Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Psalm 32 (loooooong)

Okay, now that I've built up all this anticipation, the post itself is probably going to be something of a letdown! :-p That's the trouble with putting it off for a couple of days! Now I can't live up to my own hype!

Anyway, the first sermon in the series was on Psalm 138 (see entry on Feb. 10 if you want a review of that one). This week we moved on to Psalm 32. This is a confessional psalm, a psalm of David. It is not quite as personal (in my opinion) as its companion Psalm 51. The context of Psalm 51 of course is David's sin, chronicled in 2 Samuel 11-12. Psalm 32 likely comes out of that same time period, but it is a bit more "generic," so there is much we can glean. I will kind of combine what I learned in my own study as well as what the preacher brought out as well.

The speaker quoted a commentary by a Baxter (sorry, didn't catch the rest of the name) which stated that this Psalm was a "psalm of the sacrament of confession." Since Lent is traditionally a time of acknowledging our need, it is a perfect time to reflect on our sins and our need for confession. (And on this side of the cross, we know that "if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." But I'm getting ahead of myself).

The Psalm itself begins "How blessed is he whose trangression is forgiven, who sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whom there is no deceit!" The first thing that stood out to me in my private study is that the word "blessed" literally means "Oh, how very happy!" If you've ever truly felt the weight of your own sin bearing down on you, you can certainly relate to that "Oh, how very happy!" feeling of relief that comes when you know for an absolute fact that you are forgiven and that the slate is wiped clean. :)

In those first two verses there are several different words used for sin: transgression, sin, and iniquity. Interestingly, all three have a slightly different meaning. Transgression refers to rebellion; David's behavior in back in 2 Samuel definitely qualifies as direct rebellion against God! Sometimes we are not so quick to see our OWN transgressions as rebellion, but it is important to remember that is exactly what they are. Sin is the idea of "missing the mark." (The speaker mentioned that sometimes we aim for the wrong target!). It doesn't seem so bad somehow to refer to sin as "missing the mark"--makes it sound like an innocent error. Of course this is doctrinally incorrect--our sin is not just an innocent little mistake. We do badly miss the mark, but we do it deliberately (going back to that idea of rebellion). Finally, iniquity emcompasses the idea of guilt. We are all guilty.

Sorry that I can't seem to get past these two verses, but I think it really brings out the meaning when you look at it as 'Oh, how very happy is he whose rebellion is forgiven, whose missing the mark is covered! Oh, how very happy is the man to whom the LORD does not impute guilt." How very happy indeed! :) That is really what the celebration of Easter is all about!

Verses 3 and 4 go on to say, "When I kept silent about my sin, my body waasted away through my groaning all day long. For Day and night Your hand was heavy upon me." This made me think of Hebrews 12:5-11. I won't quote it all here, but it can be summed up by saying that God disciplines us because He loves us. Discipline for sin is never pleasant, but we should be grateful that God cares enough for us to do it. David felt that heavy hand upon him, draining him. But as soon as he acknowledged and confessed his sin (verse 5), God forgave him. "I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.' And You forgave the guilt of my sin." Again, all three words for sin are mentioned: David acknowledged his sin, confessed his transgressions, and did not hide his iniquity. Also, three different words used for David's confession: he acknowledged his sin, he confessed his transgressions, and he did not hide his iniquity. So once David stopped trying to run, stopped trying to hide, stopped trying to ignore his sin, he confessed everything to God and was completely forgiven. Interestingly, confess means to "say the same." When we confess our sin to God, we simply say the same thing about it that God does. We acknowledge that guilt and rebellion; we admit that we have missed the mark and have aimed at the wrong target. And God covers our sin. He puts it behind His back. He removes it as far as the east is from the west. He casts it into the bottom of the ocean.

Oh, how very happy we are indeed!

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