Psalm 32 - Part 1
Want a life filled with joy and happiness despite what occurs? Many books on the cultural market will be glad to point you in what they believe is the right direction. Here are few titles:
I am sure books like these give you some workable ideas of how to move toward happiness and joy in a world full of disappointments, unrealized dreams, broken promises, and tragic news; however, I am also sure they do not even come close to what God’s Word says about the matter.
David experienced, like you, the ups and downs of life, from major dysfunctions in his family life to pressures caused by power-hungry politicians who wanted him removed so they could take over. He, like you, had his moments when people he trusted deserted him, when medical news caught him off guard, and when old age took a toll on his once muscular, powerful military physic. He, also, like you spent plenty of his personal quiet time searching, as a godly man, how to be joyous not matter what. He invested in this quest because he knew that internal joy and happiness must be attainable, more often than not, for a person who knows the living God, who is the essence of these two coveted feelings.
What did he discover? He shares his findings in Psalm 32, a song he wrote for Israel’s worship. By putting what God taught him to lyrics and music, the wise king made sure that saints for all time would know exactly how to really enjoy life, regardless of what life hurled your way. Hold on tightly for the ride of a lifetime because, as you might expect, David’s analysis runs counter-culture; however, it’s all good because it’s all inspired by God.
To make sure you do not miss David’s main advice and counsel in this tremendous passage, I will summarize his findings in one short, memorable sentence:
Joyful Living Is Wedded To Mournful Living (Psalm 32)
I know, I know. I have probably lost you with this pithy statement. Why? Because it sounds illogical, but it is not. Speaking to believers, David shows how real happiness in life is intrinsically wedded to how sensitive you are to your sin on a daily basis. You might need to read that again. One of my friends, Roger White, used to command a Nike missile silo in Arizona. He said they had so many ground sensors they could tell you where every jack rabbit was on the desert floor around the silo. Every moment of every day those sensors basically scanned for intruders so appropriate action could be taken to maintain peace and security. Life, David is going to say, is like this. The more you scan your life and look for sin, the better you are positioned to deal with said sin before an absolutely holy God, resulting in an inner life full of joy because you know you are walking how God desires.
Within the next eleven verses, the King-Shepherd guides sheep like us to the green pasture called happiness. Settling down in the green grass known as the Word of God, we quickly discover what David discovered regarding how to secure unshakeable joy. All in all, we will be invited to feast on eight joy-giving concepts.
Before we feast, I would be remiss in my role as a shepherd if I did not offer this counsel. Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came so that we might have joy, and from what we know of His redemptive mission this joy is directly related to you, a sinner, having a faith relationship with Him, the One who died for your sin and rose victorious from the grave. Paul buttresses this fact in his letter to the Romans when he states,
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . . (Rom. 5).
Peace between you and God is achieved the moment you place your faith in Jesus, the peace- maker. Have you done that yet? Five did in our on-line community last Sunday. Amazing. Now, back to the Psalm 32, which addresses how believers should go about securing practical peace with God as they move through the peaks and valleys of life. David’s findings will not disappoint.
Joyful Living Focuses On Praise (Psalm 32:1-2)
David begins by first identifying himself as the song’s composer/writer:
1 A Psalm of David. A Contemplation.> Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Next, he points us to positive praise by speaking about what constitutes a blessed, happy life. The
placement of the word “blessed,” ashrai ( ַא ְשׁ ֵ ֥רי ) at the head of each sentence breaks normal Hebrew word order to emphasize the word in question. David, by way of divine inspiration, wants us to know what really constitutes a blessed, happy, joyous life, and it has nothing to do with the size of your portfolio, number of grandchildren, or the like. It has everything to do, however, with your spiritual standing before God. His words, of course, echo those of Jesus in His first sermon in Matthew 5 where He describes the components of a life full of lasting, inexorable joy.
Allow me to remind you that David’s counsel here is addressed, first and foremost, to people who already have a positional peace with God. He is talking to believers, as I have said, whose practical, daily sins rob them of their joy in life and living. From his proven perspective, blessedness is tied to four positive facets concerning sin. A blessed, happy, joyous saint is one. . .
. . . whose transgression is forgiven
. . . whose sin is covered
. . . who does not have iniquity imputed to his life
. . . who is not deceitful about his sin
Let me break these down quickly.
First, let me say that behind this blessedness is a commitment to confession. What is confession? It is merely agreeing with what God says, not what you say, constitutes sin. Second, confession, which is assumed in the first two verses, is directly related to four types of sin.
Transgression is from the Hebrew, pesha ( ֶפּ ַשׁע ֗ ). The best Hebrew lexicons relate this root to flat-out open rebellion against law and order, and ultimately a willful rejection of God’s natural and moral law. Think of the anarchists nightly “peaceful” demonstrators in Portland, throwing rocks and bottles of frozen water at police, while their buddies spray paint and destroy public property, and you have a firm idea of pesha. Pesha is found in the believer’s life when they know a clear command of God and purposefully, selfishly, and arrogantly disregard it to enjoy the sweet, but fleeting, nature of sin. The saints of Ephesians 4:25-32 are a case study of this type of sin. Ever committed this type of flagrant, in-the-face-of God sin? Guilty now? David rightfully says there is nothing more joyous than securing coveted forgiveness from the merciful, patient Lord. Interestingly enough, the word for forgiven speaks of literally lifting a weight off of someone, akin to removing heavy gear (Gen. 27:3). Got any sinful types of pesha you need removed from your spiritual back, sins of revolt you have carried for far too long? Only the living God is ready and qualified to help you, but you must first confess this revolt to Him to sure the blessedness.
Sin is from the main word for sin in Hebrew, viz., hata’ah ( ֲח ָט ָאה ). The root occurs 580 times in the Old Testament and it literally denotes missing an intended target, as when a sling thrower fails to hit his target (Jud. 20:16). Applied to us, it means we, as believers, know God’s command(s) and we purposefully chose, for a variety of sinful reasons, to miss hitting God’s target for what constitutes holiness. For a Christian husband, it might mean failing to honor your wife by belittling her, and for a Christian teen it might speak of your penchant for disrespecting your parents by going against their counsel either overtly or covertly. Once more, if you are guilty of this type of high- handed, selfish sin there is hope for happiness. It starts with confession and it results in you securing coverage for your sin. Why does sin need to be covered? Because God, who is holy, sees it and it offends and angers Him. How does sin get covered? By means of the divinely ordained sacrifice. Paul quotes Psalm 32:1-2 in Romans 4:7-8, and he directly relates coverage for sin faith in the redemptive work of Christ (Rom. 4:22-25). This is positional forgiveness based on confession. David, as we have noted, speaks about how confession of high-handed sin moves God to provide immediate coverage. Got any hata’ah which needs coverage? When you get authentic and transparent with God and repent of it, you will feel the coverage instantly. With this, of course, comes blessedness and joy because your conscience is cleansed, and you know you are walking on the right path.
Iniquity is from the Hebrew word, awon ( ָע ֑וֹן ). Etymologically, this word refers to something which is crooked and/or twisted. Related to God and God’s law/commands (which give life, Psalm 119:50, 93), the word describes someone who distorts, bends, and twists it to meet their own sinful desires. It is used in 1 Samuel 3, verses 13-14, to describe the sexual perversions of Eli’s, the High Priest, two sons who took advantage of women who came to worship. Talk about sick, sordid, and twisted. David’s willful sin and extra-marital affair with Bathsheba is also described by this word because it is a bending of God’s original institution of marriage. Sins of this nature are imputed, or added to the ledger of one’s spiritual life in heaven (wherein God will judge them either in the here and now (Heb. 12:1ff) or in the hereafter, 1 Cor. 3:1ff); however, a saint finds joy and happiness after confession when the ledger sheet is wiped clean by the loving, forgiving hand of God. Got any iniquity hampering your spiritual life right now? Have you bent and twisted God’s word so as to rationalize or validate a given sin you are engaged in? I’m sure the Spirit has his finger on it right now. Step forward and confess it and watch how joy will flood your life as your ledger sheet of practical sin is wiped clean from this type of evil.) ְר ִמ ָיּה ( A life with “no deceit.” The key word here in Hebrew is remiyyah.)
Lexically, the word literally denotes deceptive balances (Amos 8:5; Hos. 12:8; Prov. 11:1). Imagine getting gas from a pump where the State seal means nothing because the agent is being bribed by the station owner to fudge the meter so you think you are getting more than you really are. Such deception is from God’s perspective treacherous because it is based on a bald-faced lie designed to fraud people. Applied to a believer it means when it comes to their sin, no matter its type, they are blessed/happy when they come clean, as it were, before God. As Isaiah did in Isaiah 6 when God ushered him into His holy throne-room to commission him. The flipside is true, as well. A saint is not happy when they continue to be deceitful about a sin. I have seen it in counseling believers many times. Session after session you are attempting, as a counselor, to get at the root of the person’s problem, and he/she obfuscates, dodges, bobs and weaves so the real issue is kept hidden from view. I have fortunately lived to see some saints drop the carnal charade and get honest with me . . . and with God. When that happens is when joy and happiness floods like a mighty river into their sin-parched life because they know they are free before God. No more games. No more lies. Just truth. Truly, the truth does set you free, especially when it results in much needed confession. Once more, any saint here today ready to come clean? Any saint ready to stop deceiving others about your secret sin? Any saint tired of thinking of new ways to deflect the Spirit’s conviction so the sin can be guarded? Satan wants you to deceive others, including yourself, that your sin is not really either all that bad, or it is not sin at all. God thinks otherwise, and you know it. Time to confess. You will be glad you did for God will forgive you and His forgiveness will naturally lead to you experiencing some much needed joy.
When you allow God to deal with these types of sin in your life, when you secure His rich forgiveness, the joy you will secure will lead you to do what David talks about in these opening two verses: you will not be able to contain your praise for a loving, caring heavenly Father who spiritually cleaned you up and restored you.
God anyone ready to praise the Lord in this fashion today? You ready? You willing? Second, David says that . . .
Joyful Living Focuses On The Past (Psalm 32:3-4)
The focus here is on seeking to be wise and learn from the past. Such is the nature of wise walking. A wise, maturing believer looks backward at mistakes and seeks to learn from them so the future is brighter and happier. Listen and learn from David as he bears his soul:
3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long.
4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah
You don’t need a seminary class on hermeneutics/Bible study methods to figure out the import of David’s analysis here. It is pretty clear. He gets raw and real here by remembering what happened in his life when he willfully chose not to confess sin the Spirit brought to his attention. He was miserable. He literally started wasting away. Deep down in his bones he knew he was wrong and it was if his sin became of type of psychosomatic disorder impacting his body. Translated, silence about sin takes its toll on you because you know you are walking away from God. When I used my position as the head safety in the sixth grade to use my pass-key to the teachers’ book room to temporarily steal the math answer book, I was MISERABLE the entire year. Granted, I aced math and had a lot more time to mess around with my buddies. But the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear more often than not, calling me to take the book back and stop being silent about my sin. Trust me, silence regarding sin on earth is open scandal in heaven before the holy God who sees and knows all.
All that year I could feel God’s holy and heavy hand pressing down on my sin-stained conscience. Inwardly I felt like David, a man whose inner life resembled a dry, parched desert at the height of summer. Joy became a mirage. Inner peace evaporated too. If you know the Lord, and if you are privy to what unconfessed sin does to your life, then you know what I am talking about. When you sin as a child of God, God does not sit idly by. No. The intense heat of His utter holiness will be brought to bear on you in order to cause you to move from concealing to confession. His ways in this regard with His people when they sin are recorded throughout Scripture. David validates this in Psalm 51 after he confessed his sin with Bathsheba. It was not until after he saw his sin after being confronted by Nathan, the prophet, that he could move toward confession. Prior to this, his soul wasted away as one sin (adultery), led to others heinous sins like deception and murder.
So, David’s counsel is something we should all take to heart. Do not learn the hard way, David basically says. Do not keep silent and try to continually hide your sin. Sin will, as they say, find you out. Be open and honest about it before God, seeking His forgiveness. Also, do realize that if you chose to keep your sin, be what it may, in the darkness, God’s heavy hand will come down hard on your life to awaken you from your spiritual stupor. It is how He operates in order to call the sinner to Himself (Ex. 7:5; Deut. 2:15; 1 Sam. 5:6; Job 2:10; Acts 13:11). Much wiser to be honest about what you have done so your life does not resemble a parched desert, but a lush, green meadow.
Got anyone here today who is being drained dry by your failure to confess your sin to God? Is the soil of your life parched and cracked because you, for whatever reasons, just will not bring your sin before God’s holy throne? If this is you, one thing is sure: you are not happy and you know it. Happiness, blessedness, and joy come to the one who chooses to replace silence with speech concerning sin.
For those who have the courage to step forward, David relates what should occur next in your quest to move from mournful living to joyful living.
Joyful Living Focuses On The Provision (Psalm 32:5)
What is the provision? It is called divine forgiveness:
5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
David relates here how he finally came to the point where acknowledge to God that his life was, in fact, riddled with the three types of sin he mentioned earlier. He confessionally says, “God I am crooked, I am a revolter by nature, and I naturally, in this instance chose to sin by purposefully missing the mark of your holiness.” When he did that something wonderful happened immediately: God forgave his crooked, twisted behavior. Yes, the Lord who is rich and mercy, love, and grace wasted no time in wiping David’s ledger sheet clean of this sin, or sins, so he could be spiritually restored. The picture is much like the prodigal son who returned to his grieving, concerned father. The father, who symbolizes God, is pictured scouring the land in the distance for the return of his once errant son (Luke 15). When the father finally saw his repentant son off in the distance, he ran to him, fell on his neck in a warm fatherly embrace, and kissed him . . . probably over and over again. Then, he threw him a welcome home party (Luke 15:22-23). Don’t you know at that point the son in question had so much joy in his life he could hardly bear it? That joy, that blessed life started when he mourned over his sin and then marched toward his father.
I don’t know, but you just might be David, or the prodigal son right now. Your sin is eating your proverbial lunch, and you know it. You have kept it hidden for far too long. It’s time to bring it out in the open and seek God’s forgiveness. Don’t worry either because there is no sin from a child of God that the Lord will not forgive. He is the father on the hillside looking intently for you. Right now it is time to come home, confess what you have done, receive His forgiveness, and enjoy some much needed joy.