Psalm 51:8. To my hearing Thou wilt give joy and gladness, and the humbled bones will rejoice.
“All this is to be understood significantly and emphatically, for it belongs to the refutation he began earlier. By antithesis he condemns all the diverse ways which men enter when their consciences are troubled, because despite their excellent appearance they do not bring the joy that hearing brings. Troubled consciences are like geese. When the hawks pursue them, they try to escape by flying, though they could do it better by running. On the other hand, when the wolves threaten them, they try to escape by running, though they could do it safely by flying. So when their consciences are oppressed, men run first here, then there; they try first this, then that work. In this way they only heap up dangers and useless works for themselves, though the one true and sure way of healing the conscience is what David here calls “sprinkling,” by which the Word is heard and received. As far as we are concerned, the whole procedure in justification is passive. But when we are most holy, we want to be justified actively, that is, by our works. Here we ought to do nothing and undertake nothing but this, that we open our ears, as Psalm 45:10 tells us, and believe what is told us. Only this hearing is a hearing of gladness, and this is the only thing we do, through the Holy Spirit, in the matter of justification. So it was a hearing of gladness for the paralytic when Christ said (Matt. 9:2): ‘Take heart, My son; your sins are forgiven.’ So David’s gladness was to hear from Nathan (2 Sam. 12:13): ‘You shall not die.’” (Luther’s Works, vol. 12, p.368).