Being from Minnesota it may be a strange time of year to talk about summer heat, but to make my point in this blog it is necessary that I recall the excessive heat and humidity that can envelope we Midwesterners like the ostensible darkness of a new moon. While many first think of the Midwest as an indomitable bastion of cold and snow; Minnesota is equally well known for our stifling summertime heat and humidity, usually occurring in mid to late July, that is usually immediately followed by periods of inordinate dryness, during which our land feels as arid as the Mojave and our grass turns the color of desert sands.
And it is in such summertime torridity that even with minimal exertion one can labor to the point of heat exhaustion; incurring such physiological symptoms as excessive thirst, weakness, headache, and nausea. And who among us has never experienced such physical depletion wherein we find ourselves feeling as though we are weighed down to the point of lethargy? In such a state, the heaviness of our condition makes every effort seem labored and every breath seem desperate. With sweat dripping from our brow and pouring from every pore of our being, the feeling we can’t go on can easily overtake our desire to do so.
And it is this state of heat induced exhaustion that I will point to as a simile for a life lived with the burden of unconfessed sin. Let us remember that we all have sin in our lives – we have previously explored the reality that all have sinned and fall far short of the glory of God. And likewise I have highlighted in prior blogs that we are being disingenuous if we say we are sinless, for we each know deep in our hearts the mistakes we have made and the regrets we secretly harbor deep in our being. So let us dispense with any propensity for denial and deal with what we all instinctively know to be the truth: we have all done things for which we feel deep remorse.
And it is from this point I present to you Psalm 32. One of the seven penitential psalms (others are Psalms 6, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143), Psalm 32 stands out for its strong confessional overtones that seem to reflect a wisdom gained by King David’s own lifetime of mistakes. Psalm 32 reads as a liturgical dialogue between David and God occurring in the presence of a sanctuary of worshippers, however, one does not need to delve into complex theological analysis to absorb the gist of David’s message. In verses 1 & 2, the joy and blessings of the forgiven are expressed; in verse 3 & 4, we see that holding our guilt inside leads to pain and strife. Indeed, those of us who have been concealing our indiscretions often feel weighed down as though we are held captive in a sauna-like crypt where breathing becomes as labored as if an elephant was standing on our chest.
But in verse 5, David brings us to the act of confession and it is here that our burden is lifted and in the joy of God’s complete forgiveness we can begin to breathe anew. We receive the promise in verses 6 & 7 of God’s protection and deliverance and then in verses 8-10 we are exhorted to live in Godly wisdom so that we do not repeat our missteps and that we might continue in God’s blessing and ultimately we might sing a song of praise (verse 11) to our redeemer.
Here, then, in its entirety, Psalm 32:
Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
When I refused to confess my sin,
my body wasted away,
and I groaned all day long.
Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time,
that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.
For you are my hiding place;
you protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of victory.
The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”
Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.
So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!
Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!
God has made a way for each of us to relieve ourselves of the burden of our past. And that way is Jesus Christ. We only need to reach out to Him in heartfelt honesty; there’s no magic formula. If we are sincere in our approach, we will experience a new freedom and a new joy like that which David expresses so eloquently in Psalm 32. If you haven’t already, won’t you reach out to Him right now?
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