Psalm 32: Is Confession Good for Body and Soul?
“When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away. . . I acknowledged my sin . . . then thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 32:3-5)
It’s been said that confession is good for the soul, but the writer of Psalm 32 would say it is good for the body as well. The writer was afflicted with suffering. Knowledge of some past sin was haunting him to the point that he had become physically ill. As long as he held it in, he was tortured, wracked with guilt, but when he told his sin to God, he found forgiveness.
Psalm 32 – Penitential Psalm and a Psalm of Thanksgiving
This is the second of the penitential psalms, but it is also a psalm of thanksgiving. The writer is thankful to God for the gift of forgiveness. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,” (1a) he states. He knows the gift of forgiveness, but in order to know this he had to first sin and recognize his sinfulness. “It can no doubt be ‘a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb. 10:31), but it is a worse thing to fall out of them,” as one commentator states (Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 4, p. 170).
The psalmist had fallen out of God’s hands through his sin. How great his delight to return to God through confession. The psalmist then instructs the reader to not be stubborn like a mule but to turn to God for forgiveness in order to experience what it is to be “blessed.”
Surely confession is good for the soul, but first there must be recognition of what needs to be confessed, then there must be genuine remorse. It isn’t enough to admit to a wrong doing. When Lance Armstrong confessed that he had used drugs during his years of competition, he admitted to what he had done but he claimed he was just doing what everyone else was doing. He justified his actions. So, was this confession good for his soul? It is not for us to judge what is in his heart, that is for God – best to leave it there.
“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go,” the king in Hamlet states after an unsuccessful attempt at prayer. (Hamlet, Act III, sc. III) He knew he had sinned but wasn’t willing to do what was necessary to make amends, to admit to what he had done and give up his ill-gotten gain. And so he remained in his sin.
Those who have been forgiven much, love much, Jesus said (Luke 7:41-43). I have always found Jesus words troubling. Does this mean in order to really experience God’s forgiveness I need to go out of my way to sin?
No, we don’t need to seek sin out, it finds us too easily. One needn’t have done some terrible deed in order to experience forgiveness. In that we are born into a sinful world where we often miss our mark, fall short, we participate in the general sinfulness of the world.
Sins We Do Not Recognize
Perhaps the greatest sins are the ones we refuse to see, sins of excessive pride, greed, justifications for hording the world’s goods, walking away from those in need. None of us are perfect; therefore all of us are in need of God’s forgiveness. Perhaps our prayer needs to be that God will help us see when we have fallen short of the mark for by ourselves we remain blind. Then our confession will bring the healing and forgiveness we need, as happens in Psalm 32.
Happy are those who know their sinfulness, who know their need for God in a sinful world.
“Therefore let every one who is godly offer prayer to thee . . . Thou art a hiding place for me, thou preservest me from trouble; thou dost encompass me with deliverance.” (6a, 7)
Is there guilt from a past or present sin that is affecting your ability to enjoy life? What do you need to do to be free of this?
This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and and receive a free copy of Still Dancing, the second book in my Dancing through Life Series. click here to sign up
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