"Here I come, ready or not!"
"Come out, come out wherever you are!"
We all know those words are from the game hide and seek. My two young boys love that game - they could quite easily play it over and over again - each time hiding in exactly the same place. What's obvious when you play with them though is that they want to be found, and they squeal in delight when I pretend not to see them behind the curtain (where they have hidden for the last 20 times) before they jump out and shouting 'boo' - unable to wait for me to actually find them!
Psalm 32 tells us that we too love playing hide and seek with God. But when we play it, it's a very different game. Unlike my kids, we do not want to be found. We hide from God because we know that we have done wrong and that he does not tolerate the evil things we say, think and do. We are slow to run to him for forgiveness.
It's a very dangerous game. In the short term, we run the risk of hardening our hearts and dulling our conscience. Without forgiveness, we face the punishment of death on the final day of judgement.
A few years ago, I read a horrendous report about a 4-year old boy who had died after climbing into a tumble dryer while playing hide and seek. He had locked himself in and by the time he was found he was dead. Police would not say whether the machine was on when he was found.
David, who wrote this Psalm, is looking back to a time when he had sinned and then hid from God. Instead of immediately stopping and saying sorry to God, he ran away and hid. It was a stupid and a dangerous thing to do.
But God had come looking for him. God graciously, kindly, lovingly showed him that hiding from Him was making his life miserable. Finally, he did confess his sins to the Lord and find forgiveness. Looking back, he is very glad that he had been found. It is an amazing thing to be forgiven and have your sins completely dealt with.
He wrote this psalm so that we do not make the same dangerous mistake he had made. He wants us to swiftly run to God for forgiveness when we sin. He wants to teach us the truth of Proverbs 28.13:
"Whoever conceals [hides] his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy."
If you are taking notes, here are my three headings:
1. Hiding from God is stupid (v1-4)
2. Hiding in God brings safety (v5-7)
3. Hiding with God prevents sorrow (v8-11)
So first, Hiding from God is stupid
Look at v1-4:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Transgressions, sins and iniquities are slightly different words describing what is basically the same thing: not obeying God. It's what Adam and Eve did back in the garden of Eden when they ate the fruit of the one tree they were told they were not to touch. It's what David did on that famous occasion when he spotted his neighbour's wife Bathsheba while she was having a bath and decided he wanted her, even though she was not his wife. He went on to commit adultery with her, killed off her husband and then pretended nothing had happened. In his own words from v3, he 'kept silent'.
We all do it too, it make no difference who we are. We all live as if God didn't exist. But he does exist and as our creator, he tells us how we should relate to him and to one another. We should love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind. We should love our neighbour - and his wife for that matter - as ourselves. But we don't. And when we know that we've messed up we try to hide.
I remember one of the first times we played hide and seek with my oldest son. We were in a wide open field surrounded by old trees thick enough for a grown man to hide behind. I was 'it' and started to count. My son ran right to the middle of the field, covered his eyes with his hands and shouted, 'ready'! It was hilarious. It's funny when a 2 years old believes that 'if I can't see you, you can't see me'. But we do exactly the same thing with God. And it's not funny. It's tragic. God knows all and sees all. So it is stupid to try and hide from God.
David's experience of what it is like to hide from God is further evidence that it's a stupid thing to do. What happened to him when he remained silent? Life was awful– there is the inner turmoil of a guilty conscience and outward, physical expression of the sickness that's inside him! He couldn't get away from it – it happened day and night. I'm This isn't saying that anytime we feel like this we must have sinned. Jesus made that clear. However, it's an accurate description of the struggle a spirit-filled believer goes through when they have sin that has not been dealt with. And who caused this to happen? God did! It is his heavy hand that is pressing down on David.
It's a loving thing to do. In his grace and mercy, he did not give up on David or allow his stubborn refusal to ask for forgiveness to be the final word. He helps him to see that to hide from him is stupid. Just like he did when Jonah ran away and ended up in the belly of a whale. Just like he did when Hosea's prostitute wife Gomer ran off with other men, only for God to show her that life is not better with them. Just like the in the story Jesus told of the younger son who discovered when eating pig food, that freedom from his father was really slavery.
Hiding from God is stupid. But we do it. Again, and again, and again. Why do we do it? Maybe we don't want to stop what we are doing. Or we are too proud to agree with God that what we have done is wrong.
So what about you? You'll see at the end of v4 the word 'selah'. While we're not exactly sure how, it most likely indicated a pause in the psalm. A time to stop and think. So let's do that.
Is there something you've done that you needs to be sorted out? Are you hiding from God right now? Stop immediately and say sorry to God.
Have you had a similar experience to David? Can you look back to a time when you did wrong, kept silent and knew the heavy hand of God on your life as a consequence? Have you learned how stupid it is to hide from God? Are you hiding from God right now? Stop immediately and say sorry to God.
My second point is, Hiding in God brings safety
Look at verse 5:-
I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord",
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
David looks back to the point when he had been brought to his senses and came clean to God about his sin. The staggering thing about his experience is that his sin was totally dealt with – even a sin as serious as his. All he had to do was come to God, rather than hide from him. There is no mention of a long list of demands before God would have him back. The moment he stopped hiding from God, the wonderful blessings of forgiveness that we saw in v1&2 were his.
That cannot be because he was a wonderful and godly example to us of someone who repents in the right way. He was stubborn, and hadn't come willingly, or quickly. The focus here is on God and what he has done: God forgives, God covers sins, God decides not to count our sin against us. We simply trust God to forgive, to cover, not to count.
That's certainly how Paul understood what was going on here when he quoted v1&2 of this psalm in chapter 4 of his letter to the Romans. That part of his letter is all about how God treats us as if we had done nothing wrong – not because of anything we have done (what he calls our 'works') but simply because we had brought our sin to God for him to deal with it for us. And there is nothing he cannot deal with.
Do you believe that? Maybe you feel something you've done is so bad it cannot be ever forgiven. Maybe you still feel guilty for something you did many years ago. What do you do when you realize that you've messed up? Where do you go when you've failed? Where do you turn when you've hurt those closest to you? Turn to the Lord and trust that he can deal with every type of sin – no matter how small or large.
Lets read on to v6-7:-
Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
Verse 7 is where I got the title for this point. David says that in the Lord he has found a hiding place. Instead of hiding from God, he now hides in God. But, what does that mean exactly?
The image here is of a terrible flood that threatens to overwhelm you. It's a symbol of God's judgement for your sins. David is confident that there is only one way to escape the trouble. Only one way to be rescued. And that is by turning to the Lord himself and to be protected by Him on the day of judgement.
There is an urgency with this. V6 tells us we should offer this prayer where we ask him to forgive and protect is NOW – at a time when he may be found. Stop playing hide and seek with God – it's a dangerous game.
Psalm 32 assures us that he is able to protect us from the coming judgement. Now that Jesus has come we know more how exactly it is that God does this. God sent his son Jesus to earth to die for us. When Jesus died on a cross, God punished Jesus instead of punishing us. Jesus took on himself the judgement our sins deserve, so that by trusting in his death for us, we are justified. That is how God covered our sin. So when we die, our sin will not be held against us.
So turn to him, trust in him, hide in him and find forgiveness now and confidence that you have nothing to fear on the day that will surely come when he will judge the living and the dead.
Finally, my third point is Hiding with God prevents Sorrow
Look at v 8-11:-
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
David obviously wrote this psalm so that we do not make the same dangerous mistake he had made. He does want us to run swiftly to God for forgiveness when we sin. But it is not just a case of feeling sorry. Our behaviour also needs to change. We are to join sides with God – instead of hiding from him we (and I may be stretching the alliteration somewhat here, but its never been my strong point) we are to hide with him. We are to change the way we live so that we behave in the way God wants us to. V8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.
He warns about being like a stubborn horse or mule who are 'without understanding'. What does this mean? The point about the way an animal makes decisions is that they are controlled simply by the consequences of their actions. Which way they go depends on a simple system of rewards and punishments. A carrot dangling in front and a whip for their behind.
We are to be different. We are to repent of our sin, not just the consequences of our sin. We are to obey not out of a sense of duty, but because we see that our God hates our sin and because of how much it cost Jesus on the cross to put it right and because we love God who has shown us underserved mercy.
We must stop our game of hide and seek and stick to the path of trusting in the Lord. He wants us to see that God's way is not just the right way, it is also the best way. If we continue to hide from God and so reject his offer of forgiveness all that we can look forward to is sorrow. But if we turn to God, he surrounds us with his unfailing love and verse 11 is the result. We are counted among the righteous and upright in heart. (though it doesn't mean we won't face suffering in this world), our future is one of gladness, rejoicing and shouts of joy.