by Dr Kirsten Due
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Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered (Psalm 32:1).
Read Psalm 32
Here is a paraphrase of Psalm 32 you may not have heard:
Blessed is the one
whose children drive Mercedes
Whose lawns are always green
Blessed is the one
who can travel business class to Phuket
And those who live in leafy suburbs
whose churches have coffee machines.
It is easy to think of our sins being forgiven as one among many ‘blessings’. Christians and non-Christians use the word ‘blessed’ all the time. But in this psalm, the description applies to someone who trusts in the Lord (see Psalm 84:12), makes him their refuge (see Psalm 2:12; 34:8; 40:4), has their sins forgiven (see Psalm 32:1,2) and is drawn near to God (see Psalm 65:4; 84:4).
The trouble is, that the word translated here as ‘blessed’ has lost its anchor. To some, it means luck, good karma, bliss, or ‘gratefulness to the universe for my fate’. Likewise, the word ‘sin’ is also completely foreign to many people. It’s a word even Christians avoid using. David, on the other hand, knew he had sinned against God. He knew sin’s desolation in his mind and body. But he also knew the great joy – the happiness and blessedness – of forgiveness.
Our natural impulse is to cover up sin: to work hard, to party, to turn up the noise and activity to avoid God’s quietly insistent voice. We become isolated from ourselves and Christian community, even while religiously going to church or Bible study. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, ‘Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin … shuns the light … poisons the whole being’ .
Psalm 32 (see also Psalm 51) tells us that sin causes exhaustion, insomnia, wasting syndrome (cachexia), neurosis and shame. We feel shattered, unclean, dirty and cast out, with only dust to quench our thirst. Shakespeare’s play Macbeth gives us a terrifying picture of the destructiveness of sin.
But Psalm 32 is not just one of penitence (God’s gift) but also, ‘The song of a ransomed soul rejoicing in the wonders of the grace of God. Sin is dealt with; sorrow is comforted; ignorance is instructed’ (G. Campbell Morgan, 1946, Searchlights from the Word).
Coming into God’s light is not a ‘work’. It is not a prerequisite for forgiveness – it comes from a heart already moved to repentance by God’s gift of mercy.
Dear Father, we confess that we trust in you – the one who justifies the ungodly. We come to you openly in prayer in times of distress because acts of loving rescue are what you are about. You are the deliverer. Let us approach you, our hiding place, with confidence, because you, the Great High Priest sympathise with our weakness. In you, we find grace on top of grace to help in our time of need.
 Bonhoeffer, D, 1939, Life Together
Dr Kirsten Due lives in Darwin with her husband, Noel, who is currently serving in the Top End Lutheran Parish. She has a postgraduate degree in psychology and is a doctor of medicine, currently engaged in remote area work in the Top End. She has written a book of children’s gospel stories (Bearen Bear and the Bunbury Tales) with a commendation by Andrew McDonough.