Psalm 32 - Blessed is the one who is forgiven

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Of David. A maskil.
1) Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2) Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

3) When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4) For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.

5) Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.

6) Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
will not reach them.
7) You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.

8) I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
9) Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
10) Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.

11) Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Psalm 32 (NRSV*)
4th Sunday of Lent, Year C, verses 1-7, 17-19
Proper 6, Sunday between June 12 and June 18, Year C
Proper 26, Sunday between October 30 and November 5, Year C, verses 1-7

This psalm speaks of a spiritual reality known by repentant sinners, but also by those who grieve, and those who suffer from chronic illness, addiction, social stigma, and mental distress. "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away..."

We know this to be true, from intuition and experience. Suffering in silence is isolating. Silence offers no pathway out of the suffering.

Giving voice to suffering is often the gateway to healing. Biblical examples abound: see Exodus 2:23-25 where the enslaved Israelites cry out of their bondage, Job, and the many, many places where the faithful testify that the Lord has "heard my cry."

This psalm speaks of confessing transgressions, which is a particular type of suffering. Once voiced, the sinner (more generally, sufferer) no longer has to be alone. "My name is Bill W., and I am an alcoholic." Hello, Bill. Welcome. Whether that is welcome to a community of fellow sufferers working on recovery (AA, NA, the Church), or welcome home to a reconciled relationship with your Higher Power, WELCOME.

One of the tragedies of suffering is that so much of it can be lessened or eliminated by reaching out sooner rather than later. A cold is easier to treat than pneumonia, a fresh wound more than an infected one. The same is true of sin. The sooner it is realized, and the sooner we involve God in our problem, the sooner God's healing power can be known in the situation.

The psalm encourages making that choice now. Don't wait until the floodwaters are at neck level. Do not be stubborn, like the mule, and do not delay. But "let all the faithful pray," giving God the greatest leverage.

When we acknowledge God's presence in our distress, we have begun to allow God to minister to us. The Lord's unfailing love surrounds those who trust in her. The psalm now switches to God's voice: "I will counsel you with my loving eye on you."

How good is that? God's unfailing love may be there for us all the time, but when we begin to trust God with our words, or thoughts, our deepest feelings, the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds us.

The truest expression of that love is that "Welcome Home" forgiveness. Whether secret or public, that pain, that evil, that shame is now covered by God's grace. Blessed is the one who is forgiven.

Vic, Asking For Forgiveness, used by (CC BY 2.0).
* New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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