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Second Lent Midweek

Psalm 32

James T. Batchelor

Lent Midweek 2
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Wed, Feb 25, 2015 

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Based on the Sermon Series:

Psalms of the Penitent by Rev. John C. Wohlrabe Jr.

Concordia Pulpit Resources: Volume 25, Part 2, Series B, February 22–May 24, 2015

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Lent is a time to get honest … to remove our masks … to take inventory of our lives.  It’s an opportunity to look at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Law, to see who and what we truly are.  Sadly, our sinful nature tries to hide our sins, not only from others, but even from ourselves.  This is not only self-deceptive, but it is also self-destructive.  History is full of the destruction caused when we try to cover our sins.

Take King David as an example.  God had blessed him in many ways.  He was a very able and popular king over Israel.  He led Israel to victory over the Philistines, the Moabites, and the Ammonites.  His reign over Israel was the very model of prosperity and success.

Then the day came when David spied a beautiful woman named Bathsheba taking a bath on the roof of a nearby house.  Bathsheba was the wife of one of David’s most loyal army officers, Uriah the Hittite.  Instead of fleeing the temptation, David seduced her, and she became pregnant.

David tried everything he could to hide his sin.  He arranged for Uriah to come home on leave thinking that Uriah would take the opportunity to spend some intimate time with his wife.  Everyone would think that the child was Uriah’s child.  Instead, in solidarity with his comrades in the field, Uriah did not even go to his house, but slept at the door to the king’s house.  David even tried to get Uriah drunk, but even that didn’t work.  So David sent some new battle plans to his commanding officer … battle plans that were specifically designed to get Uriah killed.

After Uriah died in battle, David took on the role of kindly king who had concern for the poor widow of one of his fallen officers.  He took Bathsheba under his care and then he married her.

When we discuss David in catechism instruction, we come to the conclusion that King David specifically sinned against each and every one of the Ten Commandments.  All the precious commandments of God, which David had held dear, were turned upside down. (2 Sam 11).

The devil, the world, and our old sinful nature work hard to make sin seem like a good thing.  How can something be bad if it gives pleasure, wealth, fame, or power?  Then we give in and the first sin traps us in the deadly jaws of guilt.

Then one sin covers another.  It is all too easy for the cover up to become an avalanche of deception and destruction.  It is easy cover up sin by pretending that it is perfectly natural and completely harmless.  So we rationalize the “white” lie, a growing addiction, adultery, homosexuality, even the murder of an unborn baby.  We make excuses to rationalize and whitewash the ugly reality of what we’ve done.  But this is only a smoke screen that quickly blows away and exposes who and what we really are.

We also deceive ourselves by thinking we’re not such bad sinners after all.  We aren’t as bad as David, the adulterer and murderer.  We’re not as bad as those evil people in the headlines.  Luther writes: “This evil, false, and deceitful guile seduces, above all, the outstanding, conspicuous, and spiritual people, who, because of their pious life and many good deeds, stand up boldly and do not recognize their inner, spiritual attitude. … Thus a man is pious out of fear of hell or hope of heaven, not because of God.  But this is difficult to recognize and still more difficult to overcome.  Indeed, it is impossible except through the grace of the Holy Spirit” (AE 14:148–49).

The result of covering our sin is an evil conscience.  God’s hand is heavy on us.  We see a stern Judge instead of loving Father.  An evil conscience results in physical, emotional, and spiritual struggle.  David described that time in his life in this way: “For 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 dried up as by the heat of summer” (vv 3–4).  So often, we cover up our sin because we somehow think this will make us happy or feel good or bring us fulfillment.  This is a delusion that only makes things worse.

Ultimately, an evil conscience results in death—spiritual, physical, and finally eternal death. We are born spiritually dead in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1). Because of sin, we will die physically, “for the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23), and unless our sin is forgiven, we will die eternally, separated from God forever in hell (Mt 10:28). Thus, David correctly observes, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked” (v 10).  David knew those sorrows firsthand when he did not repent.

Yet God is faithful.  He does not forsake us.  The Holy Spirit uses the Law to bring us to repentance.  God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin.  The Holy Spirit convicted David and he confessed: “I acknowledge my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (v 5). King David became a true penitent.  Luther described David’s thoughts this way: “Now I see that there is nothing better than to confess before Thee that there is only sin in me and nothing good, so that only Thy grace may be praised and desired, and all pride and trust in merit and good works may cease” (AE 14:150).

When David confessed his sin, God forgave him.  David declared that God is a “hiding place” who preserves him from trouble and surrounds him with “shouts of deliverance” (v 7).  Luther writes: “I will rebuke myself; then God will praise me. I will degrade myself; then God will honor me. I will accuse myself; then God will acquit me. I will speak against myself; then God will speak for me. I will speak of my guilt; then He will speak about my merit, as He did to Mary Magdalene in the house of Simon the leper (Luke 7:44–47)” (AE 14:150–51).

God the Holy Spirit works all this in us through His Word.  God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go” (v 8). Luther writes that this is as if God is saying to us, “Behold, that is the way of the cross. You cannot find it, but I must lead you like a blind man. Therefore not you, not a man, not a creature, but I, through My Spirit and the Word, will teach you the way you must go. You must not follow the work which you choose, not the suffering which you devise, but that which comes to you against your choice, thoughts, and desires” (AE 14:152).

David’s sins crushed his heart and filled him with sorrows.  When Nathan confronted him with God’s Word, he confessed his sin.  Nathan then acted as God’s agent to forgive David’s sin.  That changed everything!  David could then proclaim, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity” (vv 1–2).  Augustine counted this as his favorite psalm, holding up the motto “The best intelligence is when you know yourself a sinner” (C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes, trans. James Martin; vol. 5 by F. Delitzsch, Psalms [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, reprinted February 1980], 393).

Luther writes: “They will be holy because they confess their iniquity to [God] and ask for grace. . . . That person is holy who stands, not on his own holiness but on the Rock of Thy righteousness, which is Christ” (AE 14:151).  The Apostle Paul quoted David to show that forgiveness and salvation come not through human works, but only by God’s grace for the sake of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith in God’s promises (Rom 4:7–8).  Only in Christ does God forgive sin.  David and all the people of the Old Testament looked to the promised Messiah for deliverance. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4–5). Through Jesus’ perfect life and through his suffering, death on a cross, and resurrection from the grave, “God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor 5:19). Luther writes: “In brief, this is nothing else than the wisdom of the cross of Christ, which is folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews, namely, to understand that the Son of God was incarnate and crucified and put to death and raised for our salvation. . . . To understand means to recognize the spiritual things and mysteries of God’s salvation and grace” (AE 10:148).

Penitence includes both the confession of sin and faith in God’s gracious forgiveness.  Through penitence, Christ’s applies his death for the sins of the world specifically to you and me.  Our transgressions are forgiven in Christ.  Our sin is covered in Christ.  God has not counted our iniquity against us in Christ.  That forgiveness and peace is ours through faith in Christ.

God blesses the penitent. That is why Confession and Absolution are a regular part of the Divine Service.  You have the opportunity to confess your sins before God and your fellow believers, and I have the privilege of standing in the stead and by the command of Christ and forgiving you through Jesus Christ.  If a specific sin troubles you, you can also come to private confession, and receive forgiveness personally.  In the Small Catechism, Luther also tells us that confession is to be a daily part of our baptismal life. “[Baptism] indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever” (Small Catechism, Baptism, Fourth Part).

In penitence, God becomes our hiding place in trouble, for “steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD” (v 10).  There still is trouble in this world of sin and suffering, but we are secure in God’s love.

The penitent is blessed in the Lord, and in the Lord we live lives of joy. That is why David ends this psalm by saying: “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (v 11). Luther writes: “That is, be bold and courageous; rise up and sing praises; be of good cheer, like a man who shouts for joy. For the heart that is right with God and is not wrapped up in itself or in something other than God is founded on the eternal good and stands firm. . . . ‘Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord’ (1 Cor. 1:31)” (AE 14:154).

In Psalm 32, we see that only the penitent is truly blessed by God.  God lifted the terrible, crushing burden and sorrow of our sin from us and placed it on His Son, Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, and rose again to bring us forgiveness and salvation.  In Christ, the penitent has the assurance of God’s steadfast love.  So even in the midst of the sorrows and pain of sin in this fallen world, we live lives of joy, rejoicing in God’s grace and mercy.  Blessed are the penitent!  Amen

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