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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Psalms 32

 

 

Introduction

This Psalm was probably written by David some time after his sin with Bathsheba. It describes the agonies of conscience that he went through before finally confessing his sin to God, and the subsequent relief that he experienced once he had done so and had found forgiveness. Intermingled with it are words spoken to him by YHWH promising that He will in future act as his guide if he will be responsive to the reins (Psalms 32:8-9). For the principle behind it compare Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:7-10.

Heading.

‘A Psalm of David. Maschil.’

Thirteen Psalms are called Maschils, but we do not know precisely why. It could relate to the idea of instruction (compare the use of the cognate verb in Psalms 32:8, ‘I will instruct you’) or it could refer to having ‘understanding’ (maschil - Psalms 47:8) or indicate that it is a meditation. Thus we may see it as instructing us so that we gain an understanding of God and His ways. Or it may indicate a particularly tricky musical rendering. The fact that some are described as ‘a Maschil of David’ might tend to counter the last suggestion.

This Psalm is a very moving one. It seems to refer to David’s experience when he had sinned with Bathsheba, a sin that caused him deep uneasiness within, so much so that at length he had no alternative but to go to God and have it dealt with. And the result was that he came through to a position of peace and blessing. This then resulted in God beginning to speak to him again, so that in the end he could call on all God’s people to be glad in the Lord and rejoice

The Psalm can be divided up as follows:

1) He praises God for the fact that he has been forgiven and put right with God (1-2).

2) He describes the period when he had been unable to find rest in his heart because God’s hand was on him giving him no peace (3-4).

3) He describes how he came to his senses and acknowledged his sin and thus found forgiveness (5).

4) He expresses his confidence that anyone who is godly can similarly come to Him in times of trouble, and emphasises that God is his hiding place who surrounds him with songs of deliverance (6-7).

5) He hears God’s voice again promising to lead him in the right way, although he must respond to His guiding hand (8-9).

6) He emphasises the fact that the one who trusts in YHWH will be surrounded with mercy (10).

7) He calls on all the righteous to be glad in YHWH, and for those who are upright in heart to shout for joy.


Verse 1-2

He Praises God For The Fact That He Has Been Forgiven (Psalms 32:1-2).

Psalms 32:1-2

‘Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,

Whose sin is covered.

Blessed is the man to whom YHWH does not impute iniquity,

And in whose spirit there is no guile.’

The Psalmist opens the Psalm with praise to God for the fact that he has been forgiven, his sin has been covered and he has been declared as righteous by God as a result of the removal of the imputation of his sins. All this was because his sin had been ‘covered’, that is, hidden out of sight. We note that there are three words used in order to describe his sins. ‘Transgression’ means ‘to rebel against God’. ‘Sin’ means ‘to miss the mark’. ‘Iniquity’ refers to inward moral distortion and depravity. He is thus conscious that he has been rebellious, that he has come short of the mark, and that he is sinful within. And as a result he recognises three responses from God. The first is forgiveness, the second is the covering of his sin as under a blanket, and the third is the non-imputation of his iniquity. In other words he is forgiven, he is seen as blameless through the merciful action of God, and he is counted as righteous before God’s throne of judgment. But this is only because he has first come openly to God (he is guileless of heart) and has openly admitted to his awareness of his guilt


Verse 3-4

2). He Describes the Period When He Had Been Unable to Find Rest in His Heart Because God’s Hand Was On Him Giving Him No Peace (3-4).

Psalms 32:3-4

‘When I kept silence, my bones wasted away,

Through my groaning all the day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me,

My moisture was changed as with the drought of summer.’ Selah.

All who truly know God will understand this experience. He had sinned, and now he could find no peace in his heart. He tried not facing up to it and keeping silent, but it did not work. He felt as though his bones were wasting away as a result of his groaning, and day and night he was conscious of God’s hand weighing heavily on him, with the result that he felt drained of moisture like a man who was baking in the continually burning sun in the depths of summer. Compare Job 33:19-21, ‘he is chastened also with pain on his bed, and with continual strife in his bones, so that his life abhors bread, and his soul choice meat’.

For a similar effect on the bones see Psalms 6:2; Psalms 22:14; Proverbs 17:22. For His hand heavy on him see Psalms 38:2; Psalms 39:10. For the whole compare Hosea 7:14, ‘they have not cried to me with their heart, but they howl on their beds’. Compare also Psalms 22:15; Proverbs 17:21.


Verse 5

The Psalmist Comes To His Senses and Acknowledges His Sin Thus Finding Forgiveness (5).

Psalms 32:5

‘I acknowledged my sin to you,

And my iniquity I did not hide,

I said, I will confess my transgressions to YHWH,

And YOU (emphatic) forgave the iniquity of my sin.’ Selah.

Coming at last to his senses David acknowledged his sin to God, and did not hide anything from Him. In other words He began again to ‘walk in the light’ (1 John 1:7). He was totally open with God. And once he had genuinely said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to YHWH’, he was conscious that God had forgiven Him his sins. ‘If we walk in the light as He is in the light -- the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7).

The verb for ‘hide’ is the same as for ‘cover’ in Psalms 32:1. It guarantees that if I uncover my sins to God, then He will step in and cover them so that they are remembered no more for ever. The words for transgression, iniquity and sin are also as in Psalms 32:1-2.

It has been suggested that the Psalm is lacking because there is no reference to the grace of God, but David was undoubtedly conscious of the fact that for the kind of sins that he had committed his only hope lay in the grace of God. Strictly they warranted immediate judgment. And what he is therefore expressing here is the wonder of God’s grace, freely given on his coming to Him. He was relying totally on the mercy and active compassion of God.


Verse 6-7

4). He Expresses His Confidence That Anyone Who is Godly Can Similarly Come to Him in Times of Trouble, Emphasising that God is His Hiding Place, The One Who Surrounds Him with Songs of Deliverance (Psalms 32:6-7).

Psalms 32:6

‘For this let every one who is godly pray to you,

In a time when you may be found.

Surely when the great waters overflow,

They will not reach to him.’

The Psalmist now turns his thoughts outwards and asks that all the godly might similarly seek God for the forgiveness of their iniquities. He does not want them to suffer as he has. Nor does he want them to face unnecessary trouble, or final judgment.

‘In a time when you may be found.’ Literally ‘in a time of finding’. This may mean:

· In a time when they find out their sins, or sin finds them out.

· In a time when God can be found (see Proverbs 1:28).

· In a time when men are seeking to find the answer to life.

· In a time when God ‘finds out’ men in judgment.

‘Surely when the great waters overflow, they will not reach to him.’ Here he may have in mind Noah’s flood when only Noah and his family were in a place where they could not be reached by the great waters. Or we might compare Isaiah 43:2, ‘when you pass through the waters I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overflow you’. In Psalms 144:7 deliverance from great waters involved being delivered from deceitful ‘strangers’ (compare Jeremiah 51:55). It is sinners who will be overwhelmed by the great waters (Isaiah 28:2; Isaiah 28:17; Isaiah 30:28; Nahum 1:8).

Psalms 32:7

‘You are my hiding-place,

You will preserve me from trouble,

You will compass me about,

With songs of deliverance.’ Selah.

The thought of Psalms 32:6 leads him to apply the idea to himself. YHWH is his refuge and hiding place, He will preserve him from trouble, He will surround him with songs of deliverance. The latter indicates that he is not alone in being delivered. He will be surrounded by a multitude which no man can number (Revelation 7:9; Revelation 14:3). For YHWH as a hiding place see Psalms 27:5; Psalms 31:20; Psalms 91:1-2.


Verse 8-9

5). He Hears God’s Voice Again Promising to Lead Him in The Right Way, Although Requiring That He Respond to His Guiding Hand (8-9).

‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you will go,

I will guide you with my eye.’

God now speaks to David (it is YHWH who gives David counsel - Psalms 25:8; Psalms 25:12; Psalms 16:7; Psalms 73:24). We have only to recall other mentions of His silence (Psalms 28:1; Psalms 35:22; Psalms 39:12; Psalms 83:1; Psalms 109:1) to recognise how much it meant to David to be aware that God was speaking to him. For a while He had been silent as David had refused to acknowledge his sin and failure, but now that reconciliation had been made God can speak to him again.

His promise is that He will instruct him and teach him in His way. We can compare here Deuteronomy 17:18-20 in order to recognise that this includes the idea that David will receive his guidance through God’s word.

‘I will guide you with my eye.’ The idea in mind here is where the servants of the king are watching him awaiting his instructions, so that he has but to indicate with His eyes and they know exactly what to do. So David had to keep his eye on YHWH and be open to His instruction in the same way. We too, if we wish to walk in His ways must allow Him to guide us with His eye.

Others suggest that it is indicating that God’s eye is upon him, as in Psalms 33:13; Psalms 33:18, ‘YHWH looks from heaven, He beholds all the sons of men, from the place of His habitation He looks down on all who dwell on earth -- behold the eye of YHWH is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy.’ ‘The eyes of YHWH are towards the righteous, and His ear is open to their cry’ (Psalms 34:15). Compare Jeremiah 24:6; Jeremiah 32:19.

Psalms 32:9

‘Do not be 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 you.’

God then warns him against not responding to Him freely. He does not want him to be like a horse or an ass which because of their lack of understanding have to be brought to bridle. Unless such experience the bit and bridle they will avoid their duties. But David is to have understanding, and is to respond freely without bit or bridle, simply in response to God’s eye.

‘Do not be as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding.’ Elsewhere the unrighteous nations are seen as being like wild beasts, in contrast with God’s people who are like ‘a son of man’ (e.g. Daniel 9). The whole idea is that man in his sin is like a brute beast. He has no genuine awareness of God or of divine things.


Verse 10

6). He Emphasises The Fact That The One Who Trusts In YHWH Will Be Surrounded With Mercy (10).

‘Many sorrows will be to the wicked,

But he who trusts in YHWH, lovingkindness will compass him about.’

David sums up his experience in a simple statement. Those who are wicked, (unresponsive to YHWH as David had been), will experience many sorrows, but those who respond to YHWH in faith and trust, will be surrounded by His lovingkindness and mercy, His covenant love. Here David makes clear his dependence on the grace of God, as well as the dependence of others. It is not by doing good that they will be surrounded by His lovingkindness, but by trusting in Him, but the very word lovingkindness. signifies love within the covenant and thus assumes a covenant response in David.


Verse 11

7). He Calls On All The Righteous To Be Glad In YHWH, and For Those Who Are Upright In Heart To Shout for Joy.

Psalms 32:11

‘Be glad in YHWH, and rejoice, you righteous,

And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.’

The Psalm finishes with a joyous call for all who are His to be glad in Him and to rejoice with shouting. Note their description as ‘the righteous’ (covenant-keepers) and ‘upright’. There is no such call to those who are still in their sins. For this idea of rampant rejoicing compare Psalms 5:11; Psalms 33:1; Nehemiah 8:10; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 32:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/psalms-32.html. 2013.

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Tuesday, January 28th, 2020
the Third Week after Epiphany
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