Delivered 31 March 2019.
From the time of the first sin in the Garden of Eden, nothing has brought joy to our souls like knowing our sins are forgiven.
Today’s sermon text vividly describes the joy of forgiveness, but it also describes the only means of obtaining forgiveness. David’s psalm still speaks to us in our own spiritual relationship with the God whose laws we break but whose forgiveness we crave.
Some scholars think Psalm 32 may originally have accompanied Psalm 51 as the song David composed after receiving God’s forgiveness for his sin against Bathsheba. We find some of the same wording in this psalm as in Psalm 51, and the description of David’s condition matches the account of the situation in 2 Samuel 11-12.
David wrote, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” In the Hebrew way of seeing things, those who obey God place themselves in a place where God can bless them in life. As in Psalm 51, David used all 3 Hebrew words for sin, accurately describing our own failures against God.
- The word for “transgression” is a military term for open and intentional rebellion. David realized his sins constituted rebellion against God.
- The word for “iniquity” means “to go astray.” David went astray from the Law of God.
- The word for “sin” means “to miss a goal.” The writer of Judges used this word to describe the slingers of Benjamin in Judges 20:16 who could sling a stone at a hair and not “miss.” David clearly missed the mark in keeping God’s law.
Those who live without sin live “blessed” lives, but unfortunately, none of us manage to live a completely sinless life. Even worse, we often try, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and like David in his sin with Bathsheba, to hide our sins from God and from one another. We may succeed in hiding our sins from others, but God always knows our hearts. No sin goes unnoticed by God.
Trying to hide our sins from God will always result in damage, both spiritual and emotional. David wrote, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” The pain of guilt will always cost us dearly, especially spiritually. Our relationship with God always suffers when we attempt to hide sin from Him.
David eventually took as much as he could. In the incident with Bathsheba, Nathan confronted David with his sin. After his confrontation with Nathan, David confessed his sin. “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 needed forgiveness, but it would not come without confession. Once he confessed his sins, God forgave him.
David’s experience led him to encourage “everyone who is godly” to pray to God. David mentioned a real truth to our lives: we should pray when God “may be found.” Many people say, “I’ll pray when I feel like it” or “I’ll pray when it’s more convenient.” David reminded us that “in the rush or great waters” of life, a time for prayer may not come at all.
The godly ones find in God a “hiding place” in life. When we live in relationship with God, He will “preserve” us “from trouble,” surrounding us “with shouts of deliverance.” God has always served as a refuge for His people, “a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
In a shift of speakers, David quoted God in verse 8. God will “instruct” us and “teach us” the way of life. God guides His people through Bible study, worship, and fellowship.
God encouraged David’s readers: “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” Those who fail to understand God’s ways will constantly find themselves in trouble in their lives, stumbling from trial to trial. As David wrote, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked.”
In contrast to the wicked, David wrote, “Steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.” The love David mentioned refers to the covenantal, unconditional love God extends to everyone who lives in relationship with Him. Those in relationship with God can “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy” as we live in relationship with Him. The ones “upright in heart” recognize God’s desires for our lives, knowing His standards will always bring us into the place of blessing in our lives.
In David’s time, the Hebrews sought forgiveness of sins through sacrifices in the sanctuary. The righteous would always offer sacrifices for their sins, as well as for their blessings. Righteous Hebrews would offer a peace offering when God fulfilled their prayer requests.
Today, we can seek forgiveness through grace. The crucifixion and death of Jesus, the Son of God, atoned for our sins, and His resurrection assures us of His loving forgiveness. In His time on earth, Jesus forgave sins like God. As C.S. Lewis wrote,
One part of [Jesus’] claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins…. what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws were broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), p. 51)
At the end of His life, Jesus gave Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins when He died on Calvary. Jesus then rose from the dead to assure everyone who believes in Him can receive peace with God “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Now, everyone who believes in Jesus “should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
As Christians, we still live in a sinful world, in a sinful society. Christians still suffer from the effects of sin, and we sometimes sin. As St. John wrote to give us comfort, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
If you’ve sinned in your life, confess your sin to God and receive forgiveness for your sins. If you’ve sinned against someone else, seek their forgiveness so you can live in peace with others, especially if they’re believers. Acknowledge your sin; uncover your iniquity, and confess your transgressions to God. The greatest blessings in life come to those forgiven by God, living in relationship with Him through Jesus, our Lord.