The Imposter Psalms

Feb 9, 2023 | Articles, by Guest Writers, Marrow Ministries Free Content

How to Read the Bible Without Feeling Like a Fraud

The Psalms have been described as the songbook of God’s people – so why do we so often feel like we can only sing them with our fingers crossed? The “blessed man” of Psalm 1 is constantly captivated by the law of the Lord; my own heart is fickle and my mind easily wanders. In Psalm 9:1 David’s “whole heart” gives thanks; my own gratitude is often only partial and always fades with time. Psalm 26:1 cries out for the Lord to “vindicate me … for I  have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted the Lord without wavering.” Do I really need to explain how disastrous it would be for my vindication to be based upon my own wavering integrity? And those are just three examples before we even make it through Book One of the Psalter.

So what do you do when the Psalms make you feel like an imposter or when they even put you to shame? 

  1. Repent. Anytime God’s Word shows us ways we are falling short in our walk with the Lord is a time to repent of our sin. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines repentance in Question 87: Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin,  and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin,  turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after new obedience.

Notice that according to this faithful and biblical guide to the Christian life, grief and hatred of sin is not incompatible with God’s grace and mercy. It is always gracious to be given an opportunity to repent of sin because sin is far worse for us than the grief that leads us to repent. When grace is found on the far side of grief, grief itself becomes grace.

If the Psalter exposes inconsistencies and remaining pockets of indwelling sin, don’t be shocked. As the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith asserts in Chapter 15 paragraphs 4 and 5,  “repentance is to be continued through the whole course of our lives,” but while “there is no sin  so small but it deserves damnation … there is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation to  them that repent.”

As the Lord works in our hearts, often through the very moments we are most tempted to waver in our trust, he is cultivating an increasing conformity to the Psalms that once made us feel like pure impostors. Click To Tweet

  1. Rejoice. The duties, commands, and examples of Scripture do not serve merely to convict us of how far we have to go, they encourage us with how far we have come. Immediately after sober warnings regarding apostasy from the faith, Hebrews 6:9-10 assures the reader that “in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things – things that belong to salvation. For God is  not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in  serving the saints, as you still do.”  

While no sinner in the midst of their sanctification should presume to claim without caveat they have “trusted the Lord without wavering” (Psalm 26:1), it is a profound grace to recognize the progress that has been made and the growth that has been fostered. As the Lord works in our hearts, often through the very moments we are most tempted to waver in our trust, he is cultivating an increasing conformity to the Psalms that once made us feel like pure impostors.  This is the pattern of James 1:2-4: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The trials of life test our faith; the testing of faith produce steadfastness; steadfastness makes us more complete. God, who “began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). As we find ourselves along that path, we always must remain cognizant of how very far we have to go, but we should also rejoice over how very far we have come. The grace of God is at work in our lives through the power of the Spirit to be redeeming and renewing us, day by day. What a motivation to rejoice: the omniscient, omnipotent, and infinite God is at work in my small, sinful life – leading me more and more away from sin and into increasing conformity to his ways. 

  1. Remember. When we have repented of our sin and rejoiced over our God-given progress, a  fundamental incongruity remains. We are not able to sing these Psalms, even after decades of spiritual growth and on our very best of days, with our fingers completely uncrossed and without feeling like a fraud – until we remember the gospel. Then we remember that there is one who perfectly treads all paths of righteousness, never sitting, standing, or walking with the wicked (Psalm 1:1). There is one who always in all his heart gave thanks (Psalm 9:1), who can truly say to his Father, “vindicate me … for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted the  Lord without wavering” (Psalm 26:1). Jesus Christ is the perfect “blessed man” of the Psalter,  the one who always delighted in the law of the Lord, fulfilling it perfectly for us (Gal. 4:4, Rom. 5:19). He is the Second Adam who succeeded for us in all ways the first Adam failed (1 Cor. 15:20-23, 45-49; Rom. 5:12-21). He is the true Israel, the fulfiller of God’s covenant in our place  (Matt. 2:13-15, Hos. 11:1).

Yet the gospel also tells us though Christ was “like a tree planted by streams of water,” he was crucified on a tree where he cried out, “I thirst” (Psa. 1:3, Gal. 3:13, John 19:28). He was treated like wicked chaff in our place. The blessed man became a curse for us (2 Cor. 5:21). On the cross, Jesus suffered what our sins deserved so we could be given what his righteousness earned.

Do the Psalms expose us as imposters? Yes – even after we have repented over our sin and rejoiced over our sanctification. But they don’t put us to shame. Because we remember there is one who took our shame upon himself, who can sing every Psalm without ever crossing his fingers, and “…whoever believes in him will not be put to shame” (1 Pet. 2:6b).

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