King David was evidently a person of great spiritual anointing. As a young man, the Spirit came on him in power when Samuel declared him king, and the following 30 or so years of his life were marked largely by success and godly fervour. The ark (central to Israel’s worshipping life) was restored, enemies were subdued, and individuals were treated with remarkable grace and generosity of spirit for the time. It is safe to assume that the Spirit of God was much at work during this era – an assumption reinforced by the scene of David ‘dancing before the Lord with all his might’ (and not a hint of embarrassment) in 2 Samuel 6.
David was justly called ‘a man after God’s own heart’… and yet, suddenly, in his late forties he has a spectacular moral lapse. Adultery leads to murder, and David is broken. Psalm 51 is perhaps his most heartfelt Psalm, and speaks to many of us who are, perhaps, more used to life in the valley than the mountaintop. We love David’s effervescent Psalms of joy like 8, or 18-21, but Psalm 51 touches our soul, and gives us language to approach God when we know there is stuff in our lives that needs healing and renewing.
As we have observed before, the Spirit’s purpose is to glorify Jesus in the world, and that covers so many things: growing in love, learning the truth, being empowered to serve – but also, when necessary, to convict us of selfishness, and stir in us a desire for purity. The word repent means ‘to turn around’ or to change: and the Spirit speaks to our hearts and places in us that desire for change.
In this case, a humbled David pleads with God to ‘take not your Holy Spirit from me’ (v11), and instead asks for a willing (v12) and steadfast (v10) spirit instead.
The good news of the Psalm is that the assurance of God’s forgiveness creates in David an overflowing of praise (v15) and witness (v13). His heart is restored (v17) and a new path opens up before him.
This too can be our journey. As the Spirit convicts us and leads us back to God, so we too find a new heart of gratitude, praise and willingness to share the goodness of God. We discover that there is hope, and that our loving God is still with us, deep in our heart.
May Psalm 51 be our prayer today.