Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
BLESSED IS HE WHOSE TRANSGRESSION IS FORGIVEN
This psalm was immortalized by the Apostle Paul who quoted the opening verses here as follows:
"Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven,
SECRET vs. ACKNOWLEDGED SINS
"When I kept silence, my bones wasted away
Through my groanings all the day long.
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me:
My moisture was changed as with the drought of summer
I acknowledged my sin unto thee, (Selah)
And mine iniquity did I not hide:
I said, I will confess my transgressions unto Jehovah;
And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin."
"When I kept silence" (Psalms 32:3). This speaks of a period when David did not acknowledge his sin, nor confess it. "The time here spoken of is that immediately after David's sin of adultery and murder and which continued till Nathan uttered the words, 'Thou art the man.'"
What is described here is the punishment inwardly inflicted upon God's people by their guilty consciences. Spurgeon described this punishment. "What a killing thing is sin! It is a pestilent disease! a fire in the bosom! While we smother our sin, it rages within and like a gathering wound swells horribly and torments terribly."
Dummelow thought these words might refer, "Either to an actual sickness brought on by sin, or to a spiritual suffering represented by physical terminology." We prefer the latter option of understanding the passage.
"I acknowledged my sin unto thee" (Psalms 32:5). This means that David acknowledge his sin "to God." There's not a hint here that he openly acknowledged it before men.
"And mine iniquity did I not hide" (Psalms 32:5). This is the passage with which this writer has difficulty in the assignment of it to David. Did he not make every possible human effort to "hide" his sin? He brought Uriah home in the hope that Uriah's homecoming would hide it; but it didn't; then he had Uriah murdered to cover it up, but that didn't work either. The whole nation knew of the shameful conduct of their king; and it appears to us that a much more appropriate statement in David's mouth would have been, "Lord, I tried every thing I could think of to hide my sin, but I couldn't hide it," Of course, it is also true that he did not hide it.
Perhaps in this abbreviated account, the reference is to the time when David did freely acknowledge his transgressions and sought and received God's forgiveness, which is so dramatically stated in this verse.
"I said, I will confess my transgressions unto Jehovah; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin" (Psalms 32:5). In this entire verse, the confession mentioned is that of confession "to God," not acknowledging transgressions before men. The Romish doctrine of "Auricular Confession," is contrary to everything the Bible teaches regarding the confession of sins.
This verse has been made the basis of some very broad statements, which in our view seem to go beyond what is taught.
"The clear teaching of these verses, therefore, is that by simple confession sin in all its aspects - the outward act (sin), the rebellious disobedience (transgression), and the inward corruption (iniquity) is completely forgiven, and covered, so as to remain no longer an issue between God and man."
Just confess (not to men, but to God). That's all, just 'simple confession' followed by total forgiveness! Without repentance? Without any acknowledgment of sins before men? Without any effort toward restitution, or any kind of justice toward those who were wronged! In this writer's opinion, someone is reading a lot more into this passage than may legitimately be extracted from it.
True, David's life indeed exhibited valid evidence of sincere repentance, and acknowledgment of his sins before all men, as well as "unto God"; and he even took Bathsheba into his harem; but the statement from McCaw is not based on the conduct of David, but upon what is said in this text.
It is precisely this verse that entered into Barnes' comment that:
"Whether this Psalm refers to David's experience in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah or to some other occasion of his life when he was troubled at the remembrance of sin, it is impossible now to determine."
"I will confess my transgressions" (Psalms 32:5). The importance of acknowledging sins, however, cannot be overstated; as DeHoff wrote, "In a practical sense, the unpardonable sin is the unconfessed sin."
"For this let every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found:
Surely when the great waters overflow they shall not reach unto him.
Thou art my hiding place; thou wilt preserve me from trouble;
Thou wilt compass me about with songs of deliverance.
"Let every one that is godly pray unto thee" (Psalms 32:6). "Godly" here is a reference to persons in covenant relationship with God. Leupold complained vigorously about this verse, writing, "Unwarranted conclusions are drawn from Psalms 32:6,10, to the effect that forgiveness is made available only to the righteous." In our view, that is exactly what the passage actually teaches. All of the talk about the free, unmerited grace and forgiveness of God does not nullify, nor can it ever do so, the declaration of the Holy Spirit that, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14 KJV).
Yes, yes, the grace and favor and forgiveness of God are indeed free; and they are made available to men who cannot either earn or merit such marvelous blessings; but God's forgiveness is "conditional." If it is not so, why then, does the Lord tell us that the vast majority of mankind will travel "the broad way that leadeth to destruction" (Matthew 7:13)?
"In a time when thou mayest be found" (Psalms 32:6). "This is a reference to turning to God from sin while the opportunity remains." Procrastination may rob one of eternal life; and we may speculate that of the myriads who die without God and without hope, doubtless a great many of them intended to make their peace with God "later"!
"When the great waters overflow, they shall not reach him" (Psalms 32:6). This is evidently a symbolical reference to the judgment of God, based upon the passage's suggestion of the Great Deluge. Kidner tells us that this verse inspired Charles Wesley's great hymn, "Jesus Lover of my Soul."
"While the nearer waters roll,
"I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go;
I will counsel thee with mine eye upon thee.
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding;
Whose trappings must be bit and bridle to hold them in.
Else they will not come near unto thee."
These words sound like instructions from God, and some scholars have so understood them; but many attribute them to David. "Because of the availability of God's forgiveness, David here exhorts men to pray. On the basis of his own profound experience, he becomes a teacher, an instructor, and a guide, using the language of a sage."
"The horse ... the mule" (Psalms 32:9). The purpose of introducing these animals seems to be that of admonishing men to seek the Lord without waiting to be forced to do so, as animals are forced to come near men. "One's refusal to be guided by the Lord's kind instruction puts him in the class with brute beasts."
"Many sorrows shall be to the wicked;
But he that trusteth Jehovah, lovingkindness shall compass him about.
Be glad in Jehovah, and rejoice, ye righteous;
And shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart."
"Many sorrows shall be to the wicked" (Psalms 32:10). What a lie is that of Satan who advertises his way as that of "liberty," or "freedom." The simple truth is here bluntly stated. "The way of the transgressor is hard" (Proverbs 13:15). The sinful way is the way of sorrow, heartbreak, failure, and remorse.
It appears that Psalms 51 was probably written by David under the impact of the forgiveness that God bestowed upon him soon afterward; but this psalm gives the impression of being the fruit of a far longer meditation upon that event, in the course of which there is a more general statement of issues involved. This 32Psalm might therefore be viewed as the fulfilment of the vow David made in Psalms 51:13.
"How stark is the contrast between Psalms 32:3,4,11! Who should want to choose the former over the latter?"
This psalm gives us a dramatic contrast between the wicked and the righteous. "The wicked envisioned here are the enemies of God; the righteous are those who live in the Covenant of their God. They are not perfect, but they confess their sins and acknowledge their duties in the household of faith."
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