God's Way Is the Best Way
Reflecting on the First Sunday in Lent: Three Days after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 32
Old Testament: Exodus 34:1-9, 27-28
Gospel: Matthew 18:10-14
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not stay near you (Psalm 32:8-9).
I am thankful for the heritage handed down from my parents and the things they tried to instill in us, their children. They had their struggles and weren’t perfect, but one thing my parents did constantly well was to point us to Jesus as the best and only way to live.
Both my parents had excellent singing voices and they passed their music talent to all five of their kids, to some degree or another. Music, therefore, was an avenue for them to speak into our lives, as well as into the lives of others. Their song was “God’s Way is the Best Way (his way is the right way)” and the song they designated as our family theme song was, “Living for Jesus (a life that is true).”
All of my siblings remember with now-ironic fondness the numerous times when we would come home to visit our parents only to be coerced into singing “our family theme song” in front of my father’s congregation. The patience of the good people in those churches (St Louis Southwest and Hutch Bethany) who sat and listened to us was a gift of grace. May God bless you and restore your sanity!!
Both of my parents died younger than we had hoped. My Dad died first and then my Mom died eight years later.
At my mother’s funeral, with all the siblings and grandkids sitting in the first few rows of the church, someone played an audio recording of my parents singing. Sure enough, it was “God’s Way is the Best Way.” While staring at the shell of my mother in her open casket, her voice started speaking to introduce the song. She noted that this was one of the family songs that they hoped would be true of their family. Then they sang the song as beautifully as I ever remembered.
Wow. The power of having your parents speak so clearly to you and sing so beautifully to you from the grave was overwhelming for me. The reminder about the best way was quite emotional. Their song was a powerful, formational event in my journey of faith.
All five of their children and their spouses love Jesus and are serving in the church today. Thank you Mom and Dad, you are right, God’s way is indeed the best way.
Psalm 32 also is powerful, impactful song with a similar message as that of my parents’ song. It was written by David who consistently invited us to peer into his sometimes painful journey with God. It seems that Psalm 32 can only happen after Psalm 51. In Psalm 51 David lays his life very open to God. He confesses his sin before God and asks God for forgiveness and cleansing. And then it seems as if Psalm 32 springs forth out of David’s confessional posture of Psalm 51.
The message of Psalm 32 is easy to say, but obviously much harder to live out. Why don’t we just live openly and cleanly before God? Do we really think we can successfully hide anything from him? And if we could actually hide something from God, why do we think that would be better for us? Maybe the the reason these questions remain unanswered is because we are not really ready to give up the sin that lies within us. Maybe we really do not want God to completely cleanse and lead our lives. We love our sin, and don’t think it is really that bad after all. And we do not trust God that our lives would be better without our sin.
Psalm 32 (v. 1-2) starts out with David outlining a blessing. What a blessing it is to live a life knowing there there is nothing between us and God. Forgiveness and the grace of God to not count our sins against us is truly undeserved favor. God is so good to those who bring their sin to him. He is ready and willing to take it all away. Knowing that there is nothing left in us which is hidden from God is a true feeling of peace. Maybe the best way to describe it is “Shalom,” that state of existence that occurs when everything is right with us and God.
In contrast, v. 3-4 describe the folly and consequences of trying to be silent before God. Interestingly, such an attempt manifests negative symptoms in our physical bodies. The wrong relationship with God results in bones that waste away and the sapping of our strength. We were not made to handle such stress as keeping our sin from God. We cannot handle it for long, it rips us up on the inside.
Verse 5 returns to the benefit of acknowledging our sin to God. David’s words match those of John in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Isn’t confession so good for the soul? Confession before a God who is faithful to forgive brings a freeing of release. And the forgiveness of God is complete and deep enough even to take away the guilt of our sin. Praise God.
There is no reason for us to be like the horse or the mule who must be controlled by the bit and bridle, because unlike them, we are able to understand the instruction of God. Let us follow the teaching and counsel of our loving God.
This gives us much about which to rejoice!!
PRAYER: Almighty God, whose beloved Son willingly endured the agony and shame of the cross for our redemption: Give us courage to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
More from Jay Sunberg can be found here.