Psalm 32 Commentary

Psalm 32 Commentary: Meditating on Forgiveness of Sins

Open your Bible to Psalm 32.

Psalm 32 is a reflective or meditative psalm. It’s not a lament – that is, David isn’t working through a problem in his life with God’s help. And it’s not merely a praise psalm either – though David does praise the Lord in it.

But in Psalm 32, David wants to lead us along as he ponders and meditates on and reflects upon one theme.

And that theme is forgiveness of our sins

Psalm 32 Commentary
Psalm 32 in Romans 4

Paul the Apostle in the New Testament letter to the Romans picks up on this theme. When Paul in Romans 4 is trying to prove that being justified apart from works is not some new thing – he references this psalm. He goes back to the justification that Abraham experienced. And then he quotes this psalm to prove that even David knew what it was like to have his sins not counted against him – but rather to have righteousness accounted to him.

Psalm 32 Commentary
We Have Forgiveness in Christ

And this is the case for every man, woman, and child who has placed his trust in Jesus Christ to save him from his sin. If that’s you today, your sins – which are many – have been forgiven you. You are not under God’s condemnation – under his eternal death sentence. He will never impute to you your sin. Rather, he has imputed to you his son’s righteousness.

So, let’s meditate along with David on this blessed theme of Forgiveness of Sins in Psalm 32.

Psalm 32 Commentary
Superscription

We’ll start with the superscription.

KJV Psalm 32:1 <A Psalm of David, Maschil.>

This term maschil occurs 14x in the OT – all of which are in this book of Psalms. And this is the first occurrence of it. It likely means something like a skillful song or a contemplative song. That latter option would make sense here since we’re in a meditative or reflective psalm.

Well, how does this contemplative song start out?

Psalm 32 Commentary
Declaration of Blessing (1-2)

It begins with David declaring blessing to a certain type of person in verse 1.

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

Psalm 32 Commentary
Blessed

Now, to be blessed is to find yourself in an enviable position.

It was the position that Israel found itself in as it was saved from Egypt by God.

It was the position of Solomon’s men and servants who got to hear and see that great king’s superior wisdom.

This is the position of the man in Psalm 1 who meditates on God’s word.

It’s also the position that one finds himself in when – like in Psalm 2 – he embraces God’s son lest he become angry when his anger is kindled a little.

Blessedness is the position that we’ll see in Psalm 33 is the case for the nation whose God is the Lord. It’s also the position in Psalm 34 of one who takes refuge in the Lord.

And you and I are in this enviable position of being blessed if your transgressions are forgiven.

Psalm 32 Commentary
Forgiven

The word forgiven here is often translated as “lifted” (nasa) – but when used in relation to sins it’s speaking of God dismissing the offense that our sin is to him.

It’s this dismissal of sin that Abraham pled with God about concerning Sodom – and that Joseph’s brothers pled with Joseph concerning their sin against him.

But, have you ever thought of the enviable position that this creates for a person?

When I was in eighth grade I came to be really bothered about my sin. I knew I had sinned greatly against God and others. And I wanted this very thing – this forgiveness. I asked God if we could “start again please” in my words as I recall them. But I had no idea how to attain this forgiveness. Praise the Lord that down the road several years later I trusted Christ to forgive and save me from my sin. But I initially had no idea – I wanted this enviable position of having my sins lifted from me – forgiven. I envied that possibility and wanted it for myself – even though I didn’t know how to get it.

And when you think about it – which is what David is leading us to do in this meditative psalm !!! – isn’t it amazing that God is willing to forgive sins?

He doesn’t need to. God could be all justice and only justice. And he is all justice. God demands righteousness – perfect righteousness – fulfilling all of your obligations. If you don’t, you are separated from him. No questions.

But praise God that he takes it upon himself to lift transgressions. And we’re going to see how this happens to a person throughout this psalm – how a person can experience the blessings of forgiven sins.

But what this psalm does not know about is ultimately how sin can be forgiven. Basically, we’re going to see David confessing his sin to the Lord and that’s how he has his sin forgiven. And yet – how does God do that? How does he just forgive sin when someone confesses them to him?

The New Testament is where God reveals how this works. He put our sin on Christ – who suffered in our place – the just for the unjust. This allows God the Father to be just – by holding sin to be punished – and also the justifier of one who has faith in Christ.

The Old Testament doesn’t explain how this ultimately works. You have to receive the New Testament to understand how it is that simply confessing your sin allows God to forgive you. The truth is – confession in the Old Testament was looking forward to a provision in the New Testament. That provision is Jesus Christ.

So, what an enviable position we find ourselves in when we have our sins lifted from us – dismissed – forgiven.

And I don’t know what kind of problems you have today. There are some whose family members are close to death – and this is a very troubling and sobering reality. Some have pagan family members – and that’s a great sorrow and trial. Some have worrying health problems that might keep you up at night. We all live in a nation in a day and age that is just oftentimes frightening. We’re weak. We’re dying. We have all sorts of problems.

And yet – who here has their sin forgiven? Every other issue in our lives can just kind of quiet down and take a back seat when we have this settled – when we have our sins forgiven.

Psalm 32 Commentary
Covered Sin

Well, not only are our sins forgiven or lifted – but they’re also covered.

What’s really interesting is that in verse 5, as we’ll see in a little while – David says that the way that God forgave his sin is when David stopped covering it – same word as here.

So, in fact, the only way that God covers your sin – hides your sin, as it were – is when you stop.

You want God to hide your sin? Then stop trying to do it yourself.

You can’t. God can. And he only will when you stop trying.

So, David continues guiding us in meditating on this blessed man whose sins are forgiven and covered in verse 2.

KJV Psalm 32:2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no guile.

Psalm 32 Commentary
Imputeth

So, you are in an enviable position when your sins are forgiven and covered. Add to that now – that you are blessed when the Lord doesn’t impute iniquity to you. He doesn’t count it against you. He doesn’t charge it to your account, as it were.

This imputing is what God did to Abraham in Genesis 15:6. But the object that is imputed is quite different there than it is here.

Here in Psalm 32 the Lord does not impute iniquity. In Genesis 15:6 the Lord does impute righteousness.

And there’s some reason to think that both approaches are the same. In other words, to negatively not impute iniquity is to positively impute righteousness. That’s what Paul says in Romans 4. He says that David here in Psalm 32 “describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works…”

But David doesn’t say that here. He speaks of not imputing iniquity. And yet, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul says that when David here speaks of not imputing iniquity, it’s the same thing as speaking of imputing righteousness.

Psalm 32 Commentary
Guile

And then David gives one more description of this man who is blessed because his sins are forgiven and covered and because God has not imputed iniquity to him. He doesn’t have any guile in his spirit.

He doesn’t have any deceit in him. He’s not deceiving people.

And don’t think that all of a sudden David is saying that you can have your sins forgiven by just trying really hard to not be deceitful.

We need to consider what David is talking about. What is this blessed man not deceitful about in context? He’s talking about not deceiving himself or God or others about his own sin and iniquity, of course.

The man whose sins are forgiven and covered and not imputed to him – he has come to the place where he no longer lies about his sin. He doesn’t deceive anyone about his sin. He knows and acknowledges readily that he is a sinner…

Really, there’s no way. There’s no way that you can lie about your sins – and at the same time have them forgiven. God doesn’t work that way with men.

If you want your sins forgiven, you need to not beguile others or yourself or God about those sins. You need to come clean.

And it’s not just you and I that experience this reality. David did, too…

Psalm 32 Commentary
Recollection of Chastening

There was actually a time when David was “beguiling” and not totally truthful with God about his sin, according to verse 3.

KJV Psalm 32:3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.

And this silence of course would have been in regard to his sin. He pretended like it had never happened.

I’m thinking that he has his sin with Bathsheba in mind here. And if that’s the case, then we know that there was a period of time in which David was silent about that sin – from the time it happened until Nathan the prophet confronted him.

And if you ever wondered what was happening in David’s life during that time, this is where we discover some of what he experienced.

Psalm 32 Commentary
Bones Waxed Old

He says that his bones waxed old. They felt like they wore out. This is the same phrase as was used of the Israelites’ footwear during their wilderness wanderings – they didn’t wear out – or of the deceitful Gibeonites’ who wore old worn out clothing to deceive Joshua.

And David spoke in Psalm 31:11 about his bones being consumed because of his sin. And we saw that the sin that resulted in this happening in Psalm 31 was again David’s sin with Bathsheba. It resulted in God allowing his family to come unhinged and eventually resulted in his son Absalom rebelling against and trying to kill his father. And in that context as well as this one, he speaks of his bones and the problems that his bones experienced.

Psalm 32 Commentary
Roaring

And further, in Psalm 32 – David speaks of his roaring. And you might wonder what that means. That word is really the word that’s used of the literal noise that literal lions make. They roar.

And David says he was doing that. He was making the human equivalent of the loud terrible noise that lions make. The picture is that of anguish and loud lamenting – grief and regret and pain all given voice to and emanating from this man. And it’s this activity with all of its emotional background that has caused David to feel as if his bones were wearing out.

Again – just like we saw in Psalm 31 – David’s emotional reaction to his grave sin effected him not only on the emotional level – but also on the physical level.

And really – it wasn’t just that David was experiencing physical problems because of his own concocted emotions. No, God actually had a hand in this anguish that David was experiencing according to verse 4.

KJV Psalm 32:4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me:
my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.

Selah.

Psalm 32 Commentary
Hand

God’s hand was heavy on David. It was as if David were being pressured by God – oppressed – troubled.

That’s something that so many of us know – God might let mankind in general get away with sin for now in this life. But he doesn’t let his children get away with it. And the means he uses to chasten might not immediately seem like love. But he acts in this way so that he can avoid punishing us eternally.

God insists on his people being holy. And when we’re not – after much patience – he will – as it were – put his hand down.

Psalm 32 Commentary
Moisture

And the result of this for David was that his moisture dried up. What does that mean?

Well, moisture is used only one other place – Numbers 11:8 where it’s describing the taste of the Manna and it says in the KJV that it tastes like fresh olive oil.

So, this word in Psalm 32 is something like freshness. God makes David’s freshness or vitality into the dryness of a summer’s drought through his oppressive hand being upon him continually as a chastening for his sin.

And this all happened when David was beguiling and deceitful about his sin. When he attempted to hide it. That’s what we’ve heard about so far in verses 3 and 4.

Psalm 32 Commentary
Retelling of Confessed Sin and Forgiveness

But then comes verse 5. This is where David retells how he finally broke his silence, confessed his sin to the Lord, and was granted pardon by this merciful God whom we worship.

KJV Psalm 32:5 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.

So, David acknowledged or confessed his sin to the Lord – he made it known to the Lord. And it’s that very sin that the Lord forgave according to both the end of this verse and verse 1 where a very similar word is used.

In our natural ways, men think that we can hide our sins from God. It almost feels natural to just be deceitful about our sins and to try to keep them hidden.

It’s as old as Adam’s sin. He didn’t immediately come and confess his sin to the Lord. No, instead he hid from God. He tried to hide his sin.

And yet that is not at all what the Lord wants. And that’s what David discovered.

Again, as we discussed back in verse 2, the one whose sin is covered (same word as hid here in verse 5) is blessed. But it must be the Lord who is doing the covering – not us.

Part of having your sin forgiven is to not cover or hide it but rather to acknowledge and confess it so that the Lord can then cover it.

It’s interesting that there are a number of words used in this verse that David used back in verses 1 and 2. We just mentioned hid/cover. There’s also forgavest here that we also saw in verse 1. And iniquity which is found here and in verse 2.

The point is that in verses 1 and 2 David is expressing wonder at how amazing it is to have your sins forgiven. Then verses 3 and 4 have David lamenting the time when he tried to pretend like he didn’t sin. And now here – verse 5 – here’s how to get to the point of verses 1 and 2 with your sins all forgiven.

The key to forgiven sin? Confession. Not hiding behind the fig leaves like Adam. Not blaming others like he did. No – confession – owning up to your sin. Not making excuses.

How amazing. Forgiveness of sins – imputation of righteousness – simply by confessing your sin…

Psalm 32 Commentary
Verses 6-7

And we see David speaking directly to God in verses 6 and 7 now in light of his power and willingness to forgive sins.

KJV Psalm 32:6 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.

The word this here in verse 6 refers to God’s willingness to forgive sins. Because of his willingness to forgive sins – the godly – those who trust God and are serious about him – David wants these people to be encouraged to not delay like he did.

And so, let’s not delay confessing sin to God. Do it right now if you’re aware of anything.

And if you do, even if your life feels like you’re in a flood of waters – it won’t touch you. You won’t be overcome. If God has forgiven your sins and not imputed iniquity to you – you cannot and will not be overcome.

And, these thoughts naturally lead David to praise the Lord in verse 7.

KJV Psalm 32:7 Thou art my hiding place;
thou shalt preserve me from trouble;
thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.

Selah.

And surely the floods that David spoke of in verse 6 were more of the ever-present distresses that his sin with Bathsheba earned him.

And yet despite the fact that those chastening realities were directly from the Lord – he still owns God as his hiding place – the one who preserves him – the one who delivers him so that he’s surrounded by songs of deliverance.

Wait – the one who chastens also delivers? Yes. That’s how God works.

And this again has a tie in with Psalm 31 where David was lamenting the results of his sin. There he spoke of those who trust the Lord hiding in God’s hiding place – same word as we have here.

Well, then, amazingly, we have God speaking directly to David and by extension to us in verses 8 and 9.

Psalm 32 Commentary
A Word from God

KJV Psalm 32:8 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go:
I will guide thee with mine eye.

The word instruct means to “make one keen/give success.” God will do this for the person who confesses his sin.

And we see this in David’s life even after his devastating sin. God still guided him.

And here’s the alternative that God does not want in verse 9…

KJV Psalm 32:9 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.

These animals have no understanding and will not come to you without these pieces of equipment.

Don’t be like them when it comes to God. Don’t keep your distance. Don’t run away from God like a horse would from someone when there was no bit or bridle on him.

That’s God’s parting advice for David and all of his people – Don’t avoid me. Don’t hide from me. Come unto me!

Psalm 32 Commentary
Encouragement to Trust and Rejoice in the Lord

And then, God stops speaking and David resumes by encouraging us to trust and rejoice in the Lord in verse 10.

KJV Psalm 32:10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked:
but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.

Note the contrast. Sorrows to the wicked but mercy (chesed) surrounding those who trust in the Lord.

And of course, the wicked would be characterized by constantly hiding from the Lord and not confessing their sins. Whereas those who trust in the Lord are those who confess their sins. It’s not that one group doesn’t sin and the other does. David as we know had great sin. If he responded by perpetually covering his sin, he would very well be classed in this group he identifies as the wicked. But the point is what a person does when he sins.

If you trust in the Lord you confess your sin. If you don’t, you will find yourself among this group of the wicked.

And so, because of this blessed merciful reality of God forgiving sins and surrounding us with mercy, David exhorts us finally in verse 11.

KJV Psalm 32:11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous:
and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.

The righteous – not the sinless – are exhorted to be glad and rejoice. The upright in heart – not the sinless in heart – are exhorted to shout for joy.

And to do it in the Lord. To do it because of the Lord – because of his merciful forgiveness of our sins.

May we do that very thing the rest of the day as we remember his son – who alone allows God the Father to Forgive Our Sins.

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