160306 Psalm 32:1-5

Last Updated on Sunday, 06 March 2016 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Psalm 32:1-5
Theme: Talk About Sin With A Smile

The Oxford Dictionary 2015 word of the year was not an actual word. Instead, it was this (show emoji on the screen). If you use a smart phone, there is a pretty good chance you recognize that face. But if you are not plugged into the world of technology, let me explain. This is what is commonly called an emoji, or more specifically the "tears of joy" or "LOL" emoji.

An emoji is a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication. And there are literally hundreds of different emojis to choose from. If you want to show your wife/girlfriend how much you love her, you might send her this one. If you are feeling a little flirtatious, you might send this one. If you are sitting through an especially boring presentation at work, you might send your co-worker across the room this one.

You get the idea. You can find an emoji to express just about any emotion or sentiment or feeling. So let me ask you this: What would a Lent emoji look like? Would it look like this? Or would it look more like this? Which one would you choose (show both side by side)?

Lent is a season of repentance, a season we associate with darkness and dirges, a time for us to remember our sin and our Savior's suffering. And so I wouldn't be at all surprised if your Lent emoji was a sad one.

The author of Psalm 32 (one of the seven penitential psalms) was a man who had come to grips with his sin. David had committed adultery. He had committed murder. He had committed thousands of other sins that aren't recorded in the Bible. And he was sorry. He was sorry for his sin, but his mood was anything but sad.

David freely acknowledged that he was a sinner, but he also rejoiced because his sins had been forgiven. And he was so joyful, so grateful for God's forgiveness that he wrote a psalm about it. As we take a closer look at his inspired (and inspiring) words, David will help us to see that even now, even during the somber season of Lent, we too can...


I. Suppression is the problem
II. Confession is the solution

Some of the psalms come with headings that tell the reader what was happening in the author's life when he sat down to write. For example, David prefaces Psalm 18 with this important bit of biographical information: "He sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul."

Psalm 32 is not one of those psalms. Like Psalm 38 last week we are told that David wrote it, but David doesn't tell us when or why he wrote. Did he compose these words after the prophet Nathan confronted him with his twin sins of adultery and murder (2 Samuel 12)? It's possible, but we don't know for sure. What we do know is that David had sinned against the Lord, and this sin (whatever it was) was affecting him.

Just listen to the imagery David uses to describe his sinful condition: "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer" (3,4).

After hearing David's words, a psychiatrist might conclude that some significant emotional trauma had manifested itself in a number of physical ailments. The Christian explanation is much simpler. David was suffering from the effects of a guilty conscience.

David's sin was literally eating him up. He didn't have any strength. He didn't have any energy. He was groaning in constant pain. He was feeling unrelenting pressure. Day and night, night and day, his sin was always with him and he couldn't get rid of the guilt.

David isn't the only believer who has ever felt this way. He just had the guts to write his feelings down on paper. We sin too, and when we do our consciences rightly convict us. Have you ever lost sleep over a particularly troubling sin? Did you lose your appetite? Can you remember a time when the guilt was so overwhelming that it felt like your strength had been sapped right out of you? Or are you like some people who sin and sin and sin and don't feel much of anything at all?

The only thing worse than having a conscience that convicts me of my sin is NOT having a conscience that convicts me of my sin. If sinning becomes easy for me, if my conscience become dull, if I can think and say and do whatever I want and still sleep like a baby at night, then I have a serious problem. If I am able to suppress my sin, I won't repent of my sin. If I don't repent of my sin, I will never be free from sin. Never. Not in this life, and certainly not in the life to come.

An active conscience is really a blessing. A healthy conscience is like a friend who tells you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear. David's sin followed him wherever he went. David's conscience wouldn't let him have a moment's peace. David's conscience caused him all kinds of anguish and inner turmoil. And for that he was extremely grateful.

David had tried every trick in the book to deal with his sin. He tried to hide it. He tried to ignore it. He tried to excuse it. But no matter how hard David tried to suppress his sin it never went away...until he realized that he didn't have to deal with his sin because God already had...until he recognized that suppression was the problem...until the Lord led him to the liberating realization that confession is the solution.

David declared: "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" (5). When David confessed his sin, he wasn't letting God in on some big secret. God is omniscient. He knew what David had done. He knows about everything we do.

When David confessed his sins, when David opened up his heart and soul to God, he did it for his own benefit. Maybe he felt like he was getting something off his chest, but in reality it was the Lord who was removing the burden. In fact, the Hebrew verb for forgiveness carries the idea of "lifting up." As soon as David confessed his transgressions to the Lord, the guilt was gone. The pressure was gone. The sin was gone because the Lord had picked it up and carried it far, far away.

You are probably familiar with the phrase, "Confession is good for the soul," but I wonder if David would say that confession is good for the body too. When he kept silent his bones were wasting away. When he confessed his sins his strength was renewed. When he kept silent he felt the hand of God coming down on him. When he confessed his sins he was able to see that the Lord's hand was really a helping hand.

David rejoiced in God's forgiveness, but he didn't want to keep it for himself. He wanted others to have that same joy. He wanted other sin-tormented souls to experience the saving power of the gospel. And so he wrote a psalm about it. And when he sat to down to write his personal story of sin and forgiveness, I wouldn't be at all surprised if on his face there was a great big smile.

David's cheery disposition comes out in the opening verses of the psalm: "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him" (1,2).

To be "blessed" means more than to be on the receiving end of blessings. Some Bible translations replace the word "blessed" with "happy." David was happy. Believers are happy. You and I can be happy because our transgressions are forgiven and our sins are covered.

The apostle Paul quotes these words in Romans 4 (verses 7-8) to prove that our salvation does not depend on what we do, but on what God has done for us. Our transgressions are forgiven by God. Our sins are covered by God. We don't have to earn forgiveness. We don't have to wonder if we've done enough to earn our forgiveness because the Lord has paid our debt in full. And that is a thought that makes every child of God smile.

We can smile when we confess our sins in church because we know that every heartfelt confession is followed by these precious words of absolution: "I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Spirit."

We can smile when we look at the cross because we know that this was the place where Jesus defeated the death and the devil once and for all. We can smile every time we receive communion (we really can) because we know that our Savior sacrificed his body and shed his blood for us. We can smile when we talk about sin even during the season of Lent, especially during the season of Lent, because we know that the Lord does not count our sins against us.

One of the most common ways critics try to discredit the Christian faith is by claiming that the message of the Bible isn't relevant anymore. Their reasoning goes something like this: "The Bible was written thousands of years ago. Maybe it meant something to people who lived back then, but it couldn't anticipate the complex problems and issues facing people in the twenty-first century."

Do the critics have a point? Has the Bible become outdated? Let's put this theory to the test. I want you to think of a sin in your life. Maybe it's a dark secret from your past. Maybe it's something you are struggling with today. Right here and now I want you to close your eyes and privately confess that sin to God (pause for a few seconds). Now open your eyes.

Do you know what God has to say about your sin? It's gone. When we confess our sins to God "he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12).

Those aren't my words. They are written in the Bible. They were written by men who lived thousands of years ago. You tell me. Is the message of the Bible still relevant? Does Psalm 32 (written approximately 3,000 years ago) offer something of value to people living today? It does if we have ever sinned. It does if we have ever been troubled by a guilty conscience. It does if we admit that our sin won't go away on its own.

Sin is a universal condition. Sin is one thing every person has in common. But so is God's grace. God so loved the world that he gave us his one and only Son. Jesus lived a perfect life for you. Jesus gave up his life for you. Because of Jesus your sins are forgiven. Because of Jesus your eternal salvation is secure. Because Jesus has done everything for you there is nothing left for you to do...except smile. Amen.

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