Friday, October 23, 2015

How the Psalms Understand and Deal with Human Sin: Pss 32 and 36 as Case Studies

One of the presuppositions of Scripture is that humanity is lost apart from the grace, love, and kindness of God. God’s grace and love manifest most fully in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Messiah. Due to human sin, we all find ourselves living with the fruit of our own actions as well as the actions of others (past and present). Sin manifests itself in guilt, shame, alienation, brokenness, and injustice. God’s mission is to reverse the results of sin by creating a missional people through whom God will bless the nations (Gen 12:3, Exod 19:5–6, 1 Peter 2:9). The Risen Jesus sends us into this world. Paul summarizes the plight and possibility of our world this way: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:23–24).

How do we pray as we seek to live faithfully in our lost and fallen world? Psalms 32 and 36 focus on human sin and wickedness. They address this issue from two different perspectives. Both are psalms of lament, but they have different intentions.

Psalm 32 is a lament for the forgiveness of sin. It serves a key role in the psalter by teaching us how to pray when we as God’s people act unfaithfully and find ourselves in need of God’s forgiving grace. Psalm 32 models a prayer of confession so that we can experience God’s cleansing grace anew and refocus our lives on God’s mission.

Psalm 36 is a lament about wickedness. It is similar to Ps 1 in its stark contrast of two diametrically opposed ways of making it through the world. Psalm 36:1–4 paints a dark and bleak picture of the world and humanity apart from God’s grace. It locates the cause of sin in a self-centeredness that plagues men and women. No good comes from this way of life.

In contrast, the second half of the psalm focuses on the beauty and love of the LORD. Sin, self-centeredness, and alienation do not have to be the final verdict on life. In fact, it is pointless and illogical in contrast to the lavishness of God’s grace, love, and faithfulness that is freely available to all who seek the LORD.

As we reflect carefully on these two psalms in the next two blog post, we have an opportunity to ponder sin on one hand and God’s love and grace on the other. Both are present in the world, but only God’s love will be for all eternity. At this point it is worth reflecting on this question: What would it look like for you to settle the issue of sin and begin to align yourself fully with the love and grace of the LORD?

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