Psalm 32:1 - Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lhm.org.
In England, during the early days of World War II, few neighborhoods suffered more than the East End of London. The targeting of the East End was so notorious that, in 1940, when Buckingham Palace was targeted, Queen Elizabeth said, "I'm glad we have been bombed. Now I can look the East End in the face." Around 80 tons of bombs fell on that neighborhood, destroying 3,000 homes, leaving 550 residents dead, and injuring another 400. But while their suffering was immense, their resilience was more so. Historian Daniel Smith, in his book The Spade as Mighty as the Sword, reports that when Queen Elizabeth visited the East End three years later, in 1943, among the ruined streets, bombed schools, and tattered store fronts, she saw rows and rows of potatoes, allotments for carrots, and trellises towering with runner beans and peas. In the devastation, they had planted "victory gardens." They had covered their ruins with the hope that their suffering was only a brief episode in a bigger story of victory.
A war-torn neighborhood covered in gardens is an apt image for the covering described in Psalm 32. Forgiveness is a covering, but not a "cover-up." It's not concealing wrongdoing. The poet prays, "I acknowledged my sin to You. I did not cover my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD'" (Psalm 32:5). God neither ignores nor excuses our sins. But He does cover them. Like a garden in a bomb crater, forgiveness sends a double-message. First, it says, "You've hurt people, damaged property, broken relationships. I won't accept it. It's wrong." But it also says, "I'm going to respond, not with vengeance, but with creative action to heal what you have done. I won't hold this against you, but will work toward reconciliation with you, to write a new story with you."
God's forgiveness in the crucified, risen, and returning Jesus—like a victory garden—is forward looking. It's a creative act of resistance to the current state of devastation caused by sin and spiritual warfare. It's not easy work, but it plods along hopefully toward a brighter future after the war. Garden researchers Twigs Way and Mike Brown in their book Digging for Victory, recount how, early in the war, British citizens mailed seeds to Allied soldiers interned in prisoner-of-war (POW) camps on enemy soil. Letters from grateful POWs describe vegetables flourishing in the most unexpected spaces. In one camp, 5,000 tomatoes were grown. However, a letter later in the war shows how the imprisoned saw this activity: not as an end in itself but as a step toward returning home to celebrate a victory. In September of 1944, a gardening POW wrote from Germany: "Although we are planning our spring cropping for 1944, we feel justified in hoping we may not be here to harvest all the crops."
Forgiveness is vital in God's ongoing battle against sin and death. But being forgiven isn't the goal—it's being home. God is sowing forgiveness with His eye on the end of the war—toward a harvest of restored relationships with us and all humanity—a return home with God in the New Creation, a re-planted Garden of Eden.
WE PRAY: Dear Father, gather a harvest from the seeds that were sown, that we may be fed with the Bread of Life, even Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
1. How would you explain the difference between a "covering" and a "cover-up" (Psalm 32:1, 5)?
2. Who is someone who has modeled resilient, forward-looking forgiveness for you?
3. Read Psalm 32 aloud. How would you adapt the prayer to make it your own?
To Download Devotion MP3 to your computer, right click here and select "Save Link As" or "Save Target As" or "Download Linked File As"