August 24: Psalm 32
August 24, 2010
What is the epitome of blessing in the life of faith? Different Christians would no doubt offer different answers: from personal peace and happiness through to the salvation of many as the gospel is proclaimed. It is certainly true that there are all kinds of blessings promised to those who put their faith in Christ - we are 'blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly realms' in him - but there is one blessing that is the key to all the others. David puts his finger on it in this psalm when he says, 'Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit' (32.1-2). The joy of sins forgiven is the key to every other joy promised to us in the gospel.
David could hardly be more graphic in the language he uses to emphasise the point. Speaking of the burden of unforgiven sin, he describes the spiritual, emotional and even physical effects he felt when he refused to face up to his guilt and confess it to God (32.3-4). But then, by total contrast, he tells us what happened when he came out of denial (32.5-6). Indeed, so great is his relief in knowing God's pardon he cannot keep it to himself, but seizes the opportunity not only to tell others of this great truth, but to exhort them to act in faith and repentance towards God as he himself had done. The closing verse in the psalm captures it all when David says, 'Rejoice in the, Lord and be glad; you righteous, sing, all you who are upright in heart!' (32.11).
At one level David's testimony has a great deal to say about how we as Christians deal with particular sins and failures in our lives. It certainly strikes a chord with us all as we think of times when we too 'say we have no sin' (1Jn 1.8) and feel the torment of a guilty conscience. But if that was all he had to say about forgiveness, then it would hardly qualify for the definitive declaration of blessedness with which this hymn of praise begins. The only way we can make sense of that is through the joy of being justified - knowing that our sin and guilt are no longer reckoned to our account (32.2) and knowing we are numbered among those who are reckoned righteous (32.11). Some may wonder why so much heat has been generated throughout the history of the church over the doctrine of justification; this psalm goes a long way towards explaining why.