This psalm is a prayer of confession. The psalmist describes Israel’s repeated unfaithfulness and rebellion from the time of the Exodus up to the fall of Jerusalem, and he asks God to once again save His people (47) It is thought possible that the writer was an exiled Levite, who asks God to include him in the salvation of the Israelites (4, 5) i.e. in their rescue from captivity. Almost the whole Psalm consists of a list of Israel’s sins. Yet over and over we see God forgiving and restoring His rebellious people whenever they cried to Him for help. The theme of the psalm could be described as ‘God’s faithfulness and man’s unfaithfulness.’ There is a stark contrast. It is also important to understand that in spite of our unfaithfulness, God sometimes does great things for us anyway, just to glorify His own Name (8). Here are some issues today’s passage surfaces:
Confess your sins: In recent weeks I have been in three different churches where a prayer of confession has been offered early on in the service, and then there has then come the pronouncement of forgiveness in the light of Christ’s work on the cross. I am increasingly seeing how important this is. When we come to Christ we have a one-off’ bath’, and this does not have to be repeated. However as we walk through this world our feet get ‘muddy’ and we need the opportunity for regular ‘foot-washing.’ (See John 13). Personally and corporately it is important to ‘come clean’; to ‘keep short accounts’ with God. We can be ‘honest to God’ knowing that ”…he’s good…his love lasts.” (1) The Message. It is important to come out into the open and not try to cover up our sin. (Psalm 32:1-5). There is no hiding place from God anyway. ”We’ve sinned a lot, both we and our parents; We’ve fallen short, hurt a lot of people.” (6) The Message. The psalmist begins his confession with the sins of his own generation (6), then in (7) he looks over his shoulder as far back as the time in Egypt (See Exodus 14:10-12). In spite of how the people were, God was (and always will be) true to Himself and He brought glory to His Name.
Remember God’s goodness (1, 2; 8-12): Never forget His remarkable acts of deliverance in the past. He is still God and He is always able. How eloquently (9b) speaks of the amazing miracle the Lord performed at the exodus: ”… – no one so much as got wet feet!” The Message. Verse 12 is interesting and instructive. The toughest test of Christian faith does not come in ‘days of wonder’ when everything is going well. It’s easy to sing in the daylight, but what about when you face the dark night of the soul? How are your vocal chords then? When the sunshine is absent and it’s pouring with rain, then what will you do? If you pull the dipstick out of your soul in the midst of great trial, what will be the oil of faith level?
Learn the lessons of Biblical history: Here are two:
a.) Don’t forget God (13; see Deut.8:11-20). If we forget God’s works we will soon forget God Himself, because He makes Himself known through them.
b.) Seek to know and do God’s will (13-15; see Numbers 11 – especially verses 4 and 34/ also 1 Cor.10:6). It is important to know ”his counsel’’ (13b) in our lives and prayers. However much I may think I want it, I don’t want God to give me anything that is not according to His will. I don’t want the ”empty heart”/ the ”leanness” of soul/ even the ‘‘wasting disease’’ that can come in the wake of getting your own way. ”He gave them exactly what they asked for – but along with it they got an empty heart.” (15) The Message.
”…do not seek to impose your will on God; do not insist on anything with too great vehemence; let God choose. Whenever you make request for things which are not definitely promised, ask God not to grant them, except it be for the very best.” F.B. Meyer: Great verses through the Bible, p.233.
The ‘lusts of the flesh’ can exert a strong pull over our lives still. We can only resist them in the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Pet.2:11; Gal.5:16).
Prayer: Lord, let me always be clear about what I should say ‘No’ to and what I should say ‘Yes’ to. Thank you that I am empowered by your Spirit to do both.