Psalm 32: Rushing Waters

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Psalm 32

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

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. Selah

I acknowledged 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. Selah

Therefore let everyone who is godly
    offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
    they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
    you preserve me from trouble;
    you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
    which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
    or it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
    but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
    and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Neighborhood Trees #5 | Cypress, TX | January 2023

Are you one in a million? Are you in the elite class? Do you qualify for this exclusive opportunity? At least sometimes we want to fit into this category of society. We are really happy to be Diamond and get the free room upgrade, or Elite Status and get the seat upgrade on the plane. Or what if somehow we snag a VIP invitation which puts us at the front of the line and the best seat at the concert? We’re good with that. And tell the truth, if you’re the only one in the HOV lane? You’re good with that, aren’t you?

On the other hand, David says, “Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.” (v. 6) On the one hand it seems like good and godly advice: we should all pray. That’s what godly people do. We should pray when God may be found – not just in our moments of urgent need and only on our schedule of personal convenience. We should “at all times and in all places” (cf. Proper Preface for Communion) give honor to God. 

A closer look at the context of this verse reveals a more nuanced meaning. This verse falls within a psalm about needing to confess our sins, and receive God’s forgiveness. It’s all about not wasting away in our groanings because we refuse to acknowledge our sins and need for God’s forgiveness. It’s all about sin and grace, truth and mercy.

Godly people, we must conclude, need to confess their sins before God. We who follow Jesus must admit that we fail to do so all too often. One failure to follow Jesus is too often, but we fail daily. We drown the old nature only to find him popping up out of the water the next day to take us down into the swirling abyss of transgressions and sins.

Luther says the we must drown the Old Adam daily because the he is such a good swimmer. The rush of the great waters can all too easily catch us by surprise and overwhelm us. This is a life-long, every-day practice. Luther says that the entire life of the believer should be one of repentance (the first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses of 1517). We are – even the godly – both saint and sinner.

“The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do,” says Paul. (Galatians 5:17)

If you struggle with this, take heart! It is proof of the Holy Spirit’s work in you. Otherwise we would never worry about sin, repentance, guilt, or failure. But with the Holy Spirit we can embrace this verse wholeheartedly, confident that by remaining steadfast in our repentant spirit, we will not be overwhelmed by the waters.

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