Pastor Cosand: April 2018
meditation on Psalm 32
It is not a pleasant task to look at ourselves as we really are. In fact, it is so painful that we try to avoid it whenever possible. From time to time when others point out our faults to us (usually a spouse), we often quickly dismiss their comments as an error in judgment on their part. But admitting our faults is fundamental to our well-being. The alcoholic, for example, must first admit that he has a problem before he can be helped.
But far beyond emotional health, the Bible instructs us that admitting our faults before God is necessary for spiritual life. There is no relationship with God without repentance of sin. Without humble and sincere confession of sin before our God, there is no life in the soul, no abiding peace, no lasting joy.
Sin resides within each one of us here and it is deadly. It manifests itself in a hundred different ways. It shows itself when pride rears its ugly head and in our hatred and greed and selfishness and lust and bitterness and envy. It affects the way we talk, the way we think, what we say about each other and the way we do our jobs and the way we relate to our spouses and children and our neighbor. It affects everything. There is not a single aspect of our living that is not touched by sin and its effect is unspeakably destructive. It has a deadening effect on everything that God has designed for life. It kills joy, it robs people of peace and hope and purity.
Sin is at the foundation of Psalm 32 and this psalm speaks in categories that are non-existent in our culture. David uses words like sin, iniquity, transgression, and these words mean practically nothing in a culture built on microchips and cellular phones and incessant, mindless amusements. We no longer have a clear concept of sin in our culture and that is because the notion of a personal, holy God has been effectively erased from the thinking of our society. When there is no clear-cut understanding of a holy God, then the idea of sin disappears. So for many people today Psalm 32 has little meaning, because it speaks in terms of concepts that they do not really comprehend. But for Christians this psalm is full of meaning and brings to our lives a great sense of joy.
Given the fact that we are all guilty of sinning (whether envy or gossip or anger or bitterness), there are only two things we can do with our sin. We can admit it, confessing it to God in shame and humility … or we can deny that there is darkness in our hearts and try to hide our sins, and try to not think about them, and try to cover over them. And those are the two reactions to sin that David speaks of here … open, honest confession on the one hand, and deceitful hiding of sins on the other.
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
David knew what it was like to try to deny his sin. For something like a year after his sin with Bathsheba, David covered his sin, lying, living a lie, putting up a false front, being silent before God. His sin was not generally known, but the guilt made him a slave. All this deceit made him miserable. Unconfessed sin has an awful, deadening effect on the heart. It dries up passion for God. It cools the flame of joy. It hardens compassion for others. It erodes purpose in living. It breeds restlessness and heartache. Like a cancer, it creeps into everything we say and do and think.
There is another way to deal with our sins and the guilt that rages within our hearts. It is to openly, honestly, humbly confess our sins before a God who sees them anyway.
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,"
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
David honestly, humbly acknowledged his sins before God and because of this confession, God forgave him. It is not going too far to say that this forgiveness is the basis for all true joy. There is no abiding joy that is not rooted in the forgiveness of God, granted to us because of His infinite mercy.
It is said that Augustine (A. D. 354-430) used to weep when he read this psalm and had the verses of it written on his wall beside his death bed. When we are dying, the thing that will eclipse all other concerns is whether or not we are forgiven by God. I am afraid that we have so downplayed the idea … the Biblical idea … of God being a God of judgment, that we have lost our fear of Him. And as a result of such a weak concept of God, the joy of forgiveness that David speaks of here, is not nearly as deep for us as it could be.
There is a joy of forgiveness that is only experienced by the person who kneels down before the God of glory, and openly confesses his sin, and realizes that in Christ his sins have been paid for and that the penalty has been taken away.
Rejoicing in God's mercy in Christ,