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Hiding FROM God or Hiding IN God?

February 29th 2012 by Joel Schultz

Tonight we consider Psalm 32 where King David feels the effects of hiding his sin from God. We do that too, but God is not fooled. He see our sin and desires that we would daily repent and return to Him for His abundant forgiveness. Read or listen to find out more...

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Lenten Midweek 1 – “Hiding from God or Hiding in God?” – Psalm 32 – February 29, 2012

Have you ever played hide and seek? I’m sure you have. How fun to find the perfect hiding place – one so good that by the end everyone playing is trying to find you to no avail – one so good that everyone playing must announce that you are the winner and almost beg you to come out of hiding so the game can start over. That is very fun.

Have you ever hidden from God? That is really not as much fun. There are plenty of examples of people in the Bible who try to hide from God, specifically, who try to hide their sins from God – Adam and Eve in the garden after falling into sin – Judas who goes secretly to the Jews to betray Jesus in our Gospel reading this evening – as well as King David on several occasions. In fact, what he is describing in our Psalm this evening is the difference between hiding FROM God and hiding IN God.

Like God’s people of old, we also excel at hiding from God. I may be able to walk down the street and convince everyone that I meet that I am a good Christian. I am friendly and helpful. I am happily married and have 5 fine sons. I seek to love and care for others. I lead an upright and moral life. I have everything together. Right?

Well, the truth of the matter is that you and I are very much like Adam, Judas, and David. We are very good at hiding our sinful thoughts and actions. You can keep your thoughts of betrayal and adultery to yourself. You can keep your thoughts of coveting and wishing for something that isn’t yours under control. You can even turn gossip into sounding like you desire to help whoever happens to be under your attack. Yes, we can hide our sins from others very well. Hiding from God, however, doesn’t work too well.

Listen to David’s description of hiding from God: “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” (vs. 3-4). David’s point is that he ultimately cannot hide from God. God knows David’s sin and God’s heavy hand of the law weighed down on him. David here is portraying one of the consequences of attempting to hide our sins from God – guilt. We will hear about others consequences of sin in the weeks to come, but guilt is one of the consequences we know very well. It eats at you. It won’t go away.

We may cover it with work or alcohol or whatever distracts, but guilt will not go away. That is God’s Law coming to bear on our lives. It’s uncomfortable. It’s painful. It’s supposed to be, because, God’s purpose is to forgive our sins. But to do that, He has to kill us with the Law first.

But our Old Adam, our sinful nature, just doesn’t want to come clean. We don’t want God to see our sinfulness, so like a child hiding behind his hands, we think that God won’t see our sinfulness. And yet it weighs on us; it holds us down. We may be able to put on a happy face for the day or the week or the hour, but it is always there. And it is always damaging relationships – between us and others and between us and God.

That brings us back to God’s purpose. “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1). The truth is that God is pleased when we confess our sins, so that He can do His work of re-creating us in His image. God wants to forgive our sins more than anything in the world. That is what He lives for. That is what He died on the cross for. He is dying to forgive us. The angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents. That’s you and me.

So that brings us to the question: How does God forgive my sins? He gives His church something called the Office of the Keys. In John 20, Jesus gives His church authority to forgive sinners in His name: “The Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven’” (John 20:22–23).

In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther explains these words: “The Office of the Keys is that special authority which Christ has given to His church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.”

God in His mercy has given the keys of the kingdom to the Church to forgive sins – to open heaven to those who repent and turn to the Lord. In other words, this (church) is the place where God comes to forgive your sins. That is why we come to church at every opportunity, because God promises to be here to forgive. And God does this forgiving in several ways. He forgives your sins through preaching, through the hearing of God’s Word, through the Lord’s Supper, through Holy Baptism, and through two different kinds of Absolution spoken by your pastor.

There are two specific ways that God absolves, or forgives your sins in this place. One you know very well, the other you may not know at all. The first is called the general Confession and Absolution. This is what we do at the beginning of the service each Sunday. I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities . . . and so forth. I, then, as your pastor, in the stead and by the command of Jesus, absolve, or forgive, your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Always remember, this is not my doing; it is God’s doing. That, incidentally, is why the pastor looks different from the rest of the congregation on Sunday morning, because it is not simply member Joel Schultz standing before you, but the man who is called to speak God’s Word to you in His stead and by His command.

The second kind of confession and absolution is called Individual Confession and Absolution. This one you may not know at all or think is simply a Roman Catholic practice. This is when someone comes to the pastor individually and privately to confess their sins. They may have specific sins to confess; they may not. Then, using words almost identical to our service, I forgive their sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Like a treasure hidden in an old shoebox, the gift of Individual Confession and Absolution has been little used for a few generations among Lutherans being reserved mostly for counseling situations. But it is still a good practice and available to the people of God.

Our sinful nature is always trying to hide from God, but God seeks us out. He wants nothing more than to forgive our sins and release us from the pain and hurt that our sins bring with them. So, with King David we might also confess and rejoice: “You are a hiding place for me; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with shouts of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7). And we cling to the good news Paul wrote in Colossians, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (3:3). Flee to God’s mercy. Flee to Jesus Christ and His Word of absolution. Flee to His Word and Sacraments. Hide IN God, not FROM God, and God will forgive you, and hold you in the palm of His hand. Amen.

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