David was the sort of young man some parents hope would propose to their daughter. Handsome. Wealthy. Immensely strong physically. Well respected in the community. Musically gifted. Talented instrumentalist. Prodigious composer of many enduring hits. Familiar with the Royals. Deeply religious. Very courageous.
Where would you find such an excellent young man to introduce to your daughter? Well in the Bible actually. She would have to read about him there because he lived a long time ago. We are thinking here of King David. A man chosen to be King because he was a man after God’s heart as Samuel told King Saul, 1Samuel 13:14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” BUT, he was human. He didn’t always live as he should have lived. He sinned against God and against the people he should have been protecting.
PSALM 32. The blessing of forgiveness
David composed this Psalm which focussed on the theme of forgiveness. He could write about it because he had experienced the blessing of forgiveness personally. We are not told exactly whether this Psalm was written as a result of David’s sin with Bathsheba so we will leave that aspect until Psalm 51 which was written with that in mind.
He began the Psalm outlining the blessing that forgiveness brings to those who receive it. Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. We now come across some of the words we looked at in previous articles in this series.
“Forgiven” is the word “nasa” discussed previously. The transgression had been “lifted up” or “taken away” from him so that he no longer bore the guilt (and the shame) of it. Many people over the ages have been familiar with the words of John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress. It portrays the moment when Christian in the story comes to the cross. Bunyan wrote, So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back; and began to tumble, and so continued to do so until it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.” Shortly thereafter, Christian sang his song of deliverance: “Thus far did I come laden with my sin, nor could aught ease the grief that I was in, till I came hither. What a place is this! Must here be the beginning of my bliss? Must here the burden fall from off my back? Must here the strings that bound it to me, crack? Blessed cross! Blessed sepulchre! Blessed rather be the Man that there was put to shame for me.
Since David wrote his Psalm and Bunyan wrote his famous work, millions of people have known the experience of a burden being taken from them when they turned to Christ as Saviour. In fact it was not unusual to see people come to the Healing Service at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, obviously very burdened. What a joy to see so many of those folk leave the service after receiving prayer, with a burden obviously having been lifted from them. Many later testified having received such a blessing during the service.
“Covered” is from the word “kasha” meaning to “cover up”. David doesn’t mean that he tried to cover up or cover over his own sin. Rather as he confessed his sin to God it was as though God covered it over so that it was no longer in His sight. In fact the same verb is used in verse 5 where David explicitly said that he stopped trying to cover up his sin before God, Psalm 32:5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity. As David uncovered his sin before God, God “covered it over” as He forgave him. As we remarked before, it is probably true to say that the only sin God cannot “cover over” in His forgiving love and grace is the sin we refuse to “uncover” before Him in repentance and confession.
David further explained the blessing of God’s forgiveness using different terms in verse 2, Psalm 32:2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. By repenting of his sin before God and asking for His forgiveness David had known the blessing that God was not holding those sins against him any longer. But it needed on David’s part a transparency before God so that there was no deceit in his spirit. God is never deceived by human deceit and David had to become honest before God to receive His forgiveness. (We note in passing the statement in Proverbs 28:13, Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. It is the same word that is translated in Psalm 32:1 as “cover”.) Sin needs to be uncovered before God to receive His mercy.
Did this come easily to David? No! He took his time to be honest with God and he suffered as a result. Psalm 32:3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away (became brittle, HCSBible) 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. He knew he had sinned before God but he wasn’t willing to bring his sin before Him. He suffered the debilitating physical and emotional consequences.
The great change came in his life when he told God about his sin. Psalm 32:5 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. David in this verse used three different words to describe various aspects of evil-doing, namely sin, iniquity and transgressions. It was as though he was saying that no matter what form the sin took, God’s forgiveness was available to deal with it. But he had to acknowledge it, uncover it and confess it to the Lord.
It is true that God as the Omniscient One knows everything about us including the sins we have committed outwardly in our attitudes and actions and inwardly in our thought life. So we don’t tell Him about our sins to let Him know about them. He already knows. But He has given us free-will and we can choose to confess our sins to Him or not. In confessing our sins to Him (uncovering them before Him) we are allowing Him to forgive us and to help us by His grace. David experienced a great release in doing that as the Psalm shows, “and you forgave the iniquity of my sin”. It was from that experience of having his own sins forgiven that he could proclaim the blessedness of forgiveness from God in verses 1 and 2.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER by Groups or by Individuals. (Added on 14th Sept 2016)
Ques 1).In verse 1 David wrote of the blessing of having his sin “forgiven” (“lifted up” or “taken away” ) and “covered over” when he confessed them to God. Is that how you see your sins or do you think they still weigh heavy upon you and are obvious to all, especially God Himself? In what ways could you come to have the freedom David expresses here?
Ques 2). Do you think John Bunyan’s description of Christian being released from the burden of his sin (in the words above from Pilgrim’s Progress) are a great exaggeration or are they realistic in today’s world? Why do you think so?
Ques 3). In verses 3 and 4 David wrote about the burden that came from not confessing his sin. What effects did it have on him? Do yo think those same effects apply to people today who refuse to acknowledge their sins? Any personal experiences you would be willing to share?
Ques 4). What do you see in this Psalm as the great blessings that flow from being willing to confess our sins to God?
Ques 5). How would you read aloud verse 5 in your translation to emphasise the great release David experienced as he confessed his sins to God? Which translation below do you think expressed it most forcibly?
(ESV) Psa 32:5 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.
(The Message) Psa 32:5 Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to GOD.” Suddenly the pressure was gone– my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.
(NIV) Psa 32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
(HCSB) Psa 32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and You took away the guilt of my sin.
(CEV) Psalm 32:5, So I confessed my sins and told them all to you. I said, “I’ll tell the Lord
each one of my sins.” Then you forgave me and took away my guilt.
(TLB) I finally admitted all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, “I will confess them to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
(AMPC) I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord [continually unfolding the past till all is told]—then You [instantly] forgave me the guilt and iniquity of my sin.
(ERV) But then I decided to confess my sins to the Lord. I stopped hiding my guilt and told you about my sins. And you forgave them all!
Jim Holbeck. Blog No.014. Posted on Saturday 5th March 2011