A Season of Promise
7. The Promise of Forgiveness
Our focus today is the promise of forgiveness from Psalm 32. Let’s establish some background information about Psalm 32 that will help us understand it better. David is the author. While he was a great king and walked with God for much of his life, we also know that he committed adultery and murder. He wrote this psalm to help us know that we can be fully restored and completely forgiven no matter what we’ve done. Whether you’ve committed robberies, cheated in a test or on your spouse you can be forgiven. This is one of the 7 psalms of forgiveness - Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143.
This has been referred to as one of “Paul’s Psalms” because it is quoted extensively in Romans 4 to establish that we are declared righteous not because of what we’ve done, but because of what Christ has done on the Cross.
At the very beginning, you’ll see the phrase, “A Maskil.” This was a literary or musical term to indicate that the words to follow are extremely important - “Lean in and listen up!” David wants us to pay particular attention to this inspired instruction so that we’ll understand and embrace the promise of forgiveness.
We’re going to learn that God won’t hold our sins against us if we confess them.
1. The Happiness of Forgiveness v. 1, 2
“Blessed” has a very rich meaning that cannot be defined with just one word. We could say, “How happy!” or “Congratulations to.” This word is in the plural so we could say, “Oh, the multiple happinessess, the boatload of blessings to the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”
David provides a threefold description of sin in these first 2 verses.
“Transgression” - defiant disobedience toward God - a revolt or rebellion against the Almighty. “Sin” - to miss the mark of God’s perfection either through acts of commission or omission. “Iniquity” - a crookedness or deliberate perversion. The picture is of a tree that is gnarled and twisted.
The point of using these 3 different words reminds us that all types of sin and wrongdoing can be forgiven. We defiantly disobey, we miss the mark and we’re inherently crooked. Our “little” sins are an affront to the Almighty and those “big” acts of rebellion offend our Holy God.
David also uses 3 words to express the fullness of our forgiveness. “Forgiven” - to lift a heavy burden and carry it away. Our transgressions are taken away and lifted from us by the Lord.
“Covered” - our sins are so covered that they will never appear again. What is offensive to God is put out of sight. “Does not count against him” - God erases our sin-debt from the books as if it never happened. God does not count our sins against us and in their place he has imputed the righteousness of another. Christ’s right standing before God is ours and our sin is taken away by Him.
David says that God does all this for the one in “whose spirit is no deceit.” That doesn’t mean someone who has no faults but rather refers to those who readily admit their sins. It’s the idea of authenticity. It means that we are not deceitful in acknowledging our sin. The key to the Christian life is not our personal perfection, but our regular repentance. It’s not a matter of trying to be perfect but recognizing that we’re not. We need to fully admit that we are twisted transgressors and selfish sinners. If we’re not real with God, David describes what will happen.
2. The Heaviness of Sin v. 3, 4
Many years ago, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes novels, played a prank on 5 of the most prominent men in England. He sent an anonymous note to each one that simply said this, “All is found out, flee at once.” Within 24 hours all 5 men had left the country. That’s exactly the picture described in Proverbs 28: 1: “The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
Are you hiding anything today? Instead of owning your sin, is it owning you? Does lack of forgiveness make you want to flee? Keeping silent about sin can also make us feel sick. When David tried to ignore his iniquities his bones felt like they were decaying.
David tells us that his groaning went on all day long. When we don’t own up to our sins, our bodies revolt. Instead of happiness, we experience heavy heartache. When we keep our mouths shut, our conscience screams. When we bottle up evil our bones grow old. Proverbs 28: 13: “He who conceals his sins does not prosper.”
After describing his spiritual drought and the burning in his bones, David writes the word, “Selah.” This word is used over 70 times in the Psalms - means to pause and think about what has just been said. David doesn’t want us to miss the point. How is the Holy Spirit speaking in your life right now? [Let’s pause and ponder]
3. The Help of God v. 5
After talking about the blessed happiness of forgiveness and the heaviness of sin, David draws our attention to the help of God. Instead of concealing, David is now confessing. He first acknowledged his sin by stating the obvious. Then he stopped trying to cover it up.
In a sense, he’s like the prodigal son who had grown tired of living with the pigs. He owns up to his wrong and doesn’t make any excuses. To “confess” means, “to say the same” thing that God says about your sin. Until we can say, “God, you’re right, it’s wrong” we haven’t really confessed. If you’re not ready to confess, maybe you need a little more distress in your life. David finally surrendered. Are you ready to do the same?
Notice that he takes personal responsibility by using personal pronouns – my sin, my iniquity, my transgressions. David repeats the 3 words for sins mentioned in v.1. He doesn’t deny, minimize, or blame someone else. He simply calls his sin, “sin.” It’s not an error or a mistake.
We would be much better off if we would stop using other words and phrases to excuse our behaviour. Instead of saying, “I stretched the truth,” it’s better to say, “I just sinned by lying.” Instead of saying, “I just have a bad temper,” it’s more accurate to say, “I just sinned against you with my words. Please forgive me.” Instead of saying, “I had an affair,” it’s more biblical to say, “I committed adultery.”
It’s much better to call sin what it is. Why is that? Because there’s a solution for sin - it’s called forgiveness. Until we acknowledge that what we’ve done is sinful, we won’t experience freedom and restoration.
Confession is more than merely informing God that we’ve sinned. It also involves a turning away. God won’t hold our sins against us if we confess them.
We don’t have to beg God to forgive because He wants to forgive more than we want to be forgiven. We don’t have to bargain with Him and we don’t have to bribe Him by promising to do a bunch of good things, and we don’t have to do penance for the bad things we’ve done. Another pause is needed here – Selah – so that we don’t rush past the beauty of having all of our sins forgiven. Take some time right now to claim the promise of forgiveness for the sins that you’ve confessed.
Some of you need forgiveness today. If you want to experience the happiness of forgiveness you must first know the heaviness of sin. Confess that you are a sinner right now and cry out to Jesus for help. Are you ready right now to have your sins forgiven and your life changed forever? If so, will you cry out to Christ right now?