Psalm 32 — Blessed are the Forgiven

32 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

2 Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.

4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.

5 I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

6 For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.

7 Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.

8 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.

9 Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.

10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.

11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.

The mystery of Christian joy is forgiveness of sins. The wicked do not have Christ nor His blessed benefits. Man sins. He knows he sins, but he is disposed to cover up his sins for fear of judgment. Regardless, judgment comes, because justice is not blind from the only perfect Judge. Sin is killing us, and all religion only sells a deficient salvation. Preachers, unsure of the power of the Gospel, are often fearful of offending sinners. With compassion in his later years, David taught in Psalm 32 what he had learned, firsthand, about the way of freedom from sin. John later stated it succinctly for the church, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).”

Psalm 32 is an instructional song (Maskil) on how the godly remedy their sin problem, contrasted with the unrepentant way of the wicked. A threefold claim introduces the Psalm (vv. 1–2). Second, the Psalmist’s conviction turned to a threefold confession (vv. 3–5). Third, David’s confession of sin becomes a threefold confession of deliverance and preservation (vv. 6–7). Fourth, YHWH promises to instruct His people, and He warns against taking the way of the wicked (vv. 8–10). Finally, a threefold statement of joy closes where the Psalm began (v. 11).

Psalm 32 is identified as a wisdom Psalm with a reflective lament and thanksgiving. Others see a penitential Psalm following Psalm 51. That Psalm is David’s prayer of contrition, following his adultery and murder in the house of Uriah the Hittite found in 2 Samuel 11–12.

David made a claim regarding the relationship between sins forgiven and the blessed life (v. 1). How blessed…is a beatitude introduction using the ashre formula seen in Psalm 1. Of course, it catches our attention because of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5–7). He whose transgression is forgiven is happy indeed. A transgression is an act that defiantly crosses over the line into rebellion. Sin is covered by God, who made Christ to be made sin for us. Sin is a defective, missing of the mark while going astray. Sin is lawlessness. Jesus, made to be sin, was punished under the wrath of God in our place. The blood of Christ, the blood of the new covenant (Mt. 26:28), is the price paid — the redemption for the forgiveness of our sins (Col 1:14). Our joy and blessing have come at a very great price. The righteous offered His life as a ransom for many of the unrighteous. Paul quotes 32:1–2 in his argument for justification by faith (Romans 4:5–8).

David used synonymous parallelism to immediately restate his claim (v. 2). The Lord, YHWH, does not impute iniquity on those justified by Christ’s blood. Impute is a bookkeeping term that means to record on a ledger. Iniquity is a distorted, twisting of the truth. For sinners covered by the blood of the Lamb of God, slain from before the foundation of the world, there is no record of their innumerable distortions. Yet, our record of sins overwhelms me, but You forgive our acts of rebellion (Ps 65:3).

With self-deception, David and many of us, add another crime to the triangle of sin. Deceit is driven by a demonic spirit determined to cover up transgressions, sins, and iniquities. Deceit compounds the magnitude of our rebellion. I once met a man named Ahmed, who I shared Christ with following his sincere statement of goodness getting him into heaven. A multitude of paths to heaven warranted a universalistic salvation in his theology. Augustine warned that the beginning of knowledge was first knowing thyself to be a sinner.

David reflected on his unrepentant silence and coincidental suffering (v. 3). The Psalmist entertained the spirit of deceit, and he deceived himself regarding sin in his life. When I kept silent about my sin is the tragic strategy for many. Unconfessed sin and feigned communion can kill you (1 Cor. 11:30–31). My body wasted away was expressed by my groaning all day long. Unrepentant silence was an unacceptable solution. The one who covers his transgressions will not prosper, but whoever confesses them and forsakes them will find mercy (Proverbs 28:13).

David attributed his physical weakness to God’s chastening him (v. 4). For Thy hand was heavy upon me. Here, David directly addressed YHWH. He reasoned his maladies were the result of God’s displeasure. God’s hand is often attributed to deliverance, but it is His hand pressing down on the Psalmist. Sapped vitality is his description, with the qualifier being an oppressive summer heat fever. Selah is the musical cue to pause, which appears three times in this Psalm.

The point for us is to really pause and consider David’s theology about God chastening His own people for their sins. Job offers the counterbalance to the idea that God only punishes the unrighteous. Therefore, it is important for us to withhold judgment on others for suffering sickness, illness, or loss because we do not know how God is working in a situation. In the case of oppressive governments vs. terrorists who wish to overthrow them, we must not consider either party righteous by their respective actions. God will ultimately judge.

David remedied his malignant condition by confessing His sin to God and receiving forgiveness (v. 5). The sin triad is repeated from v. 1. David broke the silence about his sin but let us never forget YHWH’s gracious prompting through the prophet Nathan in the case of Uriah’s household. The psalmist’s use of verbs is instructive: acknowledge; do not hide; confess; and forgive. It is to YHWH that we confess, for the Law instructs, “…when an individual becomes guilty…he must confess how he has sinned (Lev 5:5). James adds the New Testament directive to the righteous, “So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed (James 5:16).” YHWH is the One who forgives all your sins and heals you of all your diseases (Ps. 103:3). Selah again asks us to pause and meditate on what we are learning.

David addressed YHWH and called for God’s people to confess their sins to avoid His judgment (v. 6). Everyone who is godly should pray to YHWH, the provider of the sacrificial lamb and acceptable sacrifice; in the name of Jesus, whose blood redeems; and by the power of the Spirit, who takes and applies the blood to the doorpost of our souls. What can wash me clean? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! So often, time needs to be redeemed, for in a time when You may be found, suggests we should remember the fleeting nature of our physical existence here. The people in Noah’s day lost track of time (Gen. 6–9); for God’s judgment was pronounced against them. A flood of great waters did not reach Noah and his family in the ark of their salvation. The mischief of sin should not be toyed with for any length of time because sin has consequences, immediate and delayed. As trial judgments occupy the pages of history, we must recognize how great a sin problem we face as individuals, congregations, and countries, today. The future can be read in Revelation 6–18, so how great is our salvation?

David addressed YHWH and declared God’s delivering and saving actions of him (v. 7). You are my hiding place allows us to see a link back to Psalm 31, where YHWH is a rock, stronghold, and fortress (31:2–3), also being our secret place and shelter (31:20). Trouble looms, but YHWH preserves. The imagery is beautiful in the saying, “You surround me with songs of deliverance.” Joy in the blessed life is accompanied by songs of the Savior. Songs of joy are our strength. Enemies surround us, but so do the songs of deliverance. Immersed in the Psalms!

David recorded YHWH’s promise to teach His people the way of righteousness (v. 8). The threefold promise of God to instruct, teach, and counsel helps with our understanding of Psalm 32 being didactic. God’s eye is upon us with omnipresent attention, so let us cry out, “Teach me Your ways, O God!” Jesus is the way (Jn 14:6) taught to Israel in every generation. He is the way of salvation but also the way to abundant and eternal life. Who will refuse His counsel? If you reject the Holy Spirit, you have rejected Jesus Christ. If you reject Jesus Christ, you have rejected God the Father.

David illustrated the antithesis of being teachable with the asinine behavior of beasts of burden (v. 9). Stubborn resistance adds no value to your relationship with your Master. To plunge into sin, as a war horse in the passions of calamity, is to prove one’s hard heartedness and stiff-necked nature. Sin needs restraint, graciously provided by the Holy Spirit (2 Thess 2:7). Playing avoidance with the God of all grace demonstrates our lack of understanding. Weary? Sin laden? Heed the call to come and learn from the Lord Jesus.

David contrasted the two options for being and living before a righteous God (v. 10). Retribution is the lifestyle endured by the reprobate, for many are the sorrows of the wicked. Faith has its rewards. Why do God’s people sing joyful songs of their Redeemer? His lovingkindness, covenant love, envelopes them; or as Paul said, “The love of Christ constrains me.” The reader/singer must decide what to do. There are two ways, two lifestyles, and two must become one. Choose life this day, the day of your salvation, and trust Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Confess your sins to God and repent of your wicked ways while it is yet called today. He is faithful and just to forgive you. Trust Him, confess to Him, and see how great a salvation is found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

David closed in like expression to his beginning with a call for God’s people to rejoice (v. 11). Joy, joy, joy is the conclusion to the blessed Psalm of the forgiven. Rejoice, and again I say rejoice for the fruit of His Spirit is joy from a pure heart. May your joy be complete in Him!

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

June 21, 2021

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher