“Grant to me the joy of your salvation”

Psalm 51 is the paradigm of penitential psalms, attributed to David after Nathan told him of what he did to Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah.

..[W]ash me, and I will be whiter than snow…
Grant onto me the joy of your salvation…
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

David, in other words, is asking not just for juridical relief from his penalty, but to be made happy again after what he’d done.

In response to this is easy to imagine a contrary voice demanding a hearing, or even David thinking to himself:

David, let’s look at things again. First, you sat at home sleeping and lounging about when your army went to war. One day after many long naps and laying about you noticed the wife of your friend bathing. You ogled her naked for a while before demanding that she be brought to her so you could demand that she sleep with you (and, let’s face it, consent is pretty attenuated when the guy who can command executions is telling you to do something. This is exactly the sort of abuse of power that now gets called rape.) After getting her pregnant, you lied to your friend and ultimately killed him to save your reputation and ego. Oh yes, and now you’re going to keep his wife and not confess publicly what you did, but have YOUR LINE perpetuate through Uriah’s wife.

And now you want God to make you feel better? But how is this different from wanting to get away with it? I’m sorry, but maybe you can stop thinking of yourself and suck it up. Aren’t you ashamed to ask to feel better in the face of all the things you not just can’t fix, but won’t fix?

The whole scriptural story depends on understanding why this belief is both utterly reasonable and completely contradicted by the both Testaments.

Christ saves sinners. He consoles victims too, to be sure, but saving sinners isn’t about consoling victims but giving exactly the sort of comfort to offenders that David is asking God to grant. David is asking of God exactly what God is offering. So what does God have to say to that other voice?

The other voice is the accuser or Satan

 

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