This week we celebrated (perhaps not the right word) Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent; and accordingly for the next few weeks we’ll be focussing on passages of Scripture that remind us that we are by nature sinful, and in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
We begin this Sunday with Psalm 32, which challenges our assumptions about what happiness really is. It’s a psalm of David, the second king of Israel, and a man after God’s own heart. But what does that mean? It certainly didn’t mean that he was perfect. David used his kingly position to entice a married woman to sleep with him while her husband was fighting – under the king’s banner – for the safety of the kingdom. When she fell pregnant, he tried everything to cover his sin; finally he arranged the husband’s death so he could marry the woman.
So you could say that David knew a thing or two about sin. Psalm 32 reflects on his experience, what he learned about sin, confession, and God’s mercy. He starts with his conclusions – a happy person is a person whose sin is forgiven, whose sin God doesn’t count against them, and who doesn’t make any pretence.
David was under no illusions that his behaviour was acceptable, he knew very well that adultery, deception and murder aren’t OK with God. So he started out by avoiding God, not talking with him about what he’d done. And it was agony. He felt God’s displeasure tangibly, physically.
David realised that he needed to confess, to be open with God; and when he did, God forgave him immediately. The rest of the psalm urges you and me to trust God, to turn to him with everything, and rejoice in his unfailing love.
We can’t hide anything from God. When we turn our backs on God, we don’t stop him from influencing our lives; but it becomes a battle, where he has to use force to guide us; when we are honest about our failure, greed, wickedness, then there is relationship with God, forgiveness is offered, and he won’t turn his back on us; instead, he will ‘surround us with songs of deliverance’.