Psalm 32 is one of seven psalms that deals with repentance. David is the author of this psalm. If you remember, David was a great king (he is even recognized among the nation of Israel today as the greatest king who ever reigned). David was also a great warrior and worshipper. But just like all of us in some way, shape or form David blew it. At a time when he should have been off fighting with his men, he stayed home. “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent . . .” (2 Samuel 11:1).
While he was home David went out on his roof and he looked across the way and saw a beautiful woman taking a bath. Rather than turning away, he sent for her to come to the palace. He and Bathsheba had an adulterous affair and as a result of that affair she became pregnant. At that point, rather than facing the consequences he sent for her husband, Urriah to come home from the battlefield thinking he would sleep with his wife and no one would be the wiser that this was his child. Urriah did not go home to sleep with his wife. He stayed and slept at the door of David’s house.
When David asked Urriah why, he said all of the soldiers were camping out and he didn’t feel right enjoying the comforts of home. David sent him back to the battlefield and ordered that Urriah be put on the front lines of the fiercest part of the battle and retreat leaving him alone so he would be killed. This was David’s second attempt to cover his sin. David proceeds to “comfort the grieving wife”, marries her and now on his third attempt to cover it all up he thinks he has succeeded. Until Nathan the prophet comes to him and says, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). After his confrontation from Nathan, David finally repents. If you want to know how he felt after he was confronted and repented, David recorded it for us in Psalm 51 and then Psalm 32.
David begins Psalm 32 by saying, “1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1-2). “Blessed” (Psalm 32:1) means “joyful, happy, to be envied.” From his own experience David is telling us when we have repented and received forgiveness for our sins we will be joyful, happy and envied. “Forgiven” (Psalm 32:1) means “carried away.” Sin means “to miss the mark.” Transgression means “rebellion.” Iniquity means “crooked.” So we are crooked, rebellious people who will always miss the mark.
It’s the idea that God’s righteousness is the bullseye on a target and as much and as hard as we might try we will never hit it. Somebody who is good at shooting a bow can probably hit the bullseye pretty frequently. You might even be like my neighbor in South Carolina who called me over to his house so excited about something. He pulled out his arrow with another arrow stuck perfectly in it. But when it comes to God’s righteousness we can never be good enough, practice enough to make it, or even come close to the target. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).
David is telling us there is something really wrong with us. In order to achieve true happiness we have to deal with it. “3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah” (Psalm 32:3-4). David is writing about the year he spent trying to “cover up” and hide his sin. When he says “wasted away” (Psalm 32:3), it is the picture of clothes wearing out. He had no energy and he felt sick all the time. All the stress and pressure of trying to hide his sin was killing him.
Have you ever seen a plant get hit by the “heat of summer” (Psalm 32:4). It doesn’t get enough water and slowly it begins to die. It starts to wither up, the color leaves and soon it begins to burn up and die. That is what happens to you when you try to hide your sin. You have no joy, no happiness, no peace. You are miserable and slowly you find yourself shriveling up and dying from the inside out. The more we try to hide it and “put on a happy face,” the more miserable we become.
Debbie and I helped take care of a widow in South Carolina. We found out years later that Gladys was a hoarder. She asked Debbie to help her clean out her house and get it back in order. Debbie began working on the clean out. One day when Debbie was cleaning out, she looked up on a shelf in the hallway and saw a box of Fiddle Faddle. Debbie thought that Gladys had bought it and just simply forgot it was there. The box looked brand new and had never been opened. But when Debbie picked up the box it was empty. Without moving the box a mouse had gotten inside the eaten every little crump of the carmel corn. What appeared to be new and perfect on the outside was empty on the inside. We ca do the same thing. You can work hard at keeping up a good front that all is good but deep down inside, unconfessed sin is eating away at you until you are totally depleted and empty.
On the surface this doesn’t sound good but even as bad as it sounds, guilt is a good thing. Guilt is not nice, but it is necessary! Guilt is what will bring you to your knees and bring you to God. In the middle of all that guilt and wrestling with his sin, David admitted that God was there convicting him the whole time. “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me” (Psalm 32:4). Guilt and conviction happen when the righteous and holy presence of God through the Holy Spirit comes into contact with our unrepentant attitude and unconfessed sin.
When a cold front collides with a warm front what happens? A thunderstorm! What happens when you drop the mentos candies into a diet coke? An explosion! When God’s holy and righteous Holy Spirit collides with our unrepentant heart and unconfessed sin . . . GUILT HAPPENS! Guilt then begins to work within us to produce repentance.
When that collision takes place and guilt happens, the next step is to Take Responsibility. “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:5). Admit to God that the sin is yours, that is your fault. David is very clear to say, “my sin” (Psalm 32:5).
Our first tendency is to want to blame everybody else and everything else and not take responsibility for our sin. Same thing that happened in the Garden of Eden. Adam blamed Eve . . . Eve blamed the serpent (Satan) . . . etc. Nobody wanted to take responsibility for their sin. We all suffer from what I would call the “Garden Syndrome.” Rarely if ever will we immediately say, “It’s my fault. I take full responsibility for it.” It always somebody else’s fault or something else that caused us to do what we did.
When you do finally take responsibility for your sin the next step is to Take Action. Taking action involves changing your perspective on your sin. “Acknowledged” (Psalm 32:5) means “made known or revealed.” It is the idea of seeing things from the perspective of the One you have wronged. Spiritually it is seeing sin from God’s perspective. Not only are you admitting it, but you are changing your perspective. You see David’s perspective change in Psalm 51. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” (Psalm 51:4). That is a total shift from the man who about a year before was trying to hide his sin.
This is a genuine confession and not just empty words. Have you ever said, “I’m sorry” and not really meant it? Have you ever said, “I’m sorry” thinking, “If I say this I can get them off my back and all of this will just go away.” Have you ever said, “I’m sorry” just because you got caught and not because you really felt guilty for your sin? It is possible to confess but not be genuine. Many times our confession is focused on our behavior while God is always focused on the heart. This is a genuine, heartfelt confession from David to God.
When you finally come to the place of genuine confession and take action for your sin you experience Christ in a whole new way. “Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah” (Psalm 32:6-7). When you take action and repent of your sin, you want everybody else to experience what you have experienced. You want them to experience the freedom that is yours where there had been bondage, victory where there had been defeat, peace where there had been misery, etc.
You find that what you have been avoiding for so long is the greatest thing ever. But what keeps you from experiencing this? When we know it is so awesome why don’t we experience it more often? “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” (Psalm 32:9). There is a saying, “stubborn as a mule.” Has anyone ever told you, “You are stubborn as a mule.” A mule or horse will not willingly respond to you. You have to force it to respond with a bit and bridle. He is saying, “Don’t be stubborn and hold on to your sin and miss the peace, joy and happiness that comes from God’s forgiveness.”
When I was growing up my grandparents had an old Seigler coal stove in the kitchen. In the winter time that stove would get red hot, so Grandma warned us not to touch the stove. When you are young (maybe not even young) and someone tells you not to do something, what do you automatically do? You go ahead and do it. I know she told me that it would hurt me, but would it really? I remember walking in front of the stove, laying my hand on it and as soon as I touched it I saw the skin on my hand rolling up as soon as I touched the stove. It was burning so bad! I started screaming and Grandma came running after me screaming not knowing what was wrong. We were running laps through the house and I finally back to the kitchen and I hid under the kitchen table.
Grandma finally caught up with me and was trying to get me out from under the table. I was screaming and refusing to come out. She was trying everything she could do to get me out. I was hurting but I was scared too. I was scared she was going to punish me because she had told me not to touch the stove. She finally got me out and looked at my hand. She immediately got some ointment, bandaged up my hand and held me. At that moment I realized I had been running in fear from the one who wanted to help me!
As I look back on that experience, I see how it applies to sin and how we deal with it. God warns us that sin will hurt us but we go ahead and try it anyway. Then when we get caught up in it we start running from God . . . running from the very One who loves us so much! The One who will heal you and hold you if you will just stop running and let Him! The One who offers you rest in His forgiveness! God wants to be that hiding place you have been looking for.
God wants to keep you from trouble rather than having to rescue you out of trouble. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” (Psalm 32:8). God wants to protect you from the grief, misery and sorrow that comes with sin. “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.” (Psalm 32:10).
There are many voices that are condemning you with guilt. God wants to drown out those voices with “shouts of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7). Shouts filled with joy, peace, freedom, etc. God makes us a promise. But if you haven’t been listening to God’s voice, if you haven’t been obedient, God makes a promise. He says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).