Coming Back from the Gray Exile. Happy Mid-Lent!


Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.
Psalm 51:12.


As we noticed last week, David’s sin was pardoned, but God required the life of the king’s son. In a way, the same is true for us. If we repent and believe the gospel, we are pardoned, too, but at the cost of the King’s Son (John 3:16-17). Like a favorite hymn says,

What can wash away my sin? 
Nothing but the blood of Jesus. 
What can make me whole again? 
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Yet we can read or sing these words without experiencing the joy of the Lord. I assume that David was involved in Israel’s regular worship during the time of his transgression. There must have been a lot of singing without joy. At least nine months passed between Uriah’s death at end of Samuel 11 and Nathan’s confrontation of David in Samuel 12. It must have been a joyless time as he lived with his conscience troubled over what he had done. Nevertheless he was settled on continuing with the cover-up and keeping things as they were. Day after day, week after week, month after month, he kept going, until Nathan confronted him and he repented.

David prays to God to give him back his joy. Eugene Peterson renders the verse, Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!  We don’t need to sin in the extreme as David did in order to experience this “gray exile”, do we?

I brought Tim Keller’s book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God with me on this sabbatical. I was feeling some of that gray exile and knew that I needed to do some heart work. Michelle and I met Tim early on in our ministry many years ago. By God’s grace, he has done so much for Christ in America and globally with his gift for preaching and writing and because he really pays attention to his own spirituality. Even now as he is facing death, he stays focused on these matters of prayer and his own spiritual life.[1] My point is that God does not want you to go on — whether you are a king or a Keller or whoever you are — in a funk. Get some help!

At one point in his book on prayer, Keller offers a three-point outline used by Jonathan Edwards for setting our hearts right when they are burdened and joyless. Here it is.

  1. Our bad things will turn out for good (Romans 8:28)
  2. Our good things can never be taken away from us (Psalm 4:6-7), and
  3. The best things are yet to come (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Thank you, Pastor Keller. I’ll study those Scriptures. Our bad things will turn out for good, the good things we have can never be taken away, and the best is yet to come. You study these passages, too, dear friends and make sure to listen to the joyful video offering of praise included today!

[1] Use this link to read Tim Keller’s recent article in The Atlantic

Happy Mid-Lent!



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