Psalm 51:8. To my hearing Thou wilt give joy and gladness, and the humbled bones will rejoice.
“There is good reason for my repeated statement that this psalm not only provides an example of justification in David, but also presents the true teaching about the reason and manner of justification in all men. Thus this psalm is a sort of general rule how sinners become righteous. The last two verses have set forth a part of this rule, refuting all the other ways on which men rely for cleansing from their sins and reconciliation with God, either by the works of the Law or by other works they chose for themselves. He does not only require a hidden truth against hypocrisy, but he also requires another sprinkling than the one the Law had. To make this more clearly understood, he adds: ‘To my hearing Thou wilt give joy.’ It is as though he were to say: ‘Sprinkle me in such a way that Thou wilt give joy to my hearing, that is, that I might have peace of heart through the Word of grace.’ The emphasis falls on the noun ‘hearing,’ but the Hebrew reads a little differently: ‘Make me hear joy.’ The meaning is the same in either case. He simply wants the forgiveness of sins, which alone grants joy, to come only through the Word or only through hearing. For if you tortured yourself to death, if you shed your blood, if with ready heart you underwent and bore everything that is humanly possible—all this would not help you. Only hearing brings joy. This is the only way for the heart to find peace before God. Everything else that it can undertake leaves doubt in the mind” (Luther’s Works, vol. 12, p.367-368).