A Maskil of David.
1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
In college I used to sing verse 7; this morning I found a short film based on verse 8; here’s Karl Kohlhase with a beautiful version of the whole psalm, using the first verse as a refrain; here’s a quieter version with Sons of Korah; and here’s a gorgeous version with a bit of introduction by Steve Bell.
Looking at this psalm anew, I am reminded to pause when I read Selah, and think a bit before moving on. My friend Rose posted a quote from Mark Twain on Facebook this morning: “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything,” and it took a Selah pause to let that sink in. But I think it’s exactly the freedom that the second verse is talking about when it says there is no deceit in the spirit of the one who is forgiven.
After proclaiming that there is happiness in being forgiven, covered, wrongs not counted as iniquity, David goes into the personal account of his pain when he kept silent. Bones wasting away, groaning all day long, strength dried up; have you ever felt that? Here again I feel David has suffered more deeply than I although I have an idea of this feeling.
I appreciate the Selah. After pausing to think on the pain, we turn to the acknowledgement of sin, the uncovering of iniquity. “I did this, and it was wrong. Please forgive me,” is such a great formula for acknowledging sin! David uses a particular phrase in the end of verse 5: you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Not that the sin didn’t happen but the wrongness of it is forgiven. That is how the freedom comes: in full acknowledgement that wrong was done and yet that wrong can be fixed, can be overcome, can be forgiven by love. Has that happened to you? I think it’s very important that the detail of what I did wrong is spelled out to the person I’m asking to forgive me. I can say I’m sorry and yet not be sure that I’m talking about what hurt the other. Also, when I say what I did that was hurtful, the other can trust that I’ve thought about it from both sides. Genuine care can then flow back and forth and love is encouraged.
Therefore, because genuine repentance brings freedom of conscience and lightness of heart, restoring relationship, let the ones who seek God pray to him asap. When you’ve done wrong, be quick to repent! Then the problems that come (because the sin happened, or because others sin, or just because there are difficulties in this life) are mitigated by the relationship with God: he is my hiding place, he preserves me and delivers me. The short film (above) started with the word “ready” and touched off a chord in me that loves this song sung by Rich Mullins.
The last section of the psalm has God talking: I will instruct and teach you in the way you should go and counsel you with my eye on you! This would be creepy if the relationship isn’t right with God, but the next verse speaks to that also: don’t be like an animal that has to be harnessed in order to stay nearby: stay near to God willingly! Verse 10: “Many sorrows…and steadfast love…” it’s not that those who love the Lord don’t have sorrows but that they also have the surrounding love of God through the pain. So be glad and rejoice in the Lord, David says, for through his forgiveness and leading you are upright in heart!
All thanks and praise to God!