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Psalm 32 is the second of the seven penitential psalms. See the introduction to Psalm 6, the first penitential psalm. This second penitential psalm is an encouragement for believers to come to God with repentance knowing that He is pleased to forgive. Psalm 32, however, is more than a penitential psalm: it is also a wisdom psalm with a teaching and a thanksgiving.
This psalm, which is about confession of guilt and forgiveness of sins, has great similarity to Psalm 51. David wrote both psalms after his grave sins of adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah. In both psalms we find his true repentance and humbling.
The basis on which God can forgive sins, that is, the work of Christ, is not mentioned here. That is not revealed until the New Testament. The Jews in the end times will therefore be acquainted with it.
A division of the psalm:
Psalms 32:1-Exodus : the blessing of confession of guilt.
Psalms 32:3-Deuteronomy : the “experience expert” speaks.
Psalms 32:6-Judges : the protection of God after confession.
Psalms 32:8 teaching about the way of the restored believer.
Psalms 32:9 warning not to be rebellious.
Psalms 32:10 lawfulness.
Psalms 32:11 call to joy to all the righteous.
In Romans 4, these two verses are quoted as proof that the forgiveness of sins occurs apart from circumcision and the law, that is, without works (Romans 4:5-Ruth :). Forgiveness is based solely on faith. The psalmist does not say: ‘Blessed is he who keeps the law.’ People who keep the law do not exist, except for the Lord Jesus.
The quotation in Romans 4 makes it clear that these verses about forgiveness apply to the New Testament believer as well, only to the deeper and richer degree that comes with this believer’s knowledge of the work of Christ.
For “a Psalm of David” see at Psalm 3:1.
It is “a maskil”, a teaching. David gives “a teaching”. He does not do this as a teacher giving theoretical lessons, but he speaks as ‘expert by experience’. Teaching is as in Hebrew as is written here maskil, which is a teaching of the maskilim, which are the wise who make others wise. The Hebrew word is derived from the word sakal which means ‘to have insight’.
It will be the wise, the maskilim, who in the end times will give insight to many to understand the time in which they live (Daniel 11:33; Daniel 11:35Daniel 12:3; Revelation 13:18). It is a time of great tribulation of God’s people on earth. The ‘maskil psalms’ also contain teaching for us, for we also undergo trials and we also live in an end time (cf. Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11).
These ‘teachings’, which are also called ‘didactic poems’, convey knowledge, not of doctrines, but of experiences, of teachings gained in the school of God. The whole book of Psalms deals with this, but the ‘maskil-psalms’ deal with it par excellence.
Psalm 32 is the first of the thirteen maskil-psalms. Six are of David (Psalms 32; 52; 53; 54; 55; 142), four of the sons of Korah (Psalms 42; 44; 45; 88), two of Asaph (Psalms 74; 78), and one of Ethan (Psalm 89).
This psalm, by way of exception, begins not with praising or calling to the LORD, but with mentioning or more so proclaiming the benefit of forgiveness (Psalms 32:1). This, of course, involves the utmost thanks to God, for the forgiveness comes from Him. We find here twice the word “blessed” or “happy”, an expression we find in this first book of Psalms at the beginning of three psalms (Psalms 1:1; Psalms 32:1Psalms 41:1). In Psalm 1, it’s about the relation to God: obedience. Here in Psalm 32, the middle of the psalm book, it is about the believer: forgiveness. In Psalm 41, the end of the psalm book, it’s about the attitude toward others: mercy.
It is not an exuberant praise because David has a deep awareness of what he has done. The believing Israelite expresses through David how blessed it is to know that sins are forgiven (literally: carried away) and covered. The sins have been carried away. It means that God no longer sees the sins and He therefore no longer imputes them. That this also has its meaning for the New Testament believer has been noted above.
David uses three expressions for what he has done and for which he has received forgiveness: transgression, sin and iniquity.
1. Transgression is the violating of any commandment of the law and is therefore rebellion against the authority of the Lawgiver.
2. Sin is lawlessness in the broadest sense, that is, disregard for any authority (1 John 3:4). It is a wrong acting, usually deliberately. The Hebrew word for sin, chata’a, means to miss the mark (Romans 3:23), it is, consciously or unconsciously, not answering to the will of God.
3. Iniquity is acting unjustly. It is an action that is contrary to what a person is entitled to. This applies both to God and to fellow human beings, believer or unbeliever.
In Psalms 32:2, God is said to “not impute iniquity”. It means that not only are sins forgiven, but the person whose sins are forgiven is seen by God as not having done the sins. The full truth of this could only be made known after the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus as the wonder of justification This wonder is so great that God devotes an entire letter in the Bible to it, namely the letter to the Romans.
One whose offense is forgiven, whose sin is covered, and to whom the iniquity is not imputed, is one “in whose spirit there is no deceit”. A sincere confession lacks the spirit of deceit. One who confesses his sins has seen himself in God’s light and tells “the whole truth” about his sins to God (cf. Mark 5:33). He has held nothing back; there is no residue of sin that he wants to hold on to. In the mind, in the thinking, of one who has thus dealt with himself in God’s presence, there is really no deceit. Nathanael is an example of such a person and of the believing remnant (John 1:47).
The Heavy Hand of God
What is said in Psalms 32:1-Exodus : can and will only be said by one who has confessed his sins. Until the moment of confession of sins, silence is maintained, that is, the sin is concealed (Psalms 32:3). It is not a silence in general, but the choice to deliberately not confess the sin.
David experienced that the deliberate concealment of his sin of adultery with Bathsheba paralyzed him; his body, better: his bones, wasted away (cf. Proverbs 17:22). There is no power to walk. He has kept silent with his mouth, but inwardly there is no silence, but there have been “groaning all day long”. A person who is conscious of his sins has no rest.
The symptoms may be different with us. We recognize David’s stubbornness to persist and keep silent about sin within ourselves. There may also be physical symptoms in us that are an indication of a spiritual defect (1 Corinthians 11:30).
During the silence, that is the concealment of his sin, God’s hand presses heavily on such a person “day and night”, i.e. continuously (Psalms 32:4). It speaks of God’s meddling with him to bring him to confession and thereby to Himself, in fellowship with Him. His “vitality was drained away [as] with the fever heat of summer”, which means that out of his life no more fruit has come forth for God.
Confession and Forgiveness
Then comes the moment of surrender. It is the moment of stepping down from the throne of pride followed by humiliation before God with acknowledgement of sin. Surrender here means full confession, without weakening or excuses. The meaning of the Greek word for confession is ‘to say the same thing’, that is, to see and name sin in the same way as God does.
The silence is broken and the sin is made known to God. Of course, even before David makes his sin known, God knows of its existence. But God wants the sinner to see his iniquity in the full light of the truth and no longer to keep silent and covered up. When the sinner no longer covers his sin, God covers his sin, as it says in Psalms 32:1.
That the sinner confesses his sin is seen here from the side of the confessor, who says “I said”. David has made a decision of will. He decided to confess his “transgressions to the LORD” and did it. We see the same thing with the prodigal son. He says he will get up and go to his father to confess his sins. He does so and is received with open arms by his father (Luke 15:17-Proverbs :).
David sinned against Uriah, but above all he sinned against God. We need forgiveness from God, not just from men. If the sinner acts as God says, God also acts: He forgives the quilt (cf. 1 John 1:9). By the way David puts it here, we see that forgiveness immediately follows confession. Hardly has the sin been confessed or the forgiveness is there. There is great gratitude resounding in what the sinner emphatically says: “And You forgave the guilt of my sin.” What a relief, what a burden drops from him.
It is like the father of the prodigal son who longs for the return of his son (Luke 15:20). This is how God longs for the confession of our sins, so that we can once again return into the arms of our God and Father.
Songs of Deliverance
When fellowship with God is fully restored in this way, it will have a direct effect on the prayer life of the “godly” (Psalms 32:6). David here indirectly communicates his experience to every godly and encourages them to pray to God. In this context, this exhortation to pray will primarily mean confessing sin to God in prayer. In a broader sense, it means that we will pray for preservation from falling into sin, as happened to David. That David speaks of a “godly” means that it refers to a believer who lives set apart (again) for God.
Prayer is communion with God, the certain consequence of which is that “a flood of great waters … will not reach” the praying believer. The praying believer who confesses his sin gets out of the enemy’s reach. The enemy has lost his grip on him. Whatever the enemy tries to do to regain control of the restored and praying believer, all fails. The praying believer who prays for preservation stands firm when powerful temptations to sin come upon him. This is not a one-time prayer, but a continuous prayer, a life lived prayerfully.
We must remain aware that we can be caught in any trespass (Galatians 6:1). If that happens, the key is to confess that trespass as soon as possible (cf. Isaiah 55:6). As long as it is the favorable time, a person can appeal to God’s grace (2 Corinthians 6:2). God sets a limit to the time He lets Himself be found (Luke 19:44; Jeremiah 46:17). This means that prayer will not be in vain, but that God will let Himself be found and will answer prayer and grant forgiveness! Sin in life causes a break with God, a break that is only repaired after confession.
For the believer who walks this path of confession, God is a “hiding place” from the flood of the great waters of Psalms 32:6, preventing them from reaching him (Psalms 32:7; cf. Revelation 12:15-Nehemiah :). He is protected by God from distress. He may be distressed, but he will not perish in it.
While he is surrounded by enemies who distress him, he does not see those enemies, but people who sing “songs of deliverance” with and for him. One who is impressed by the deliverance from his sins will feel that the entire atmosphere around him is filled with music from heaven. He is full of happiness inside and he experiences that everything and everyone around him shares in that happiness.
Guidance for the Way
After the forgiveness follows in Psalms 32:8 the promise of God – He is speaking here, not David – that He will instruct and teach His own in the way they should go. The lessons we learn in this psalm apply to all believers who have gone the way of confession of sin, who have taken these wise lessons to heart.
God does not send the believer in the way with directions and then withdraw. He goes with him and “instructs” and ‘‘teaches’’ him in that way with His wisdom. We receive this instruction and teaching in the New Testament regarding our way as members of the church (Philippians 1:9-1 Kings :; Colossians 1:9-2 Samuel :).
It is not a way of your own choosing, but “the way which you should go”. We, New Testament believers, know that this way was prepared beforehand by God, “that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). God determines the way. For going that way He gives general instruction and general teaching, but He also gives “counsel” regarding practical situations. Therefore, we must always ask Him for advice when choices must be made. We will do so if we live in ‘eye contact’ with Him. After all, His eye is upon us. That means that the Lord is watchful, that He is watching over us and caring for us.
The comparison has been made with training a hunting dog. The nature of the dog is to chase after prey as soon as it sees it. The dog’s training is not complete until he first looks at the master before pursuing prey. Having eye contact with the Master is the mark of a mature believer (cf. Psalms 123:2; Luke 22:61).
A word of exhortation follows. It may be that we do not let God’s eye guide us because we do not live in eye contact with Him. Then He must treat us as wayward animals like a horse and a mule (Psalms 32:9). Both animals need bit and bridle to be restrained so that they go the way the driver wants (cf. James 3:3). The lesson is not to be stubborn like a dumb mule, but to choose to humble ourselves and confess our sins. Otherwise, like the psalmist, and like a mule, we will be disciplined until we learn the lesson.
If God must deal with us in this way, it is not the method of His preference. Yet in this we see His grace, for He thereby preserves us from going a wrong, harmful way. It is a negative form of guidance. The word therefore is not in the original text. The meaning is that “they”, that is the consequences of going a wrong way, “will not come near to you”, that is, cannot harm us.
In Psalms 32:10, the wicked and those who trust in the LORD are contrasted. In doing so, the reader is presented with a choice. Whoever chooses the way of the wicked chooses many sorrows. He who chooses the way of trusting in the LORD will be surrounded by “lovingkindness”, which means that God’s lovingkindness is like a wall around him so that no calamity can hit him. Lovingkindness is chesed in Hebrew. It implies that God is faithful to the covenant, that is, that in His faithfulness to the covenant He will surely grant forgiveness.
The “righteous ones” are called to rejoice and be glad in the LORD (Psalms 32:11). If there are any on earth who have reason to do so, it are the righteous ones. These are the believers who have confessed their sins and therefore received forgiveness. The lessons they have taken to heart individually bring their hearts together so that they can now sing songs of praise to the LORD together.
Because their sins have been forgiven, they have a God who instructs them, teaches them, counsels them and guides them with His eye. They also have a living hope in the prospect of the fulfillment of God’s promises. Surely this should make the heart full of joy (Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16). That joy must be expressed and not just cherished in the heart.
A call is made to “all … who are upright in heart” to sing joyfully. These upright in heart are those with whom there is no spirit of deceit in their hearts. They have honestly and sincerely confessed their sins. Now that they have received forgiveness of sins, they are called to show their joy through songs of praise. It is not a call to act joyful, but to really be so. It is also a call to us. We too have every reason to do so when we consider that our sins have been forgiven and that we have received so many blessings, such as protection and guidance, in addition.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 32". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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