New Living Translation
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
Bring back the jubilance of your saving Grace and make me willing to follow your laws
What did David mean when he asked God to “restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:12)?
There was a time when King David asked God to restore to him the joy of his salvation. That time came after the incident recorded in 2 Samuel 11 of David committing adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his loyal soldiers. The sordid story involves not only adultery but Bathsheba’s pregnancy, an attempted cover-up, and David’s eventual murder of Bathsheba’s husband. David then marries Bathsheba and believes that no one will ever know of his misdeeds. But the last part of verse 27 contains this ominous declaration: “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”
In 2 Samuel 12, the prophet Nathan confronts David with his sin, and David confesses (verse 14).
Psalm 51 is a song that David penned after this confrontation as noted in the title: “For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.”
Psalm 51 is a prayer of forgiveness and cleansing. Verses 1–9:
“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.”
Verses 10–12 are perhaps the most famous of Psalm 51:
“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
In verse 11 David asks that the Holy Spirit not be removed from him. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit usually came upon a person to enable the performance of a certain task. If the Holy Spirit were removed from David, it would mean that he would be rejected by God as king in the same way that God had rejected Saul and removed His Spirit from him (1 Samuel 16:14).
Next, David asks God to restore the joy of his salvation. The time between David’s sin and Nathan’s confrontation was some months because the child had already been born. During that time, David suffered inner torment, as he describes in Psalm 32:3–4:
“When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.”
Despite all the steps David had taken to suppress the news of what he had done, he did not experience joy in the cover-up. However, once he confessed his sin to God, he received forgiveness, and his joy returned. Psalm 32 begins this way:
“Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
Psalm 32 ends with “Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” (verse 11).
When David pleads with God to “restore to me the joy of your salvation,” he is asking that he would again have the fellowship with God that he once knew and enjoyed. David could not enjoy God’s fellowship while he had unconfessed sin.
Even today, we can lose the joy of our salvation. We will not lose salvation—sin will not separate the believer from God—but it can rob us of joy and the enjoyment of close fellowship with our Savior.
What does Psalm 51:12 mean?
It has been said that sin “causes the cup of joy to spring a leak.” It certainly drained David’s cup of joy. He urgently asked God to restore the joy of his salvation. Adultery and murder had caused David to lose his joy and become depressed. Only God could restore the lost joy. It is far better to obey than to deliberately disobey, planning to later seek remedial help.
Jesus promised His abiding joy to those who keep His commandments. He said, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:10–11). In addition to David’s request for restored joy, he asked God to uphold him with a willing spirit. Such a spirit would keep David committed to God’s will and prevent him from falling into sin again.
Psalm 51:8–15 express David’s prayer for renewed joy, a clean heart, and a renewed spirit. This comes after confessing his sins in the prior passage. David also asks the Lord to restore his testimony so that he might teach transgressors the ways of God and lead sinners back to Him. David wants to praise the Lord joyfully.
This psalm opens with David’s plea to God to show him mercy. He asks God to blot out his transgressions, wash his iniquities, and cleanse him from sin. He admits his sinning was against God. He also confesses his human sin nature. David asks God to make him as white as snow by purging him with hyssop. He longs for joy to return to him, but knows he was suffering because God had turned away from him. He pleads with God for a clean heart and a right spirit. He does not want God to cast him aside and remove His Holy Spirit. David longs for a renewal of the joy of his salvation. If cleansing from sin occurred and joy returned to him, David would teach transgressors God’s ways, and sinners would be converted. He promises near the end of the psalm to declare God’s praise if God would forgive him. He knew it would be futile to offer a sacrifice to God, because God delights in a broken and contrite heart and not in sacrifices offered with an unrepentant heart. David closes the psalm with a prayer for God to bless Jerusalem
Thoughts on Today’s Verse…
In the face of sin and separation from God, grace is a refreshing stream that restores salvation. But the joy of salvation is found only when we realize and accept the forgiveness, grace, and restoration God has given us — when we drink from the stream of grace. The joy of salvation is sustained in a changed lifestyle and an ongoing recognition that we walk with God.
Holy and Righteous Father, I long for the outbreak of joy in your salvation like I see in the book of Acts. I pray for your Spirit to lead us into another era of outreach, conversion, and celebration. I pray for wisdom to know and for eyes to see those around me who are most open to the Gospel. I want to be a partner with you in your ongoing work of salvation. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
The Thoughts and Prayer on Today’s Verse are written by Phil Ware. You can email questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s Verse Illustrated