Psalm 32: the gospel of forgiveness
A Maskil of David.
(1)Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
(2)Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
(3)For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
(4)For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
(5)I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
(6)Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at the time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.
(7)You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
(8)I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
(9)Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
(10)Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.
(11)Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
The Hebrew word "Maskil" or "Maschil" means "contemplation" or maybe "instruction." Some say a Maskil is a musical term, and that this is a instructional sermon set to SONG! I suppose it could be both! Regardless, this is the first of thirteen psalms labeled the same.
Some Bible scholars link Psalm 51 and Psalm 32 together. Psalm 51 is the song that David penned after his sin with Bathsheba and against her husband, Uriah. Some believe that Psalm 51 was written first as a confession and where he promises to lead sinners to God, and Psalm 32 is David's attempt to keep his promise. This song was also sung by Jews on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, traditionally a day of fasting and prayers of confession.
"Probably his deep repentance over his great sin was followed by such blissful peace, that he was led to pour out his spirit in the soft music of this choice song."
My friends, this beautiful psalm is a song of forgiveness and one to be meditated upon. The psalm has three "selahs" or musical pauses. Within these pauses the singer would be reflecting upon his or her own heart and speaking to God there. Like little prayer breaks!
"Among all the psalms there is none which touches deeper things in the life of the soul or more perfectly reveals the method of Jehovah in sin, sorrow, and guidance. He is ready to pardon, able to deliver, and willing to guide."
--G. Campbell Morgan, English preacher and Bible teacher, 1863-1945
Paul writes in the New Testament book of Romans about good works versus righteousness and he shares David's words from this psalm;
David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them."
As David learned the true meaning of forgiveness, he taught us here about grace. The message in this psalm is truly the message of the Gospel.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
an act that goes against a law, rule or code of conduct; an offense. A crime. A sin.
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (v1-2 NKJV)
I love how Pastor David Guzik explains these first two verses in his blog (Enduringword.com). I am just going to include his explanation here:
"David spoke of real forgiveness by the declaration of God, not merely the quieting of a noisy conscience or an imagined peace with God. This was a standing with God declared and given, not earned...
"In these first two verses, David uses three words to describe sin.
--The idea behind transgression is crossing a line, defying authority.
--The idea behind sin is falling short of or missing a mark.
--The idea behind iniquity is crookedness or distortion.
"In the first two verses, David uses three words to describe what God does to put away sin.
--the idea behind forgiven is the lifting of a burden or debt.
--the idea behind covered is that of sacrificial blood covering sin.
--the idea behind does not impute is bookkeeping; it does not count against a person."
Seriously, my friends, King David makes it sound easy! We are all sinners. We know this. But defining our sins and speaking our sins is a whole different story. Am I right?
Here's the thing, and the take away from this psalm, I think, we can never enter into that Holiest of Holies place (i.e. the very presence of God) unless we can speak our sins. And I don't mean reciting Paul in Romans. If you've grown up in the church it becomes monotonous to say it, "I am a sinner...we are all sinners. Confess your sins to God."
But to actually open up our hearts and speak our sins to God is something else entirely.
After all, verse 3 and 4 talk about what it was like for David prior to admitting his sin. The Lord's hand was heavy upon him and even his bones were weighed down. Can't you just feel that? The heavy weight of sin. But sometimes we don't even know our sin is weighing us down, we just feel the weight. Or maybe we don't even really feel the weight until it's gone...
When I kept silence, my bones wasted away through my groaning all the day long.
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me:
my moisture was changed as with the drought of summer.
Then, the miracle of what we believe. The great key to life as a Christian and often the thing that is hardest for people to do and even to understand.
Confession-- forgiveness-- grace.
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, "I will confess my rebellion to the Lord." And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
Have you felt the sweet forgiveness of Jesus in your own life? After pouring your heart out to the Father and begging of His grace, that sweet relief that comes over your soul, like the arms of a loving Father. As we see in this psalm and will see when we study Psalm 51 and read about David's sin and great pain over what he had done, David felt this relief.
When I think of Old Testament times and sin, I think of lots of blood and animal sacrifices, maybe seclusion and rituals, but no healing. No relationship. Reading the Law can make us feel that God was withdrawn from His people, unattainable, unapproachable, especially as we know Him now.
Does David teach us something else entirely?
How can David speak of that peace that we now feel that comes with the grace of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross?
He does, and it truly speaks of his closeness to God the Father. David slipped up and found himself far away from the shelter of God's presence. But he found his way back and knew the relief of forgiveness. We can feel it as expressed in this psalm.
One who knows no sin, knows not the sweet fragrance of forgiveness!
"Self righteous Pharisees have no portion in this blessedness. Over the returning prodigal, the word of welcome is here pronounced, and the music and dancing begin!"
--Charles Spurgeon, 1834-1892
Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them...
David speaks of a deep relationship with God. He knew when he moved away from God because of sin; he knew when God hid his face as a result, when God allowed bad things to happen as a result of David's sins. And, David knew about God's forgiveness. He knew because he was close to God.
When David came clean, God cleansed him, and then he wanted to share with others. Psalm 51 is a great example of David walking this road. After his confession and asking for forgiveness, he says these words to God:
Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.
Psalm 51:13-15 NLT
David had such a connection with God, and he felt that relief of forgiveness, so much so, that all he could do was share it with others. For David, part of the deal with God's forgiveness was a need to make sure those around him knew. I feel like when we're in heaven and we get a chance to ask David what it is like to have his dirty laundry aired for generations to read about, he might say, "I'm fine with it! It's part of the deal!"
Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgement.
I love the New Testament story of Jesus and the Last Supper and this amazing, and similar, conversation He had with Peter:
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.
Jesus is referring to Peter's denial of knowing Him; not once but three times. Let Jesus's words strengthen you today.
We screw up, yes.
But when we confess, God is faithful to forgive.
And every time this happens, our faith grows.
Then David and Peter (as commanded by Jesus Himself!) were to strengthen those around them, other believers.
It's a hard one, isn't it? Christians tend to hide their sin pretty good. But that is not what God calls us to do, is it? He calls us to shout about forgiveness, not about our sin per se, but about how God is faithful to forgive.
The next part of the psalm is so amazing. It's God, He takes the pen!
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
God's advice: Don't run from me. Come to me.
Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
If this is not a perfect example of God's love, right? He doesn't force us to Himself; He doesn't force confession. He doesn't force a relationship.
God wants us to seek Him out. He wants us to come to Him of our own free will. He truly is a Good, Good Father.
This is where people say, if God truly loved His children, then He wouldn't want any of them to perish. Which is true, He doesn't want any of His creation to perish.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
2 Peter 3:9 NIV
But even with the love and grace and forgiveness and patience of the Father, many still will not choose Him.
Know that God is good and faithful. Always.
Let us not lose hope in this world filled with uncertainty and unrest. Let us remember that God is faithful.
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
And finally, David's final words are filled with joy and a call to worship:
Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!
Father in heaven, with so much worry and division and stress in our lives right now, it's hard to rejoice. Help us to rejoice. Father, help us to sing. And in our worship of you, may we find hope and peace and joy. Thank you Father for your faithfulness and your promises and your forgiveness. Thank you that you made a way for each of us to enter into your presence and to know you. You truly are the Good Father. Please, in your will, heal our land, protect our loved ones, and strengthen your church.