The Joy of Godly Sorrow
Text: Psalm 32
Proposition: The experience of being blessed is the result of repentance for from this place comes the joy of restoration of relationship with the Lord.
Introduction: It was 1776, the preamble to the American Declaration of Independence made this grand statement, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.." We tend to focus on the last part of that, the inalienable rights of life, liberty and especially the pursuit of happiness. I think these words express the desires of all peoples and races, we all desperately want to be happy. So we pursue those inalienable rights with all our being. We pursue happiness in drugs and sex and possessions and experiences. We have joy rides and joy sticks, we have our pride and joy in all kinds of things. But what we discover again and again is this pursuit of joy is extremely transient. The medical world tells us that joy is really just the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. The effect is short term and the cause needs to be continually pursued. But look again at the first words of that Declaration, it said, “they are endowed by our Creator…”. What if happiness or joy is really meant to be something much more lasting, something that comes to us rather than originating in us, something that is endowed to us by our Creator. This morning we are going to look at a Psalm written 1000 years before Christ was born and yet it talks about this same endowment of joy. Turn with me to Psalm 32.
I. Blessed, the Joy That The Creator Designed.
Some people believe that this Psalm was one that was often recited by the people of Israel on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It was the day it which the nation of Israel as a whole recognized that their relationship with God was in right standing. So Psalm 32 begins with what could only be called an Old Testament beatitude. Instead of, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth’, this is, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” It would seem to be saying that the sense of being blessed, that experience we call joy or happiness, comes from a place of restored relationship. On a smaller scale we see that when relationships between us and others are restored, when transgressions are forgiven, sin covered, iniquity not imputed or charged against us. Lovers reconciled, parents with their children restored, friends forgiven. But in the larger picture this is speaking about our relationship with God. We are endowed with joy from His Spirit to our spirit when relationship with Him is restored. That joy is called the fruit of the Holy Spirit, it’s what shows up in us when we are blessed because of a right relationship with God. When that relationship is restored or even put in place for the first time because of faith in Christ, our conscience knows it full well, we don’t need to pretend to be right with God, we simply are. We rest in the fact that we are right or righteous before God. As such there is no guile or deceit in that, we aren’t hounded by feelings of hypocrisy. When that sense of hypocrisy lifts from you there is joy, a joy that seems to come from outside of me to me. That’s what blessed looks like, the joy of restored relationship with God, that’s where it came from, but how do I get there?
II. The First Step Towards Joy Is To Agree That Trying to Hide Is Killing Me.
Look at how David puts this, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.” It’s like hidden sin goes to ground in our hearts. We once lived in an area that had a lot of Muskeg, a moss like ground covering that when it catches fire is extremely hard to put out. In burns under the surface and though it looks like the fire has been dealt with, on the first windy day there’s a wisp of smoke, then more and then the fire is back. David is saying that when I stuff things down and refuse to speak to God about them they have a way of continuing to smolder. They wasted away his vitality, physically it drains you. You groan when it seems there is no cause to make you groan because it’s coming from something deeper inside. The first step towards the joy that marks a restored relationship is to recognize that hidden sin is killing me. It’s like God’s hand is heavy upon him, like a surgeons hand pressing deeper to extract this parasite of sin that’s found it’s way into your heart.
To conclude that thought the word Selah is put in. It is thought to be the equivalent of a musical cue to rest, to note that a change in tempo or key is about to take place, and it does. Look at how joy comes to David, look at how he experienced the wonder of being a blessed man.
III. Being Blessed Begins When I Acknowledge My Sin to God.
David says, “I acknowledged my sin to You and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah” Did you notice that the same three words are referred to here again, transgression, sin and iniquity. I don’t think they are supposed to be synonyms. Transgression is rebellion, sin refers to exactly what I did in rebellion and iniquity refers to the guilt I incurred as result of rebellion. So in essence David is saying I acknowledged to God the thing that I did and the guilt that I incurred and feel. I have not tried to hide that but instead I have agreed with God that I rebelled against what He asked me to do. Instantly, when I did that, God forgave my guilt. 1 John 1:9 says it in a different way, “If we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God wipes the record clean and when He does that there is a great restoration of relationship between He and I and His Holy Spirit impacts my spirit with joy. Again Selah marks the end of this thought, the music lifts yet more.
IV. Being Blessed Is More Than Feeling, It’s a Place of Great Well Being.
David begins with this next thought, “Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.” So knowing that God will wipe the record clean everyone who is godly ought to do just that, seek God’s forgiveness. Sin has a way of building up, snowballing, coming at us like the waves of a flood. Let everyone who is godly pray and God will break the power of a sin tsunami and you will be safe. So then he adds this, “You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.” To be blessed is more than just feeling, it’s about a restored relationship with God, a relationship that is like a place where we find refuge, safety in a fallen world, comfort from truth that are like songs of deliverance. In short it is a place of great well being, that’s what blessed means. It has a happiness that is not transient, a joy that comes to us rather than from within us.
Again Selah marks a transition. There is a new voice that now speaks. It is God’s voice. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Do you see the action words that describe God’s response…instruct, teach, counsel. Certainly the Hebrew language uses restatement to make it’s point clear, but it also uses an escalation of thought to do so. God instructs us and then in that adds insight and then to that counsels us. It gets closer and closer with each action and all governed by His omniscience. That surely is great place of well being.
It’s like the pilot in thick cloud approaching an airport late at night. He speaks with the radar controller who can see him on screen. He takes instruction as to route, he takes insight as to the conditions and he takes counsel as to how to descend to a safe landing. There is great well being in that. That’s the promise of God to you! Lastly David cautions us against being like those who argue and fight God at every step believing they can do it on their own. That kind of stubborn pride creates sorrow. “Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked but he who trusts in the LORD, loving kindness shall surround him.” If you will trust then loving kindness will surround, that too is God’s promise to you.
So David closes with this command, “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones; And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.” If you have that right relationship with God, if you are quick to confess your sin to Him, if you have been brought to that place of great well being, if you would say that you are that blessed person of Psalm 32, then be glad in the Lord, rejoice everyday you righteous ones and shout for joy all you who are upright in heart. You are blessed!