Reflection This Psalm still echoes human thinking that we have to ‘earn’ God’s love and mercy through goodness or obedience. Many people still cling to the idea that God’s love for us is tied to our behaviour: good behaviour is rewarded with God’s love and acceptance; bad behaviour means that God will cast us aside. As a contrast to this, eyes open and taking a hard look at himself, the Psalmist readily admits his sin and begs God’s mercy anyway. Here, the Psalmist’s saving grace is his refusal to let his accumulated sin get between him and God; in fact, it’s his painful awareness of his sin that draws him closer to God.
We often think we can approach God only when we’re “good” and have our lives in order. But it is our sin that God rejects – and never the sinner. Scripture tells us to pray whenever there is the need, and need is at its greatest when we are sinful. In his mercy, God also does not spare us the consequences of sin. He draws us closer, when we might otherwise hide – and I openly admit to having hidden from God on many occasions. However, God allows our sinful act(s) to affect our lives. The consequence of sin is not God’s punishment, but the natural result of our own actions that, in his love, God uses for our good (if we allow him to).
And then – read the final stanza again! What a sudden change there is! Having prayed earnestly and honestly to God, the psalmist is confident that his sorrow will be turned into joy. He knows that his prayer is accepted, and he does not doubt that it will, in due time, be answered and will bring him relief. His prayers were accepted, as our prayers are accepted – in God’s time!
Prayer Heavenly Father, we give you thanks that you hear and answer our prayers, although not always in the way that we ask or expect. Help us to look to you to supply all our needs, according to your will – not ours. Keep us from focusing on the circumstances of our lives, but let us look to Christ as our source of Life and our Healer, our Hope and ultimately our Salvation. Let us pray that we never take your promises for granted, but give you the reverence and glory due to your name. This we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Ann Barton, Secretary/Elder of Whittlesford URC in the Eastern Synod.