David shows us in the progression of repentance that occurs between Psalms 51 and 32 that we should “get over it;” that a failure to do so is harmful to our souls.
In our class we charted the verses in those two psalms. We found similar things in each: repentance, the effects of sin, and the effects that God’s forgiveness ought to have in our lives. Guess what we discovered? In Psalm 51, obviously written within a short time after Nathan’s visit to David in 2 Sam 12, even though at that time Nathan proclaimed God’s forgiveness, David is fraught with guilt and sorrow, even physically ailing from that burden of regret. He uses every synonym you can imagine for sin and his plea for mercy. In our modern divisions, those pleas take up seven verses. Another three describe his woeful emotional and physical state after finally recognizing the enormity and complexity of what he has done, a total of ten verses.
Yes, he finally recognizes his forgiveness and spends three verses on his desire to get back to work for the Lord and on his concern for others, a general list of things he plans to carry out as “fruit meet for repentance.”
And Psalm 32? This psalm is much less emotional. David repents yet again, but in two verses this time instead of ten. Does that mean it is not as heartfelt? Of course not, but his focus has changed. This time he spends most of the psalm recounting what he has learned from his sin and how to avoid it in the future. Listen to instruction, hear counsel, consider and come to an understanding, learn to control yourself. He has gone past emotion and is now using the experience to gain wisdom and strength. Then he spends more time in concern for others, that they learn the same lessons he has. Finally he shouts for joy, the joy found in forgiveness and a renewed fellowship with God. This section takes up four verses of an eleven verse psalm, where in 51 we are looking at three verses of a nineteen verse psalm. Those four verses in Psalm 32 are far more practical and helpful to us in terms of overcoming than the ones in 51, where his grief over his sin is the focus.
By the time of Psalm 32’s writing, David has learned an invaluable lesson—though indeed his sin was “ever before me,” he understood that allowing one’s grief to paralyze him and pull him down into despondency was as much an aid to Satan as sinning in the first place. He was no longer serving God; he was no longer serving others. In fact, he was bringing others down with his depression. There is a selfishness in this sort of sorrow that is completely inappropriate—a “worldly” sorrow.
Grief is certainly fitting. I wonder if we ever experience the kind of grief David did over sin, especially as shown in Psalm 51. If we did, perhaps we would sin less. But there comes a time when we must “get over it” and get back to work. “Restore unto me the joy of your salvation,” David says (51:12). “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice,” and “Shout for joy!” (32:11). Sitting in sackcloth and ashes for the rest of your life, David is telling us, is not the way to show gratitude for your forgiveness.
For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter, 2 Cor 7:8-11.