Last year our college ministry spent the summer in the Psalms, and our staff directional team took turns writing devotionals for each Psalm that we covered. While I am on vacation this summer, I thought I’d share some of the devotionals I wrote. This one is on Psalm 6, which you can read here.
O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger,
Nor chasten me in Your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am pining away;
Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are dismayed.
Psalm 6 is the first of the Confessional (penitent) Psalms in the book of Songs. Studying penitent Psalms means thinking and talking about sin.
The Hebrew people – at least as they are represented by the psalmists – seem to have had a much more open relationship with sin than we do. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like talking about sin. My history with conversations about sin is colored by groups of people calling other people sinners. As a Bible teacher, it’s awfully hard to talk about sin without condemning and judging – and only God is judge. This makes it so much easier to avoid the topic. But perhaps that tendency blinds us from embracing a healthy awareness of our own sin?
I want to learn from the Psalmists’ openness and understanding of human sinfulness and a holy God.
This openness is grounded in the Hebrew understanding of the history of God and humanity as a race created to be God’s people, in His place (this earth), in His presence. From the 3rd chapter of the Bible, that story includes falleness and sin.
From that tragic first fall, the result of sin has been to cause humanity to hide from God. Sin & hiding from God predates Israel’s story and runs through the national history. Sin was a given, and hiding from sin is the natural response.
But also from that first tragic fall, our Creator God has been working to restore His people to His place in His presence. Always, the call to God’s people was to come to Him with their sin rather than run away. Humanity’s impulse is to hide and cover – and the ancient call of God’s word is to come, to confess, to agree with God and receive His covering.
We see this call in the ancient Law of Moses…
So it shall be when he becomes guilty in one of these, that he shall confess that in which he has sinned. Leviticus 5:5
‘If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me… then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land. Leviticus 26:40-42
In the history of Israel…
“When Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy, because they have sinned against You, if they turn to You again and confess Your name and pray and make supplication to You in this house, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You gave to their fathers. 1 Kings 8:33
“When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, and they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin when You afflict them; then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants and Your people Israel, indeed, teach them the good way in which they should walk. And send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people for an inheritance. 2 Chronicles 6:26
In the wisdom literature…
I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:5
He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. Proverbs 28:13
And in the prophets…
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken falsehood, your tongue mutters wickedness…
Therefore justice is far from us, And righteousness does not overtake us; We hope for light, but behold, darkness, For brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope along the wall like blind men, We grope like those who have no eyes; We stumble at midday as in the twilight, Among those who are vigorous we are like dead men… Isaiah 59:2-3, 9-10
In the prophets, we see this call to confession met with a promise that redemption is coming.
Yes, truth is lacking; And he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey.
Now the Lord saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice. And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness upheld Him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; and He put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle..
A Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 59:15-17, 20
As New Covenant believers, we recognize this Redeemer clothed in righteousness and salvation as Jesus the Christ. And so it is fitting that the New Testament witness of Jesus includes the call to confession:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:16
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Whether we define sin by the Bible’s standards, or by violating our own values, if we’re being honest surely we see that falling short is common to all of us. I recognize this as a Biblical truth and a practical reality.
But when I’m confronted by my own falleness I run, I hide, I deny, I numb, I pretend, I promise to do better. And then I fall again. How – after all these years on this earth in my own skin – how can I still be so shocked at myself? Is God shocked?
What if – rather than running and hiding or making empty promises – I followed the Psalmist’s example and embraced my sin? What if I trusted that there is provision? What if I trusted God with my sin? What if I was naked and unashamed with my God?
And my soul is greatly dismayed; But You, O Lord—how long?
Return, O Lord, rescue my soul; Save me because of Your lovingkindness. (Psalm 6:3-4)
The honesty in the confession psalms calls to me. I see in Psalm 6 a complete absence of hiding, justification, promises. I see an owning – a nakedness and freedom and trust that I find compelling. This is a high view of God – I am in complete dismay about my own state, but I know I have a God who, from the beginning of time, has been calling humanity (including ME!) to Himself.
He hears. He knows. He covers. He receives. I am clean.
The Lord has heard my supplication, The Lord receives my prayer. Psalm 6:9
As individuals and as a community of believers, how could we better embrace God’s provision for sin through the regular practice of confession?
If you’re interested in reading any of the other Psalms devotionals from last summer (I was very impressed with my coworkers’ writing skills, I really enjoyed every one of these!), you can look around over here.