Over the years, biblical scholars have taken the time to classify the Psalms into different categories. There are hymns of praise, imprecatory (cursing) psalms, wisdom psalms, and prayers for deliverance, among others. Today’s is known as a penitential psalm. The author (presumably David) had sinned, then confessed and repented of his sin, and now celebrates his renewed intimate relationship with his Savior.
Of course, last year we spent a lot of time studying David’s affair with Bathsheba and what resulted of it, so we won’t go into a lot of detail here. It’s important to remember, however, that David sinned against the Lord at other times in his life. It’s just that this was the most egregious, so it got the most attention.
It starts off with a blessing, not on those who are sinless (which would only apply to one Man) but on those whose sins are forgiven. We who are in Christ know this even better than David. Our sins are forgiven, our transgressions are covered by his blood, and the Lord's promised that he will never bring up our sins again. But there's a hint of a condition in the very last phrase, and it’s a clue to our part in all this: “Blessed is the man. . . in whose spirit is no deceit.” 1 John 1:8 says that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” And friend, if you’re claiming to be without sin, that’s the only person you’re really deceiving--yourself. Just like in Alcoholics Anonymous, the solution starts when you admit you have a problem. Forgiveness and cleansing comes when you stop deceiving yourself.
This psalm then goes into a lot of detail over the time between David’s sin and his restoration. Most scholars seem to think that his description is not meant to be seen as just emotional disturbance; instead, it demonstrated physical torment as well. But whatever the sin and whatever the means God used in David’s life, it’s pretty obvious that David was miserable: “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.” My friend, there's no one in this world who's as miserable as a believer who’s living in disobedience. If you can live in sin with no bad consequences, you should reexamine whether or not you’re really in Christ, because “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
But finally he surrendered to the Lord’s discipline, and found the incredible relief of forgiveness and acceptance. He confessed and acknowledged his sin, and the Lord forgave him. Now, with the relationship restored, he could see his Savior God as a “hiding place” in times of trouble, who would protect him and surround him with songs of deliverance.
Finally, he gives some wonderful advice straight from his experience. He counsels us to avoid imitating animals like the horse or the mule, who have to be controlled by bit and bridle (or even worse). Instead, how about we listen to God’s word instead of ignoring it? Instead of learning from our bad experience, how’s about we learn from other peoples’ bad experience?
And if you are in that “place of discipline” from vss. 3-5, why not come in from the cold? Haven’t you been out there long enough? Your Father is looking for an excuse to forgive, restore, and shower you with grace and mercy. Why not take him up on it?
Lord Jesus, you are the gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and quick to forgive. Please give me listening ears and a soft heart, so that I can hear your voice, even in its softest tones.
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