Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE JOY OF THOSE WHOSE SINS ARE FORGIVEN”

Psalm 32

I would like to beg your indulgence to impose upon you a prescribed course of reading and consideration over the next six or seven weeks. Whatever else you do with respect to the improvement of your mind, your heart, and your soul, please consider my request.

Turn in your Bible to the 32nd Psalm, where you find the words at the beginning of the actual poem, “A Psalm of David, Maschil.” What does Maschil mean? There is some debate, with some good men of the opinion that this is identified as an instructional psalm by the word Maschil. However, more convincing to me is the opinion of the German Lutheran scholar Franz Delitzsch.[1] He was persuaded, and is persuasive in his reasoning though I will not go into it here, that the word refers to meditation, and nothing more.[2] This is a psalm that should be meditated on and that provokes meditation. With that in mind, and having by now found the 32nd Psalm in your Bible, stand and read along silently while I read aloud. While I am reading from God’s Word, I will use a timer to record the amount of time expended to read this psalm aloud, so that length of time will be known to us all:

A Psalm of David, Maschil.

1      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 acknowledged 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.

Exactly 1:32 to read the 32nd Psalm. Perhaps you will need a little more time, perhaps a little less, to read this portion of God’s Word. Is two minutes too long a time to read from God’s Word? I don’t think so, do you? Here is my request: Please read the 32nd Psalm out loud in the morning when you wake up, and out loud in the evening when you go to bed. That should take about four minutes. That’s all I ask, four minutes. For the benefit of your mind, heart, and soul, read this psalm twice a day, a total of four minutes. Surely, that is not too much to ask of you.

My plan over the next six or seven weeks, Lord willing, is to preach messages using this psalm as my text. Today I will bring a survey type of message, covering the entire psalm. Then, on subsequent Sunday mornings, my plan is to preach on short passages within the psalm, usually covering only two verses at a time. As you read the psalm twice a day during this series, and as I bring messages from week to week on the psalm, your comprehension and depth of understanding will deepen and broaden as the psalm becomes more and more familiar to you, and will mature into a rich source of spiritual nourishment and encouragement to you for years to come. All told, the psalm addresses the joy of someone whose sins are forgiven, but there are profoundly different levels and degrees of understanding and comprehension of this joy as it is experienced and as it grows over time, so that what you now know of the joy of sins being forgiven I dare say will not compare to the joy of sins forgiven by the time we are finished with this wonderful portion of God’s Word.

Before proceeding into my outline overlay of the 32nd Psalm, let me read to you some of the introductory impressions of several notable men as they commented on this inspired poem:

·         John Calvin writes: “David, after enduring long and dreadful torments, when God was severely trying him, by showing him the tokens of his wrath, having at length obtained favour, applies this evidence of the divine goodness for his own benefit, and the benefit of the whole Church, that from it he may teach himself and them what constitutes the chief point of salvation. All men must necessarily be either in miserable torment, or, which is worse, forgetting themselves and God, must continue in deadly lethargy, until they are persuaded that God is reconciled towards them. Hence David here teaches us that the happiness of men consists only in the free forgiveness of sins, for nothing can be more terrible than to have God for our enemy, nor can he be gracious to us in any other way than by pardoning our transgressions.”[3]

·         In Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David we find these words: It is told of Luther that one day being asked which of all the Psalms were the best, he made answer, “Psalmi Paulini,” and when his friends pressed to know which these might be, he said, “The 32nd, the 51st, the 130th, and the 143rd. For they all teach that the forgiveness of our sins comes, without the law and without works, to the man who believes, and therefore I call them Pauline Psalms; and David sings, ‘There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared,’ this is just what Paul says, ‘God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.’ Ro 11:32. Thus no man may boast of his own righteousness. That word, ‘That thou mayest be feared,’ dusts away all merit, and teaches us to uncover our heads before God, and confess gratia est, non meritum: remissio, non satisfactio; it is mere forgiveness, not merit at all.” - Luther’s Table Talk.[4]

·         The earlier mentioned Franz Delitzsch writes, “Ps. 32 . . . is the second of the seven Psalmi paenitentiales of the church, and Augustine’s favourite Psalm. We might take Augustine’s words as its motto: intelligentia prima est ut to noris peccatorem. The poet bases it upon his own personal experience, and then applies the general teaching which he deduces from it, to each individual in the church of God. . . For a whole year after his adultery David was like one under sentence of condemnation. In the midst of this fearful anguish of soul he composed Ps. 51, whereas Ps. 32 was composed after his deliverance from this state of mind. The former was written in the very midst of the penitential struggle; the latter after he had recovered his inward peace. The theme of this Psalm is the precious treasure which he brought up out of that abyss of spiritual distress, viz., the doctrine of the blessedness of forgiveness, the sincere and unreserved confession of sin as the way to it, and the protection of God in every danger, together with joy in God, as its fruits.”[5]

·         A British commentator wrote these words in 1912: “It is one of the seven ‘Passion Psalms’ of the Psalter, leading us straight to the Cross, and what it can do for us. It was called by Luther one of the ‘Pauline Psalms,’ meaning that it brought out beforehand the truth as to Divine Forgiveness, which is the central part of Paul’s message. And nearly 1200 years before Luther, it was hung up by Augustine of Hippo at the foot of his own dying bed, that his eye might linger on the words, that show the blotting out of sin by God. . . We find then, here in a word, the Psalmist’s statement about forgiveness of Sin, in Old Testament times. The first Psalm affirms and describes the blessedness of the man who walks with God; the xxxii. Psalm describes the blessedness of the man who is forgiven by God.”[6]

Despite the comments of great thinkers and genuine scholars, be mindful that it is the nature of scripture that blessing can be obtained by even the child as well as the adult, by even the plowman as much as the university professor. To be sure, any of us can grasp the joy that comes to us when we are forgiven a wrong, what with guilt all gone and good friendship restored. Understanding that, reflect with me on the forgiveness of a sinner who has been forgiven by God.

David’s testimonial poem can be arranged under five easy to recognize headings:

First, THE BEATITUDES OF THE FORGIVEN

1      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.

Only three brief comments related to these two verses:

First, a comment about this word blessed. It is a pretty common word in the Old Testament, the Hebrew counterpart of the Greek word that is found in our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. In First Kings 10.8, the Queen of Sheba used this same word to describe her impressions of those who had the great delight of serving in the presence of King Solomon. Here are her words, the Hebrew word in this verse twice translated happy:

“Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.”

Now hear the opening beatitudes of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5.3-5:

3      Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4      Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

5      Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

See how similar they are? In both testaments, blessedness is pronounced upon that person whose sins are forgiven, who is favored with the privilege of communing with God, who has experienced a deep and profound contentment and inner delight. These are three interrelated features of blessedness.

Next, a comment about the extent of the sinner’s forgiveness. Notice that it actually extends to more than just having your sins forgiven. Specifically, it is the forgiveness of your transgressions, the covering of your sin, and not having your iniquity imputed. More on this another time.

Third, there is no guile in the spirit of the forgiven. This is good, since guile contaminates the spirit of just about everyone else, with guile referring to the tendency to twist, distort, pervert, and prevaricate in order to deny guilt, avoid responsibility, and minimize personal accountability for wrongdoing. More about this next Sunday, Lord willing.

Next, THE CONFESSION OF THE FORGIVEN

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 acknowledged 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.

Notice that we find two separate aspects of David’s admission of wrongdoing:

First, there was that time when he refused to fess up and acknowledge his wrongdoing, verses 3-4. In his own words, he kept silent, as do most who are guilty. However, notice what took place while he kept silence, refusing to own up to his sins and wrongdoing in the sight of God. There were definite physical ailments that accompanied the terrible weight of conscience. David then ends verse 4 with the word Selah. Selah seems to have been a word marker to identify a musical interlude, to cue musicians that they were to play stringed instruments while the person reading the psalm aloud stopped at this point, perhaps to provide time for those listening to reflect on what was just read while music was softly playing.[7] Thus, David admits that he for a time did not admit, confessing that he was stubborn to confess, acknowledging that he had refused to acknowledge, and what happened to him as a result. Now, while the music plays in the background, think about that.

Then, of course, he finally acknowledged his sin to God, stopped the futile attempts to hid his iniquity, and purposed henceforth to confess his transgressions unto the LORD, verse 5. The result of his description of his repentance? “Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” Yet another Selah is inserted at this point. Now think about what happens when confession to God takes place. Forgiveness.

Third, THE CONFIDENCE OF THE FORGIVEN

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.

Notice how David by inspiration of God declares that what happened to him can happen to anyone, and that his experience with confession and forgiveness is not unique.

The confidence of the forgiven concerning himself is found in verse 6. Surely, not that David is here overcome with anything like self-confidence or arrogance. He is, however, profoundly confident concerning God’s dealings with a forgiven man. Implicit in this verse is David’s understanding that God is good, that God is accessible to the repentant, and that God is gracious. He knows that God watches over a forgiven man, and that not only will they pray who are forgiven by God in a time when God can be found, but that no calamity is so large that it can come between the forgiven man and God.

In verse 7 David turns his attention from the forgiven man’s own self to the forgiven man’s expression of confidence in God:

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

God is my hiding place. God shall preserve me from trouble. God shall surround me with songs of deliverance. What safety. What security. What reason for soul’s delight. How can anyone think that God forgives a man only to turn him loose and let him go? God protects those He delivers. And since this is a profundity that deserves serious reflection, yet another Selah is inserted. Pay attention to the Selahs as you read the psalms.

Fourth, GOD’S INSTRUCTION OF THE FORGIVEN

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.

Is this not David becoming teacher to his readers? I think not, since David has no capacity to guide all with his eye, something which only the omnipresent and all wise God can do. These two verses are best understood as God’s instructions to those He has forgiven, so listen carefully:

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

The forgiven already knows the arrogance of those who still insist they know enough to direct their own paths, to dictate their own direction in life, and to decide their own goals and objectives. Therefore, the forgiven person has a teachable spirit, and a humble and contrite heart that is responsive to instruction and teaching. He knows he was once lost and blind, but now sees well enough to want the Lord to direct his steps. Even when there are temporary lapses of judgment, God will still do what He has declared. “I will instruct thee.” “I will guide thee.”

Recognizing that we are still prone to wander, God warns the forgiven, verse 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.”

How smart are horses? How smart are mules? I was once told by a jockey, who enjoyed considerable success riding thoroughbreds, that horses are really stupid animals. I have no idea how smart mules are, but God’s Word informs us that neither have understanding. Though I am sure there are exceptions, the general rule for such animals is their reluctance to follow direction without a bit and bridle to control them. Thus, they are generally controlled by means of external measures, and will not come to you of their own will. May I suggest that you not discount the instruction of God’s Word based upon one or two animals you have experienced that seemed to be gentle exceptions, and that you focus on the spiritual truth that is being taught here? God here warns against acting like a brute beast without understanding, governed by urges and appetites unless controlled by bit and bridle. Choose to come near to God. Thus, even we who are forgiven need such instruction.

Finally, PRONOUNCEMENTS AND A PRESCRIPTION FOR THE FORGIVEN

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.

Verse 10 contains serious pronouncements: “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked.” David does not elaborate concerning the sorrows in this life for the wicked, and the unimaginable sorrows to the wicked in the hereafter. He simply states the matter. Do with it what you will and suffer the consequences of your decisions and actions. Just remember that eternity is a long time to be wrong. “But he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.” Think you can trust in the LORD and be disappointed? Think His plan is not to punish the disobedient but greatly bless the responsive? If it is impossible to please God without faith, does it not stand to reason that He is pleased with faith, with trust such as is referred to here? God’s Word is clear.

The psalm closes with the prescription for the forgiven. This is what you who are forgiven are directed to do:

“Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.”

David provides us with three parallels showing the appropriate response in light of God’s great and gracious forgiveness: Be glad in the LORD. Rejoice, ye righteous. Shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart. It is interesting to note that each of these verbs is imperative in form, meaning this response of the forgiven to instruction is directed, is commanded, and is not optional.[8] Of course God would direct those forgiven to be glad, to rejoice, and to shout for joy. Why so? We are prone to wander, and therefore we need to be directed to do the right thing even when we hesitate to obey.

You may have noticed, and Matthew Henry commented long ago, “This psalm, though it speaks not of Christ, as many of the psalms we have hitherto met with have done, has yet a great deal of gospel in it.”[9] That said, be mindful that the forgiveness referred to in this psalm, along with the covering of sin and not imputing iniquity, would not be graciously granted by God to any sinner apart from His anticipation of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross nearly a thousand years after David’s passing. As well, since Christ’s crucifixion and His bodily resurrection from the dead after three days, forgiveness, covering, and not imputing our iniquity to us, is shown in God’s Word to be provided on the basis of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The question proper to ask at this point is what is the purpose of the psalm without specific mention of Christ? To show that God forgives, without here showing the basis of God’s forgiveness. To show the grace of God in His forgiveness, without here showing the means by which He is gracious. And to show the great joy of the one who is forgiven, without here showing the great Object of our faith and affection, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Selah. Don’t you long for real joy? Don’t you wish you were really glad? Ever been so grateful to God that you rejoiced, that you shouted for joy? Perhaps you have never experienced the forgiveness of your transgressions, the covering of all your sin, or the knowledge that your iniquity will never be imputed to you. Just know that though David does not here in this psalm make reference to Him, this is all possible with and because of, and none of this is in any way possible without, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Please, beginning today, read Psalm 32 before you go to bed, and when you wake up tomorrow.

Two minutes at a time.

What a blessing you will be to your children by reading Psalm 32 to them twice a day.



[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Delitzsch 8/16/13

[2] C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT, Vol 5, (Peabody, MA: reprinted by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1996), page 252.

[3] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol VI, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1979), pages 521-522.

[4] Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury Of David, Volume I, Part 2, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers), page 86.

[5] C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, pages 251-252.

[6] J. Elder Cumming, The Psalms: Their Spiritual Teaching, Volume 1, (London: Religious Tract Society, 1912), pages 179-180.

[7] C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, pages 59-60.

[8] John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, Volume 3, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991), page 308.

[9] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Whole Bible, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com



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