Summary: God provides the possibility of forgiveness when we follow His program of repentance. The we can discover the product which is relief.
As we communicate with God in the language of complaint, as we honestly bare our souls before the Father, something surprising happens. We discover that, in many cases, the fault is not with God; it is with us. The problem is not that God has turned His back on us but that we have turned our backs on Him.
This "turning our backs on God" is called sin. Sin is an equal opportunity employer. When each of us digs around in our lives, we will soon come face to face with the reality of sin. At that point, we can respond in one of three ways: we can deny our sin; we can rationalize our sin; or, we can confess our sin.
The rich young ruler in Jesus’ extraordinary story in Luke’s Gospel is an example of the first alternative. When the young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus pointed to the commandments and suggested that he keep them. The young man replied, "All these I have kept since I was a boy" (Luke 18:21).
That’s one way to deal with our sin, to deny its presence in our lives, to claim to have followed all the commandments of God.
I’ve told this story before with a little variation. A young lady who had gone away to college wrote a letter to her parents that demonstrates this second alternative. This letter, which came at the end of the semester, said: "Dear Mom and Dad,
Please forgive me for not writing sooner but all of my writing paper was destroyed when the dormitory was burned down by the demonstrators. I’m out of the hospital now, and the doctors said I should regain my sight soon. The young man who rescued me from the fire offered to share his apartment with me until the dormitory is rebuilt. He comes from a good family, so you won’t be surprised when I tell you we’re getting married next month. You’ve always been so anxious to have a grandchild, so I want to share with you the good news that you will have one soon."
Then she added this PS: "Please disregard the above practice in English composition. There was no fire. I haven’t been in the hospital. I’m not pregnant. I don’t even have a steady boyfriend. But I did get a ’D’ in French and an ’F’ in chemistry, and I wanted you to understand how much worse it could have been."
That’s another way to deal with our sin, to recognize its presence in our lives
but then to try to rationalize away its seriousness.
A third way is the biblical way, to acknowledge our sin, to lay our sin before God, and to allow Him to take it away.
The word for this way of dealing with our sin is CONFESSION which literally means to agree with God about our sin. This is another important word in the language of faith. Where can we go to learn more about this word? We go to the book of Psalms. Psalm 32 is one of the psalms of confession. Traditionally they are referred to as the penitential psalms. Other penitential psalms are 6, 38, 51, 102, 103 and 143. The most famous is probably Psalm 51. Psalm 32 is a twin to Psalm 51, for both are responses of the same person to the same reality.
In both cases, it is David who was struggling with his sin. And in both cases, it is the double sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah that David is dealing with. Psalm 51 seems to be the immediate response of David to his sin. Psalm 32 is the fruit of longer reflection. As David articulated the language of confession in this later reflection, he provides some important insights into the language of faith.