Psalms 1 - 50by Mike Raiter
Many churches no longer practise the public confession of sin. This is a significant loss. Whenever we come together, it is appropriate to remind one another that we gather only by God's grace. He has forgiven us and made it possible for us to enter His presence. Regular corporate confession also gives people an opportunity to acknowledge that they have sinned, whether it is by doing what they should not have done, or not doing what they should have.
Psalm 38 is another one of David's laments over sin. As with Psalm 32, we don't know the circumstances of David's sin. Was it his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), or his faithless taking of a census (2 Samuel 24)? Perhaps it is not identified so that we can apply David's words to our own situation. Our sins might be different, but the consequences are universal.
Initially, David is acutely aware of God's anger at his sin (Psalm 38:1) and is burdened with guilt (v. 4). Both are appropriate responses to sin. However, unlike David, we should not let such guilt overwhelm us (v. 4). Without for a moment minimising the seriousness of sin, or the fact that it may have lasting consequences, we should remember that the blood of Christ is a fountain of cleansing for those who turn to Him (see Zechariah 13:1).
It also appears that David's sense of guilt has affected his physical health. He is suffering from festering sores, back pain, heart palpitations, and general weariness (Psalm 38:5-10). We are holistic beings. When one part of our being is stressed-such as the spiritual, as in David's case-it impacts us mentally and physically.
Finally, David's sin has provided an opportunity for his enemies to gloat (v. 16). Sin impacts our Christian witness. People are quick to find inconsistencies in our life and then point out hypocrisy.
What's the answer for David? Firstly, to be transparent before God: ″I confess my iniquity″ (v. 18). David gives no excuses for his sin. Secondly, to repent: not only does David turn away from the wrong he has done, but he also commits himself ″only to do what is good″ (v. 20).
Unlike David, we know the fullness of forgiveness found in Christ. Yet his psalm remains a model for the kind of confession and repentance that God delights in.
How might Christians take sin too lightly? What does Psalm 38 teach us about the seriousness of sin?
Do you think there is still a place for the confession of sin when we come together as a church? If so, what is the most helpful way to do this?