Psalm 32 - Part 2
In his ground-breaking book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, a graduate of the prestigious Harvard University, seeks to dispel the notion that success bring happiness. To him, it should be the other way around: a happy person becomes a successful person. But how can a person be happy to start with? Good question. Answer? Happiness is achieved as a person focuses continually on adhering and implementing seven positive psychological principles:
- Happy people have advantage; happier at workplace etc.
- You can't change reality, but you can change how you process the world.
- If one has a negative outlook on things that is a habit. A pattern that can be broken.
- When facing crisis, one has to find a path that leads us from failure to a place of strength.
- Limit your focus to small, manageable goals to gain greater control and power.
- We can form new habits if we make it easy to do the right thing and hard to do the wrong thing. Support of friends and family is important.
Fortune 500 companies are lapping up Shawn’s analysis in an effort to build more successful, and enjoyable teams.
What I find interesting, however, is what Shawn states in the introduction. He relates how Harvard’s motto based on its religious roots used to be: Veritas, Christo et Ecclaesiae, or Truth, for Christ and the Church.” He notes how the secularized school awash in relativism left this statement long ago, opting now for just the concise statement: Veritas, or truth. Well, not absolute truth but whatever your truth might happen to be. He then goes on to ponder how the student body, endowed with the power to pursue truth from their perspective, was, in 2004, mired in depression. According to the Harvard Crimson poll at the time, 4 in 5 students struggled with depression, even though they had absolute freedom to pursue their version of truth.
This got him thinking. What is the solution? His answer was not returning to the truth about the person and redemptive work of Christ for sinners, but to develop seven principles of positive thinking to help you be happy so you can, in turn, be successful.
King David would take issue with this sort of worldly thinking. I know he would because of what he teaches in Psalm 32 about the path to true, lasting inner joy:
Joyful Living Is Wedded To Mournful Living (Psalm 32)
Talk about a counter-cultural, really shocking motto. For David, a man in hot pursuit of knowing and walking with the living God, happiness and joy in life is, first and foremost, a spiritual quest for a God-fearing person/believer/Christian. And what is this saint consumed with? He is not consumed with looking outward at his life in a positive fashion, as helpful as this might be, but with looking inward and making sure his sin is confessed before the throne of a holy God. David’s point is well-taken. When we are spiritually clean and cleansed before God we are spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally equipped to live with positive zeal. The flipside is true as well: When we are spiritually unclean before God, happiness and joy elude us because we are not living as God desires, but as we desire seeking our truths (which are usually sins masquerading as holiness), but not His truth.
Do you want to possess happiness and joy in your Christian walk more often than not? If so, then give daily time and attention to David’s six principles of joy as they relate to a confessional life:
- Joyful Living Focuses On Praise (Psalm 32:1-2). Praise for what? Praise for a God who forgives a sinner his various types of sin.
- Joyful Living Focuses On The Past (Psalm 32:3-4). What does this mean? It means you learn how a lack of confession of sin breeds inner turmoil because you know your life is out of sync with God’s plan for you to live in holiness.
- Joyful Living Focuses On The Provision (Psalm 32:5). What is the provision for a sinning child of God? Divine forgiveness is immediately, lovingly, and mercifully showered on a confessional saint. That’s you.
To these concepts which help us understand how joyful living and mournful living are intricately and intimately related, David gives us three more to ponder and practice.
Joyful Living Focuses On The Protection (Psalm 32:6-7, 10)
The opening prepositional phrase (עַל־זֹ֡את) ) emphatically introduces us to the result of confession followed by divine forgiveness:
6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely in a flood of great waters they shall not come near him. (Psalm 32).
Mark well David’s focus here is on “everyone who is godly,” which points strictly to those Christians who hear the Spirit’s voice concerning a given sin and do something about it by approaching God in heartfelt confession and repentance. Likewise, “everyone who is not godly,” by means of implication, are not non-Christians, but those saints who are convicted about a sin, who do, in fact, hear the Spirit’s voice and willfully chose to do nothing about it. Put simply, they are convicted but stiffen their spiritual spine and refuse to be confessional. I am sure they have their reasons for holding onto their sin, but those reasons will never hold up in God’s courtroom where He possesses all the facts. Obviously, it is easy to see how a person like this would not know joy because they are like a strong-willed child opposing a parent. That child is never happy, nor is the parent.
David’s positive focus zeros in on the saint who is convicted of a given sin and wastes no time bringing it out in the open before God so spiritual cleansing and restoration of a tattered divine relationship can be repaired by God. To fail to do this, to continue to doggedly cling to a given sin puts a saint in a precarious position wherein God just might be forced to pull back from him for several reason. For one, He is absolutely holy and He does not tolerate or want to be near that which is unholy. Do not forget: the Holy Spirit who seals you and is yours until the day of redemption is just that, holy, and your sin utterly challenges His holiness, as Paul teaches so powerfully in Ephesians 4:25-30. For another, His silence can serve to get the attention of the errant, non-confessional child. Think back to your childhood. If you ever blew it/sinned/disobeyed as a child (again), and your father was markedly and unusually emotionally distant, and maybe even physically removed from you, you got the proverbial message didn’t you?
The Scripture is clear how our sin, as His children, can, and will, eventually move our holy resident to back up from us. Here is one example from Paul’s first letter to the believers in the city of Thessalonica:
Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; 2 for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 4).
Here, the wise Apostle lays out how believers should behave. Their goal, as he states, is to continually pursue practical sanctification or holiness for this is the type of living which pleases God. He then gives two areas where Christians typically struggle: sexual sin and taking advantage of another Christian. Those who purposefully engage in these sins, who willfully chose not to confess them, flirt with a holy Lord who will bring discipline in order to awaken the errant saint. Prior to that discipline, of course, God might “not be found” insofar as He is holy and “pulls back” from you for He finds your sin repugnant (Paul also addresses this motif in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. To align your temple, in which His Spirit resides, with something/someone evil is to challenge Him).
And David is clear, as Paul was later, that discipline will come. This is intimated in the final clause of verse 7:
6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely in a flood of great waters they shall not come near him. (Psalm 32).
“Flood of great waters” is a metonymy of the cause (flood) for the effect (judgement/discipline). God is the Lord of the flood (Psalm 29:10) because He is sovereign, and He can use it for divine discipline purposes (Isa. 28:2; 59:19). For example, where Peter was concerned, that flood took the form of shame over his three denials he knew Jesus during His Lord’s trial (Matt. 26:70-74). Where the non-confessional saint is concerned, the flood denotes some type of event the Lord employs to discipline a saint for unrepented sinful activity.
For those who do, in fact, hear the Spirit’s convicting voice and chose to confess, there is a wonderful promise. The flood of divine discipline will not sweep over them. This fact certainly leads a confessional Christian to experience joy for they know they are making their spiritual Father happy, not sad, in relation to how they pursue after holy living. This protection from discipline is clearly articulated in verses 7 and 10:
7 You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah (Ps. 32).
10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him (Psalm 32).
“You” in the Hebrew text ( אַתָּ֤ה) is an emphatically placed pronoun, and the clause is made even more emphatic by the ellipsis (deletion) of the main copula (the verb “to be”). By so doing, David grammatically underscores here how God is a secret hiding place (which is the emphasis of the Hebrew) to a confessional saint, resulting him being preserved from trouble, and being enveloped by “songs of deliverance.”
What is the trouble, the tight, compression situation which is denoted by the Hebrew, zar? It is trouble related to the discipline of God directed against the sinning, non-confessional saint. You might need to read that one more time to let it sink in. What David is saying should not be missed. A confessional life related to the prompting of God will allow that person to not experience the flood of God’s discipline designed to correct him and wake him up (Heb. 12 talks about God’s discipline of errant saints). Think of Ananias and Sapphira who lied to church leadership in Jerusalem about giving all the proceeds of a costly possession they sold to the new, financially struggling church (Acts 5). God physically ushered them into His holy presence for their flagrant, deceptive, and spiritually dangerous and potentially contagious sin.
Had this carnal, greedy couple been confessional, this flood of divine discipline would have not taken them literally out, and they would have had so much more joy from their obedience to remain true to their word. Had they hidden themselves in Him through repentance instead of hiding in their deception, He would not only have protected them from his discipline, but, as David relates, “songs of deliverance” would have been their tune. What does this mean? One of the by-products of a Spirit-filled, joyous life are spiritual songs which minister to the soul, serving to lift your spirits and give you joy. As Paul states to the Ephesians:
18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (Eph. 5).
I ask you, what song has God given you lately after a time of confession? What joyous tune have you been singing? What spiritual song can you not get out of your mind? Here is one God has given me. [Graves Into Gardens, Elevation Worship]
Yeah, Lord, there is nothing better than you. Why? Because you are a God who forgive His people, restores them, and surrounds them with your rich, abiding, life-transforming mercy:
10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him (Ps. 32).
If you have lost your joy in your Christian walk, if you know God’s disciplinary hand is heavy upon you, if you know that His Spirit is telling you right now what sin is robbing you of true happiness, then I think you know what you need to do. Run to Him. He and He alone will be your hiding place as He forgives you of what you have done.
In addition to this, David turns and gives us a wonderful promise bathed in wisdom:
Joyful Living Focuses On The Promise (Psalm 32:8-9)
What is the divine promise? Here it is:
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye (Ps. 32).
God promises here to show every saint “the way [he] should go,” or how to live a godly live as opposed to a godless one. We find the reality of this promise worked out in the New Testament. Writing to believers, John, the beloved disciple of Christ, remarks,
27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him (1 John 2 ).
The anointing, of course, if the Holy Spirit, who seals us, as we have said, until we see Christ face to face (Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30). He resides in each of us as a divine teacher, showing us how to live holy lives, and convicting us of sin when we sin so we can enjoy an intimate relationship with the Holy Trinity (John 16::12-15). Just listening to this sermon is exposing you to His teaching regarding the importance of confession. Reading your Bible in the morning before work puts His word in your life, causing you to know what sin you must turn from and which road you should walk on to please God. Yes, God is our personal teacher who shows us the right way from the wrong way. Wise, maturing believers listen to Him:
17 He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, But he who refuses correction goes astray (Prov. 10).
15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise (Prov. 12).
God gives us His word He will always teach us how to live for Him; however, we, then, have a choice to make because we have free wills. David covers this reality in the next verse.
Speaking from experience, David gives believers in God some much needed wrap up counsel:
9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.(Ps. 32).
To graphic images arrest our attention. Knowing we are self-willed, sometimes mindless, and usually quite stubborn, David says by way of a paraphrase, “Don’t even think about living like a stubborn horse or mule, who have to be controlled by a bit and bridle so they are useful.” Any saint who lives like this is not going to be joyous at all, but quite miserable because God will be working over-time to control them through a variety of means. Far wiser to use your free will to be supple, teaching, malleable, and confessional before God, especially when He shows you the way in which He desires you to walk. Those who live in this fashion have an inner joy nothing in life can shake for they know they are at one with God.
So, take stock of your life right now and ask yourself some tough questions: Am I being a horse or a mule toward God’s Word? Are my hoofs dug in deep? Have I attempted to throw my rider? Has He clearly told me what I should do or what I should stop doing and I still continue to do it because I am most stubborn?
- Forgive someone who wronged you.
- Be kind toward someone who is not kind toward you.
- Run from a sexual sin you have rationalized.
- Break off an acidic, harmful relationship you have nursed.
- Apologize to someone for something you did or sad which was out of line.
I will stop there because I know you can fill in a few more bullets on your own, right? Believe David. Joy will flood your life when you stop being stubborn and start obeying the clear revelation God has put before you.
Lastly, David returns us to where he started. Rhetorically, this is called inclusion. It is like a beautiful bow wrapped around a wonderful, colorful package you cannot wait to unwrap:
Joyful Living Focuses On The Praise (Psalm 32:11)
When, not if, God forgives you based on your confession, there are three commands you will quickly want to fulfill:
11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! (Psalm 32)
I guess you could say the first imperative is internal: Be glad. Be happy. Be joyous about the fact God has given you a fresh start by forgiving the sin in question. The next two imperatives are external and audible: “rejoice” and “shout for joy.” Translated, get Pentecostal for a moment. Raise a hand, or two, in appreciation to God. Show some emotion, even if you are a quiet introvert. Let others around you know how happy you are that you are forgiven.
If you have got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in your heart to stay (as the old chorus goes), then let that joy out so others can praise God and get joyous too. And just how did you get this joy? Simple, you realized that joyful living is directly related to mournful living where you sin is concerned. And what did you do then? You confessed all that sinful mess to God and He forgave you and set you on your feet again. Now, that is something to be joyous about.