Fourth Sunday of Lent 2019: The Psalm Passage – The psalmist is added to the story of the Prodigal Son

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Psalm 32: 1 – 2)

This psalm is not going the direction that you think it might be going – unless you are familiar with Psalm 32.

While I kept silence, my body 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. Selah” (Verses 3 – 4)

In a way I am glad it turned that corner. I am not in a place where a “praise, praise, praise” would be well received right now. But this I can dig into!

Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.” (Verses 5 – 6)

These verses remind me of what I said yesterday – that for me coming to the Divine as the prodigal son returned to his father confessing his failings and sin is like a sigh of relief that I am “home.” Well, considering that this psalm was picked out to accompany the story of the prodigal son, it is no wonder if fits in well!

You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah” (Verse 7)

I do not think the prodigal son realized & understood what he father had done for him, sheltering him from the harsh realities of life and watching over him, guarding him, and guiding him. It is only when the prodigal son comes face to face with the larger world that he realizes that he was in a better place at home, and that he should return there.

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.” (Verses 8 – 9)

It is natural to wonder, beloved reader, who the “I” is here. It would be easy to assume it is the Divine speaking through the psalmist. But here I agree with the commentators that it is the psalmist asserting his experience and ability to teach, having been taught by the Divine. And keeping within the theme of the prodigal son, it could be said by extension that it could be the father in the story who is again given the opportunity to instruct his younger son, and to continue to teach his older son.

Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart. “ (Verses 11- 12)

Was the younger son “wicked”? Was the older son “wicked”? Was the father a poor example of parentage by not reining in his younger son? Or for not showing his older son sooner how much he meant to him, his father? Beloved reader, I do not think any of them are. The father rejoiced that his lost son was found. The prodigal son rejoiced that he was welcomed back into his home. And I would hope, beloved reader, that the older son/brother did rejoice that his younger brother was safely home, and that his father did love him.

I said yesterday that the Pharisees and scribes had no corresponding role in this story. I am still not convinced that they do – but maybe they should. To return to their loving Father the Divine after “squandering” their learning and intellect on wayward and close-minded thinking. To continue to hold out hope that those who seem lost will find their way back home. And to realize that those who have been lost need to be welcomed by the “older” believers/siblings. But being who they are, I doubt they learned the lessons. But you, beloved reader and righteous ones, you can learn and mend your ways, and rejoice and shout for joy! Selah!

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