Psalm 32; Ezra 3; Acts 27:39–28:6

Psalm 32: Although he’s speaking in the third person, I suspect the psalmist is writing about himself, admitting that he has sinned, but now having been forgiven has again found joy:
Happy of sin forgiven,
absolved of offense.
Happy, the man to whom
the Lord reckons no crime,
in whose spirit is no defeat.” (1,2)

One of the marks of humankind is that except for sociopaths, we are are conscious of having sinned—especially against someone we love—and we relentlessly seek forgiveness. So too, our relationship with God. This is why I believe that worship can never begin without confession.  As the psalmist notes here, having confessed to God clears our hearts in order to experience the joy of true worship. Worship with out confession is a shadowed affair.

Our psalmist also observes that keeping our sins hidden rather than confessing, is an exhausting process: “When I was silent, my limbs were worn out.” (3) Conscience, especially before God, always weighs heavily when we are in a state of unconfessed sin. Joy is blocked by guilty emptiness. Life becomes as dust:
For day and night
Your hand was heavy upon me.
My sap turned to summer dust.” (4)

This psalm also reminds us that confession must be a conscious decision; we must take the initiative to confess: “My offense I made known to You/ and my crime I did not cover.” (5) No dissembling or excuses are allowed. We must echo the psalmist with a direct admission before God, who grants us immediate forgiveness: “I said, ‘I shall confess my sins to the Lord,’/ and You forgave my offending crime.” (6) But absent that admission there is no forgiveness.

There is a sudden shift in the psalm at this point and our psalmist becomes an instructor in wisdom, wishing to convey to students—or perhaps his sons— the insights and joy he has discovered for himself by virtue of confessing his sins:
Let me teach you, instruct you the way you should go.
Let me counsel you with my own sight.” (8)

I think teaching our children about sin and confession is a key element of effective parenting. Too many people in our culture are completely unaware that they commit wrongdoings and too few are aware of the necessity of confession and forgiveness s being the key to a more joyful life.

Ezra 3: Seven months after the Jews return, they all gather in Jerusalem to make sacrificial offerings in the vicinity of the still-ruined temple. Even though they are back in their homeland it is not necessarily sake and, “they were in dread of the neighboring peoples, and they offered burnt offerings upon it to the Lord, morning and evening.” (3)

But an altar out in the open air in view of potentially hostile neighbors is insufficient. As a result, the people now give freewill offerings to rebuild the temple. All Levites twenty years old and older are given oversight on the temple rebuilding project. [We will get to the details of this project in the next book, Nehemiah.]

The temple foundation is laid and there is worship and great rejoicing: “the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals…” (10) This worship brings us one of the most joyous statements in the OT that echoes down through the centuries as “they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,

“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” (11)

However, our authors note that not everyone shouted for joy: “many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house.” (12) These are the people who remembered what had been before their and their father’s apostasy has led to the temple’s destruction. The bittersweet weeping competed with the joyful shouting “so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away.” (13)

This verse reminds us that worship can also be a cause of regret as we fully realize what the consequences of our sins have wrought. We may be forgiven by God and by other people, but we must also confront the damage we have done—seen here literally in the ruins of the temple. But too often we prefer denial to truly facing up to what our actions and words have wrought.

Acts 27:39–28:6: The ship’s passengers can see a beach off in the distance and they head the ship in that direction. But rather than making it to the beach, the ship hits a reef and it’s every man for himself. Knowing the fate that would await them if prisoners escape, the soldiers want to kill them. “But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan,” (27:43) and everyone makes it to shore safely.

They have landed on Malta where “the natives showed us unusual kindness” (28:2) and build a fire for the wet and shivering refugees. Ever helpful, Paul gathers a bundle of sticks “when a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.” (3) The natives’ first instinct is to believe Paul is a murderer and that he has just received his just punishment via snakebite. However, instead of swelling up and dropping dead, nothing happens. Consequently the natives begin to think he is a god.

Everything that has happened since Caesarea: on the ship, the storms, the getting lost, the shipwreck, the rescue, the thwarted execution of the prisoners, the fire, the viper are all evidence to our author that God fully intends for Paul to make it safely to Rome. Moreover, these events are not coincidence; they are a stark reminder that God is fully in charge no matter how awful the circumstances might be.



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