Meanwhile God isn’t trying to deprive people of delight, he’s trying to draw us toward real delight. He’s trying to draw us toward a solid foundation that doesn’t eventually evaporate. I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7:24-29. Psalm 36 takes it up to an even more worshipful notch though. It lays out the path of the sand, the path that evaporates, and it lays out the path of the rock. The path that holds up when life’s trials come. The path that holds up for all of eternity. But then it uses these two paths to lead us into worship. It leads us to praise God for his love and faithfulness that reaches to the skies, his righteousness that’s like the highest mountain, and his justice that is deeper than the ocean. What imagery! What beauty. It leads us to his unfailing love. His priceless, unfailing love. There is no better picture than this in all of Scripture. God loves you so much. His love for you is worth more than all the money, gold, and treasure in the world. And his love for you never, ever fails.
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!
In our loneliness and anguish, we can come back to the gospel. We can be reminded of God’s amazing grace, mercy, and love toward us. We can ask God to pour more of his grace, mercy, and love on to us. Asking him to help us experience these truths more fully in the midst of the anguish we are in.
Even when I am walking through the darkest valley…through despair…through depression…through death itself…even in these times…you make me lie down in green pastures. You lead me beside quiet waters. The dark valley of death and the green pastures and quiet water exist simultaneously.
We need to be very careful here not to try to create a perfect theology about why this is, either trying to get God off the hook or somehow explain this exception in the prayer-formula that we’ve constructed. If you haven’t noticed yet, the Psalms don’t abide by any prayer-formula. We need to not look away and act like these parts of prayer aren’t in Scripture, as if we can sing our favorite worship song loud enough and God will be right there as our waiter holding a silver platter. We need to look toward these deep and sometimes disturbing parts of the Psalms. We will certainly need them. Jesus did.
I’m not going to lie, the psalms continue to puzzle me and bend me theology in different directions. A psalm like this can feel a slam dunk that God is always going to answer all of your prayers and always bring you victory. But as we read through the entire book of psalms, we know that wasn’t always the case for the very psalmists writing these prayers. We know that many of the psalms are filled with prayers crying out to God in the midst of suffering and asking God why he is so silent.