Day 159: Psalms 31-34; Penitential Prayer

Psalm 32 Photo Credit:

Psalm 32
Photo Credit:

The idea of Penitence is not a popular one in today’s culture.  Penitence is the act in which we humble ourselves before God and confess our sins to Him.  For some this is boiled down to simply admitting that we did something wrong.  This is not something that we like to do in our culture today.  Our leaders emulate a culture of blame and pointing fingers, never truly admitting that what has happened and what was done was in any way their fault.  We see this time and again, in tragedies and in recent governmental scandals, that everyone always points fingers until someone (who usually isn’t actually the culprit) takes the fall.  Even in this time, we usually hear some sort of thinly veiled apology, but never a request for forgiveness… never a penitential attitude… and certainly never the willingness to forgive.

Still others think that this is a wholly unnecessary part of the Christian life in that we are forgiven people that have been washed in Jesus blood.  For them, Christian freedom is the freedom to do whatever one wants because of the forgiveness that has been given to us.  While this notion of sin and forgiveness does pick up on the Truth that we are both sinners and we are forgiven, it would be entirely wrong to say that as Christians we are able to do whatever we wan t because of our forgiveness.  Paul picks up this theme throughout the book Romans, touching on this particular topic in Romans 6.

Psalm 32:8 Photo Credit:

Psalm 32:8
Photo Credit:

For others, it is a humbling act in which we lay open our lives before God on a continual basis understanding that the truth of the Gospel is not solely about the condemnation of sin, but about the grace that is received in Christ.  In the same way that we have a time of confession and assurance of our pardon in worship services, we do this in our everyday lives as well.  This is an act of remembering the reality in which we live, on that is overflowing with grace!  We also remember the reality from which we came, one in which we were trapped in sin and, as Psalm 32 says, it was causing us to waste away to nothing.  David writes though that those who confess their sins are blessed because they are forgiven.  He goes on to write that they are continually blessed because in a penitential attitude, people also find the instruction of the Lord and learn how to live their lives in a way that honors and glorifies Him.  In that we can rejoice, as David writes, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.  Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

PSALM 31 is a Psalm of lament, again written by David.  The words of verse 5 are also words that Jesus spoke when He was on the cross, “Into Your hands I commit my spirit…”  Interestingly, there is a bit of a contrast between this Psalm and the attitude of Jesus on the cross.  Psalm 31 has an imprecatory nature swirling around it, however Jesus prayed for those that crucified Him asking the Lord to forgive them rather than punish them.

PSALM 32 is both a song of thanksgiving and a penitential prayer.  David is thankful for the forgiveness He receives, but also continually prays for forgiveness for all that he does in his life.  This Psalm has a didactic quality to it as well, teaching of the benefits that come along with submitting ourselves to the Lord.

PSALM 33 is a Psalm of praise that is written anonymously.  Apart from being full of praise and adoration for the Lord, this Psalm also exhibits trust in the Lord because of all He has done.

PSALM 34 is a Psalm of Thanksgiving that is also written as an acrostic.  David wrote this Psalm when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, a narrative recorded in 1 Samuel 21.  This Psalm is also didactic in nature, teachig and telling of all the many ways that God has been good to David and how He has protected David.

Day 72: Judges 9-11; Abimelech and Jephthah

Throughout Israel’s history there are good leaders and there are bad leaders.  One thing that I have noticed in this is that those leaders who are good are leaders in whom the Spirit of God dwells.  There is no mention of the Spirit of God being anywhere near Abimelech, but when Jephthah leads Scripture tells us that the Spirit of God was upon him.  Abimelech does a great evil, killing many of the people of Israel, his own brothers even.  Jephthah does a great deed against Israel’s enemies striking a great blow and subduing them.

What strikes me as I read this is the nature of the reality that we live in post-Pentecost.  In Acts 2 we read that the Spirit of God was poured out on all who believe.  We believe that this is true even now, that those who believe in Jesus have the Spirit of God inside of them working in them and through them.  We ourselves are not like Abimelech, trying to grasp at power through evil means, but instead find ourselves filled with the Spirit, able to do great things for the Kingdom of God.  I wonder sometimes whether we really believe this, or whether its one more story that we remember sometimes.  We have received the Spirit of God in our lives and it works in ways that we don’t even know and are not capable of understanding.  However, it also works in us and through us, pushing and driving us to do the Lord’s work in our lives, transforming us into the Image of Christ each and every day.

Where is God in this story?  Well… it seems that God is above all these things, working out His will and Justice in due time.  And He is also working in the people of Israel, especially in the son of a prostitute.  It seems that this is something of a common theme with Tamar and Rahab also being counted among them in times past.  Yet we see here once again that God uses a broken person to bring about His will and show again that He is faithful to Israel and to the Covenant.  There is nothing that can keep God from using us, not even our horrible, sinful past.

I wonder, what are your thoughts on the final verses of Judges 11?  This is a hard story to read, and it doesn’t often sit well with us.  What do you think of Jephthah’s vow?  Do you think he should have kept it?

I found this map on Judges Bible Study, I think that it does a good job of putting some location placement within the nation of Israel.

Map of the Judges