Do you share your answers to prayers with your friends, family, or neighbors? Praying for others and hearing how God has answered my prayers is a relational bridge, especially with unbelievers. This morning my neighbor and her dog met me and GG when walking. She recently moved into a single-family home from her apartment. Training her little rescue dog to do her business in the backyard has been difficult. But this morning, she told me, Lindy, her dog, finally did everything in the yard. I responded, “Praise God, that’s an answer to my prayer,” since I had been praying for this. Years ago, I learned to pray specifically and observe the evidence that God has done something on my behalf, whether it’s what I requested or another answer. But the best answers to prayers are those of my confessions when I see evidence of my changed heart, mind, attitude, or choices. I want to be a chief repenter among those in my community, church, and family. But, to repent, I first need to confess sincerely. King David also knew himself to be a sinner who transgressed against God but was blessed by God’s forgiveness, righteous covering, and mercy. David vacillates, as we do, between crying out to the Lord for help and praising him for his steadfast love and compassion. We can learn much about God’s blessings of forgiveness from him. God’s Holy Spirit inspired David to write about the covering of sin over a thousand years before Christ’s incarnation—and counted it a blessing. And what a blessing it is!
The Blessedness of Forgiveness
In Psalm 32, David writes, “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” (verses. 1-2). David certainly knew himself to be a sinner who transgressed against God, which was especially evident after his foolish and destructive conduct with Bathsheba and Uriah. He also knew what it was to be forgiven. Covered by the blood of Christ, we have even more incentive to stop deceiving ourselves and approach God quickly to receive his blessed forgiveness. David names three ways he and others violate God: transgression, sin, and iniquity. He also implies that some have a deceitful spirit, which God transforms. How does the Lord deal with these? He has three ways: forgiveness, covering, and forgetting our iniquity (not counting it). He also transforms our deceitful hearts and minds through our sanctification. ”Psalm 32 seems to have been written later than Psalm 51, after some reflection, and may therefore, as Leupold suggests, be ‘the fulfillment of the vow contained in Psalm 51:13: ‘Then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee.’…The psalm certainly functioned as instruction, because Paul later quoted its first two verses in Romans 4 to add David’s testimony to his own proof that justification is by grace through faith alone…Augustine had it inscribed on the wall next to his bed before he died in order to meditate on it better. He liked it because, as he said…’the beginning of knowledge is to know oneself to be a sinner.'” (1) “The psalm begins with two Old Testament beatitudes, affirming the blessedness…of the person whose sins are forgiven. First, the facts of sin and forgiveness are described, in each case by three expressions. Wrong-doing is transgression…sin, a negative missing of the mark, an omission…and ‘iniquity’ is that inward moral perversity or corruption of nature which we call ‘original sin.’ Forgiveness is threefold too. The Hebrew word translated forgiven in verse 1 apparently means to remove or to lift. Sin is also covered, put out of sight and therefore the Lord refuses to reckon it against the sinner. Forgiveness is thus regarded as the lifting of a burden, the covering of an ugly sight, and the cancelling of a debt. It these verses which the apostle Paul quoted in Romans 4:6-8 as an Old Testament example of God’s justification of the sinner by His grace through faith, altogether apart from works.” (2) Isn’t it a delight to know that we are those to whom God has given his covenantal blessing described by David?
Sin is Lifted and Covered by Christ’s Blood
“Before the sin is confessed we bear it like some great burden, but when we confess it to God he lifts it from our shoulders. John Bunyan captured this well in Pilgrim’s Progress where he describes Pilgrim coming to the cross, at which point ‘his burden loosed from off his shoulders and fell from off his back and began to tumble, and so continued to do so, till it came to the mouth of the sepulcher, where it fell in and was seen no more.’ This is what happens to all Christians. When we confess our sin God removes it ‘as far as the east is from the west’ (Ps. 103:12) and no longer ‘remembers’ it against us (Isa. 43:25).” (3) “There is a contrast in the kind of covering: when God’ covers’ sin, he graciously blots it out; when man ‘covers’ his sin, he is sinfully hiding it.” (4) We think of Adam and Eve in the garden, trying to cover their shame with fig leaves. They couldn’t hide the shame of their sin from God, and neither can we. “The liberation of forgiveness starts with honesty. It is only when we uncover and admit our sin that God is willing to cover it. That is, he removes our objective guilt so it can’t bring us into punishment, and he removes our subjective shame so we don’t remain in inner anguish. The happiest (most ‘blessed’) people in the world are those who not only know they need to be deeply forgiven but also have experienced it.” (5) “Two thoughts must have gone through Adam’s and Eve’s minds. First, an instinctive horror of death. ‘So this is what death is,’ they must have exclaimed as they looked down in horror at the bodies of the slain animals. ‘How horrible!’… sin is far worse than they could possibly have imagined it to be…The second thought…must have been a deep and growing wonder at the mercy of God who, though he had every right to take their lives in forfeit of his broken commandment and had said that death must follow sin, was nevertheless showing that it was possible for an innocent victim to die instead. We know as we look back on this event from the perspective of later revelation that it was not the blood of the slain animals that actually took away the sin of Eve and Adam. It was not the death of animals that permitted God to forgive sin and proclaim sinners just. The only death that could possibly do that was the death of Jesus, and the only blood that could cleanse was his blood.” (6)
Sinners Without Deceit
David continues,” Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity.” David, who knew himself to be a great sinner who transgressed against God, somehow understood that God would not hold his sin against him. Only the Holy Spirit could give him these words long before Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. God had transformed David’s heart, at least for a time, to be one “in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Although he was a sinner, like us, David truly wanted to have a heart for God without corruption. His confession after Nathan’s confrontation proved that he did not want to continue deceiving himself. (See 2 Samuel 12.) We are reminded of Nathanael, Philip’s brother. When Philip told him about Jesus, “Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!'” (John 1:46-47) How could Nathanael have “no deceit?” “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him…notwithstanding his prejudices, he was a man of so much uprightness and honesty…not that he was without sin; nor is this said of him; nor was he in such sense without guile, as Christ himself was; but guile was not a governing sin in him: the course of his life, and conversation, was with great integrity, and uprightness, and without any prevailing hypocrisy and deceit, either to God, or men.” (7) Being covered by the blood of Christ, Christians have every reason to stop deceiving ourselves and approach God quickly to receive his blessed forgiveness and mercy. “There is no greater blessedness than to know that our sin has been forgiven and covered over by the blood of Christ and it is no longer counted against us…The forgiveness of God is for all and for all sins, and the blessing that follows forgiveness is the greatest of all joys.” (8) How has God shown his forgiveness and covering lately? How has he blessed you? “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalms 32:11)
Related Scripture: Genesis 1:21; Exodus 24:15-16; 40:34; Psalms 25:6-7; 85:2; 103:13; Proverbs 28:13b; Ezekiel 16:8-14; John 1:29; Romans 2:28-29; 4:7-8; 2 Corinthians 5:19.
- Stott, John, Favourite Psalms, Psalm 32, pp. 44-46, Candle Books, 1988, 2003.
- Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Psalm 32, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
- Boice, Ibid.
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Psalm 32:1–2, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Keller, Timothy with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, p. 59, Viking, New York, 2015.
- Boice, Ibid, Genesis 3.
- Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, John 1:46, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-1.html
- Boice, Ibid, Psalm 32.