Psalm 32: the gospel of forgiveness
Psalm 32 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. Selah (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. Selah (6) Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a 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. Selah (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 I 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! ESV
The Hebrew word for “Maskil” or “Maschil” means “contemplation,” or possibly “instruction.” Some say a Maskil is a musical term, and that this is psalm is an 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, 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 (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.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
My friends, this beautiful psalm is a song of forgiveness and one we can meditate on even today. The psalm has three “Selahs” or musical pauses (also called “Interludes” in other versions). Within these pauses the singer would be reflecting upon his or her own heart and speaking to God there. Like little prayer breaks.
Paul writes in the New Testament book of Romans about good works versus righteousness and he shared David’s words from Psalm 32:
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." Romans 4:6-8
As David learned the true meaning of forgiveness, he taught us about grace. The message in this psalm is truly the message of the Gospel, although David had never heard it.
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. Romans 3:23
Transgression (noun): an act that goes against a law, rule or code of conduct; an offense; a crime; a sin (dictionary.com)
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. Psalm 32:1-2 NKJV
David’s sin/transgression/iniquity is forgiven. Not by anything that he did, but through the grace of forgiveness from the Lord. The Lord “covered” David’s sin, “forgave” him, “does not impute,” or does not hold it against him.
Seriously, David makes it sound so easy. We are all sinners. But defining our sins and speaking our sins is a whole different story.
Here’s the thing, and the takeaway from this psalm, we can never enter into that Holiest of Holy place (ie. the very presence of the God) unless we can speak our sins.
To actually open up our hearts and speak our sins to God is not an easy thing to do. But 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, even his bones were weighed down. Can’t you just feel that? The heavy weight of sin. Sometimes we may not even know our sin is weighing us down, we just feel the weight of something. Or maybe we don’t even really feel the weight until it is 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. Selah Psalm 32:3-4 ASB
But . . . 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.
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. Selah Psalm 32:5 NLT
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, David felt this relief.
When we think of Old Testament times and the confession of sin, lots of blood and animal sacrifice come to mind. Maybe even seclusion and rituals. But was there healing? That sweet relief? Was God approachable, especially as we can know Him now? If people felt the weight of their sin, did the animal blood sacrifice lift them free again? That is hard to comprehend.
But David teaches us something else in Psalm 32.
David speaks of that peace that we now feel from the grace of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. How is this possible?
David speaks of a deep relationship with God. He knew when he moved away from God because of sin; he knew when God turned His face and allowed consequences to happen. And then, David knew about God’s forgiveness. He knew because he was close to God.
When David confessed, 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, 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.
Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. Psalm 32:6 NLT
In the New Testament story of the Last Supper, Jesus has a similar conversation 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. Luke 22:31-32
Jesus is referring to Peter’s denial of knowing Him; not once but three times. Jesus is offering forgiveness before the event even happened.
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, by telling their story.
Christians tend to hide their sin. But that is not what God calls us to do. He calls us to shout about forgiveness, not about our sin, but about how God is faithful to forgive.
The next part of Psalm 32 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. Psalm 32:8
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. Psalm 32:9
If this is not a perfect example of God’s love! He doesn’t force us to Himself; He doesn’t force confession or a relationship.
God wants us to seek Him out. He wants us to come to Him on our own free will. He truly is a good, good Father.
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
But even with the love, grace, 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 God’s faithfulness.
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. Deuteronomy 7:9
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! Psalm 32:11
Father in heaven, with so much worry, division, and stress in our lives right now, it’s hard to rejoice. Help us to rejoice. Help us to sing. And in our worship of you, may we find hope and peace and joy. Thank you for your faithfulness, 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. We love you. Amen.