Monday, December 01, 2014

Songs (psalms) for a Good Life (Psalm 32)

This second psalm of blessing (psalms that direct the godly person into a rich relationship with God; see article on Psalm 1 here) speaks directly and honestly about the need for a clear(ed) relationship with God. It speaks of the maintenance of the spiritual life that depends completely on the gracious forgiveness that only God can and will supply, and yet it calls for a thorough and honest participation on the part of the  sinner.

Let’s do a little theology before proceeding. There is a proper tension that exists between imputed righteousness, and practical righteousness; between that forensic (legal) standing that we have in Christ through justification by faith because he stood in our shoes and died in our place, and that functional walk with Christ that is the pleasant fruit of the Gospel root, that salvation, again, has not been achieved by me, but graciously provided through the sacrifice of Christ. That which is imputed and forensic is the foundation upon which the practical and functional ‘working-out’6 of faith operates. We must never confuse the two. The danger in this psalm is to get confused about forgiveness, failing to distinguish between that which is foundational and functional. Because of the death of Christ, all my sins, past, present, and future, are forgiven. The forgiveness of my sins, in this foundational sense, does not depend upon my confession of sin. Not one of us is even aware of all our sins - so how could we confess them all? I believe what this psalm is dealing with is the functional maintenance of a clear(ed) relationship with God, that is based on the foundation of the acceptance and forgiveness that has already been won by the grace of God in Christ. This psalm is talking about the kind of practical responsiveness to and continuance in God’s grace described in 1 John 1:9 - “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”

The center and key, I think, to the psalm is v.6: “Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found.” A clear(ed) relationship with God assumes the practice of prayer, as does the idea of godliness. Let’s be honest: If prayer is not a prominent feature of our lives, then we must face the ugly truth that there is no clear(ed) relationship with God, and that I am simply not, then, a godly person. Christians pray. A feature of their prayers is thorough and honest confession of sin. 

The problem of sin is devastating in the life of the believer. It is sand in the piston chamber of our souls that will do damage, and more damage, and then still more, as we continue to strive, or pretend, that everything is okay. It can affect our health, and will definitely affect our mood and outlook. Because of this, it directly affects our witness, and how we relate to others, whether it be family members, or the general public. It is a huge energy drain (v.4), since we lose the comfort and power of the Spirit, and so much of our energy is consumed inward with our own brooding selves rather than being turned outward, loving others. Sin makes us selfish and brutish, living properly only by fear or constraint (v.9). Perhaps the indication at the end of the psalm (v.11), corresponding to the initial statement of blessing and forgiveness at the beginning of the psalm (v.1), is an appropriate summary. A clear(ed) relationship with God results in joy, and thus, failure to live in a clear(ed) relationship with God will certainly rob us of our joy.

Isn’t it amazing how dirty our cars get? Maybe it’s not so amazing, since that car travels along roads at high rates of speed with mud and dust mixing with the road grime from dirty petroleum products. We track in and out directly to the car’s carpet from parking lots covered with sand and salt. Let alone what we spill from our drinks and snacks. How could it not be dirty? And so, car cleanness takes regular maintenance. Or, we just give in and drive around a dirty, trashy car, and hope that we aren’t put in the position of giving a stranger a ride.

And similarly, how can our souls not get dirty, living in this iniquitous world. As we travel through, it sticks to us, and we track it, and we contribute to it. And without regular confessing, and receiving the cleaning that comes from functional forgiveness, the Person with whom we most need fellowship is indeed a stranger to us, and we spend more time trying to cover over our sins rather than practicing the truth that the only way one can truly have his/her sins covered is through the forgiveness that God alone graciously offers.

Let’s abandon travelling with dirty souls and all its consequences. Let’s enjoy the blessedness of a clear(ed) relationship with God.7

1notice that there are two “blessed”s in this psalm. The godly person seeking to live a good, God-oriented life is doubly blessed as he participates in a clear(ed) relationship with God.

2blue marks words for sin - 4 different Hebrew words

3red marks words for God’s forgiving actions

4the two larger lines show that, on the front side of center, the “I’s and my’s” refer to the sinner; on the back side of center, they refer to God.

5green marks words of confession, including the action of refusing to hide

6“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;” (Philippians 2:12 NAS95)

7Psalm 32 is the first of 7 penitential psalms in the Books of Psalms. They are Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143

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