Hope restored.

March 27, 2022

Joshua 5:9-12 | 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 | Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 | Psalm 32

Psalm 32

Beati quorum (Blessed are those)

1 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,
and whose sin is put away!

2 Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt,
and in whose spirit there is no guile!

Hopes raised; hopes dashed.  Hopes raised; hopes dashed.  Hope restored.

When I started reading the first verse of Psalm 32 in today’s Lenten readings, my hopes were immediately lifted and my belief in a kind and loving God felt supported. God forgives my transgressions, how happy/how blessed am I. Because I definitely have transgressions that need forgiving. Hopes raised.

But then in true Psalm whiplash fashion, my hopes were dashed in the second half of that very first verse. “and whose sin is put away.” Because I know that my sin is never put away for very long. It is never long before I transgress again. I guess happiness is not to be mine for very long. Hopes dashed.

The whiplash continues in the second verse. “Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt.” Dare I hope that applies to me? Nope, it seems not, because the second half of the verse seems to have a qualifier. It looks like I cannot have any guile in my spirit if I want God to impute no guilt. Guile: showing skill in achieving one’s ends by deceit or evasion. And although I wouldn’t say that I am particularly characterized by guile, I am by no means free from it.

So, it seems I’m 0 for 2. I am not able to put away my sin for very long or live a life completely without guile. So, I guess I do not get to be counted under the “Beati quorum” – those who are happy/ blessed. Hopes dashed….sigh.

But then I reflected on this for a while. And then I talked it through with my Gary, as I so often do when confronted with the challenge of trying to understand scripture. Maybe God is not being conditional here. Maybe I was reading it wrong. Maybe God’s willingness to forgive our transgressions and not impute guilt (much as it may be deserved) is not dependent on us putting away our sins or not having any guile. Maybe God is the one putting away our sin and guile and choosing not to count it toward us and define us. This really flipped my understanding of these verses. The two halves of each verse are not transactional. Rather, they are a restatement of the same steadfast abiding truth. Both halves of each verse are true and need not cancel one another out. We indeed are happier when we live in right relationship with God and in truer reflection of the Image in which we were created. But even as we inevitably fall short, we never need live without the happiness and blessing of knowing that God’s forgiveness is unconditional and is ours to claim. Hope restored!

Joseph Gomes