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Psalm 32 reminds us of the freedom we experience when we confess our sins to God and receive his grace.
For the most part, I grew up in church being taught that people in the Old Testament (old covenant) were saved by works and people in the New Testament (once Jesus died and rose–the new covenant) were saved by grace. Psalm 32 shows us that that just isn’t true. People in the Old Testament were also very much saved by grace. The psalmist describes a very Jesus-like salvation here where he talks about his sins being covered and forgiven, the Lord not counting his sins against him, and the act of confessing sin and being forgiven, with guilt being taken away. I could include numerous New Testament verses to each of those phrases. My point here isn’t to get us going down a theological wormhole, which we certainly could do, with some legitimate questions around the old covenant and around Jesus. My point is to stay with the point of the psalm, and that is to bask in the freedom of being forgiven!
I think it’s also important to talk about the “once and for all” freedom Christians have in Jesus, delineated from the ongoing experience of freedom we get to experience as we continue to sin and continue to repent of our sins and find renewed freedom in walking in the light. At the risk of going down yet another theological wormhole, I think this psalm gives us an opportunity to celebrate the freedom of both of these types of forgiveness.
We see the psalmist celebrating our ultimate forgiveness in verses 1-2. These are people whose status before God is forgiven. When God looks at someone who is under Jesus’ blood, he sees someone whose sins are covered, and that person is blessed. Let’s celebrate that we stand before God as forgiven! (Colossians 1:22)
The psalmist also describes the experience when we try to hide our sins from God. When we “keep silent” about our sin. When the psalmist tried this, his bones wasted away. He groaned all day and God’s hand was heavy upon, with his strength completely sapped. We can all relate to this. When we are living in rebellion of God’s will and we know it, we no longer experience the freedom of his way and his presence. It’s not that God has abandoned us, or that we’ve lost our salvation, but we have consciously decided to take ourselves out of his stream of living water. Sin does have consequences and we experience those. It’s difficult to come back to the stream. It’s easier to stay out of it and let ourselves become stubborn and hardened to the way we want to do things, even though we are no longer experiencing God’s presence and we know it. The psalmist talks about that beautiful moment when he decided to acknowledge his sin to God and not cover it up anymore. God took away his guilt and he is once again able to laugh and dance and have joy in God’s presence.
He then turns to the reader and implores us to pray to this forgiving God! That this forgiving God is our hiding place and our protection. That we are surrounded with songs of deliverance! (That sounds pretty cool)
The conclusion of the psalm shifts toward instruction. The psalmist teaches the reader on the way he or she should go. This counsel comes from love. It’s only love that wants to help keep someone in God’s stream of living water where they can experience the fullness of his presence. It’s of course going to seem more worth it in the moment to follow the instant gratification of our sinful desires. But the psalmist is telling us how rich and beautiful and better it is in the long run to stay in God’s will. You can feel his heart here. He tells us not to be like a horse or mule, who must be forced to walk in a certain direction. This is the picture of religion void of relationship with God. Or even someone who is obeying out of fear, not knowing and experiencing the deep, merciful, gracious, personal love of our Father. Going through the motions of “obedience” is not what God is after, nor does it produce fruit. Instead, the psalmist calls us into choosing God’s path, trusting him. Trusting him that his ways are better and higher and deeper than our ways. A path where we trust in his unfailing love toward us. A path of rejoicing.
Invitation to reflection:
Prayer for the day: God, thank you for your grace and mercy! Thank you that I don’t have to earn my salvation, nor do I have to obey you out of fear. Thank you for the freedom of obeying you out of love. Knowing that you are my Loving Father. Knowing that your ways are better than my ways, even when I don’t understand how that could be. Even when my flesh pulls me so strong in one direction. Thank you that I can trust you. Thank you that I can trust your ways, your will, and who you are. I confess and repent of any hidden sins I’ve been carrying around. Cleanse me, wash me, make me whole. I want to live in the light. I want to live in the freedom and joy of being with you.
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