Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Psalm 32:1 - A Blessing for Sinners

When God calls a sinner to Himself, the initial response is often terror. The knowledge of sin. The feeling of guilt. The sense of responsibility. The grave realization of depravity. No man can reach the safety of salvation until he has passed through the dread wasteland of spiritual poverty.
Should it be otherwise? We have willfully and willingly rebelled against God's Words. We have hated the One Who is love. We have defied the Sovereign One. We have loved and served and devoted ourselves to evil, and filth, and destruction, and everything that is less than God and therefore unworthy of our devotion. We have made evil out of good. We have lied to ourselves and to others. We have selfishly taken whatever we have desired. And on top of all this, we are proud of ourselves. I don't know about you, but for me this is just scratching the surface of the sins I know I have committed. No wonder we are terrified by the call of a holy, perfect and pure God.

God's law, which is "holy, righteous and good," reveals our guiltiness and condemns us to the judgment we truly deserve: to be separated from the presence and glory of the living God forever. We have good reason to be afraid of the voice of God.
But God does not call sinners to Himself in order to deal out the justice they deserve. He calls us with the distinct intention of blessing us. You may be thinking, "What? How can God bless a sinner?" God blesses sinners by forgiving them when they come to Him. This is the profound realization of amazing grace which led David to cry out with these words:

Psalm 32:1 "How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!"

Every repenting sinner is moved by the realization of two great needs. The need to be forgiven, and the need to change. This was David's cry in Psalm 51, as he expressed the need for forgiveness here . . .

Psalm 51:1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.

and the need for change here . . .

Psalm 51:2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin.

The Hebrew word used here suggests that David is literally asking God to stomp the sin out of him. It pictures the ancient method of laundering clothing by trampling the dirt out in a field of lye. And the word "thoroughly" is added to this already rugged concept. David is desperate to change, and he's not praying rosy little prayers about it. I'd like very much to see this verse on a devotional poster, with a picture of people in a third world country doing their laundry the old-fashioned way.
In Psalm 32, we deal primarily with the need to be forgiven. However, this experience of forgiveness is a necessary step toward change. One who has not been forgiven cannot possibly change in the ways prescribed by Biblical repentance.
As we work through the verses of this psalm, I pray that we may come to the understanding that it is ALWAYS right and best to name every shortcoming we find in ourselves exactly as God does: as SIN. And it is always right and best to take every sin directly to Him in confession and repentance, without delay or hesitation.
The sight of one's own sinfulness can be daunting. "Am I really this bad?" we ask ourselves. It's best to admit the truth. No, I am not this bad. I am much worse. By grace, most of my sin remains inside. I am not even conscious of most of it. But if my heart were fully revealed, every kind of sin would be found there.

Matthew 7:21-23 "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man."

When we call our faults by any name other than sin (or the other Biblical classifications like transgression, wickedness, evil, abomination, etc.), we separate them from the remedy offered in the cross. Jesus did not bear our "disorders" or "syndromes" or "slips" or "mistakes" or "things that aren't really my fault." He bore our sins. OUR sins. We chose them, we own them, we are responsible for them.
We have trained ourselves to blame others - our parents, society, friends, enemies, the devil, the dog, the door man. Anyone but ourselves. If we place the responsibility for our sins outside of ourselves, we won't apply the remedy where it is most need: in our hearts.
We tend to avoid facing our responsibility before God by busying ourselves with work, or play, or entertainment, or study, or reading, or sleeping, or talking. Anything but direct confrontation with ourselves and God. If we run and hide, as Adam and Eve did in the garden, we rob God of the opportunity to restore us; and we rob ourselves of the opportunity to grow in grace.

It doesn't have to be this way . . .
Look! There, for all to see, stands a blood-stained cross and an empty grave. Christ has tasted death and been raised to life. He has carried our sins away and covered them with His own blood! Dear friend, the cross means your sins are gone. Christ has bought us and reconciled us to God with NO WRATH REMAINING against us! He has called us friends, called us righteous, called us His very own! The just sentence of the Law has been fulfilled because He died in our place. All has been paid, and we now owe nothing for our sins. He has purchased our forgiveness, and we are affectionately loved by God, adopted into His family, accepted in Christ. We are placed next to the Son of God as the Father's beloved children.

Look again! Christ is seated in the center of heaven, and all who trustingly come to Him receive a forgiveness without bounds. He wants to bless us. He wants to reassure us. He wants to bring us out of the perilous swamp of sin and guilt. These are the blessings found by those who cast themselves - as sinners - at His feet.
In our text, sin is dealt with in two ways: it is forgiven and it is covered. The word "forgiven" means carried away, removed from sight and consideration. The word "covered" indicates that God hides our sin. It's the same word David uses in verse 5, where he says that by confessing he "did not hide" his sin from God. If we cover our sins, we remain unforgiven. But if we confess our sins to God, He covers them! God is much better at dealing with sin than we are, so we must trust Him. This is the message of the cross, and this is how God deals with sin when we bring it to Him.
Dear friend, do not run and hide from the God Whose desire is to bless you with grace, pardon, forgiveness and mercy. The shame that drives you away from Him will disappear when you look into His eyes. Those all-seeing eyes burn with a passionate will to show mercy to approaching sinners.

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