Word on Wednesday – by John Mason
‘True Joy…’ – October 24, 2018
According to the advertisements for beds and commercial drugs, we live in an age where people find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. There are many reasons for sleeplessness – anxiety, stress, fear, noise, hormones, wakeful babies. Today I suggest another: a lack of joy.
Psalm 32:10-11 says: Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
Following his affair with Bathsheba, the psalm is a reflection by David – for his own benefit and for ours too. We can learn from his experience and discover the joy he found.
Honesty. Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered, he says. Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit (32:1).
David knows we live in a moral universe and that we make a mess of our lives when we flout God’s moral law.
When asked why he wrote Lord of the Flies, William Golding responded, “I believed then, that (hu)man(ity) was sick – not exceptional humanity, but average humanity. I believed that the condition of humanity was to be a morally diseased creation and that the best job I could do at the time was to trace the connection between the diseased nature and the international mess humanity gets into”.
Our natural inclination is to cover up our sin, calling our failures missteps and misdemeanors. David tried to cover up his affair until Nathan the prophet confronted him.
These days we attempt to excuse ourselves by adopting a Freudian approach – blaming our parents; or a Marxist response – blaming capitalism; or a medical excuse – blaming our DNA.
However our sense of guilt remains, as did David’s: While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer (32:3-4).
Despite his public persona, David felt the emotional pain of anxiety, guilt and depression. If we are going to find peace of mind and heart, it is in the mind and heart that the change process must begin. Indeed, if we are to deal with our guilt we need to turn to the one person who has the cleansing power to erase sin’s stain: the Lord himself.
David speaks of his transgression being forgiven or lifted from him, and of his sin being covered. Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, he writes.
He continues: Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin (32:5).
We live on the other side of the cross of Jesus Christ. In Romans 4:6-8 Paul quotes David as he points out that God in his mercy declares righteous everyone who turns to him in faith. We are saved by grace, not by any good within us, or by any good works we do, or even by partaking of The Lord’s Supper.
Assured of God’s forgiveness David was filled with joy: Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance (32:6-7).
Guidance. God now speaks: I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you (32:8).
Most of us have regrets in life – opportunities we messed up or relationships we should never have begun.
God tells us that he is not only ready to forgive us, but that he instructs, teaches and counsels us. This is a picture of parents teaching and tenderly guiding their growing children.
Significantly, God’s guidance involves our minds: Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you(32:9). God doesn’t use a bit and bridle with us: he treats us as human beings made in his image!
He instructs and teaches us through his Word. While God is interested in the life choices we make, he is more concerned about how we live. The Bible’s commands and guidelines focus, for example, on our attitudes to marriage and family, on our relationships with people around us, our use of money in caring for the poor and the spreading of God’s gospel.
When we truly turn to the Lord and experience his love and mercy we begin to find true joy that enables us to sleep at night and awake each morning with a new hope.
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com