowledged it was God who broke him so that he could be restored. Remember, it wasn’t until David was faced with his sin that he repented and turned back to God.
Did you notice David’s petitions for cleansing in verse 7? Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. David was praying for complete cleansing. He was praying with the expectation that God not only could, but would, wash him whiter than snow. He didn’t just want a surface cleansing either. He wanted perfect purity. White as snow.
Then in verse 8, David requested that his joy be restored. In his hiding, in his misery, the weight of sin and guilt had burdened him so that he had no joy left. Perhaps he tried to sing and felt his voice crack; or maybe he tried to write but couldn’t move his pen. It reminds me of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim Christian, burdened by the weight on his back so that he could barely walk ‘til he got to the cross and the burden rolled away. Joy was restored when sin was confessed. The Lord removed the burden. Bones that were broken by that weight of sin were healed by the One who did the breaking. Spurgeon said, “yet if he who crushed would cure, every wound would become a new mouth for song.”
I believe God did restore David’s joy. Though David’s life was turned upside down from that time forward, with war and heartache on every side, he had the joy of a forgiven man. He knew the Lord had broken him and the Lord had restored him. He would know heartache, but he would also write Psalms. Even today, we read the Psalms of David and find encouragement, comfort, and solace. We look at the life of David, and we see a man who messed up, but a man who continued to seek the Lord. Acts 13: 22 calls David a man after God’s own heart.
We can follow David’s example. When we sin, when we feel the weight of guilt, we can ask for forgiveness. We can pray like David, in faith and with expectancy that God will cleanse us. Then, we can ask for joy to be restored – that preposterous prayer, as Spurgeon called it. That prayer God will both hear and answer. He will forgive, and He will restore our joy. I don’t know what you are dealing with today, but I do know this: you can have joy again.