The Good Life: A Reflection on Psalm 32, Pt. 2

David begins with the word “Blessed,” which can also be translated “Happy.”  He is saying that the truly blessed life, the truly happy life that people are so desperately searching for is found in the forgiveness of sins.  This is not something that David took lightly and neither should we.  David was happy and relieved to be forgiven.  If we do not share David’s appreciation for forgiveness, it is most certainly because we do not have his understanding of sin. 

In verses 3-5 we see David relaying his own personal struggle.  What we learn is that unconfessed sin leads to an unpleasant life.  I’ve heard it said before that a Christian living in sin is the most miserable person of all.  And no doubt this misery was with David.  We get a glimpse of his anguish in vv. 3-5 where David uses poetic expressions to communicate his pain[1]: he says his bones wasted away through his groaning all day long.

Most likely what David is referring to here is the weakness of spiritual relationship.  It is evident to him that he is not experiencing the joy of his salvation.  This “groaning” he talks about is the torment of his guilty conscience.  And why is this his condition?  Notice the beginning of v. 3: He has not confessed his sin (“For when I kept silent”).  Take note of the fact that the unrepentant state is described as one of silence.[2]  He doesn’t want to come to terms with his sin; but his problem is even worse because notice the next verse: day and night your hand was heavy upon me.  In other words, he feels God’s heavy hand on him which means he is aware of the need to repent, but he refuses to do so.

Because of this he says, “My strength is dried up”; another translation is, “My life juices are gone.”  He doesn’t have the energy to keep living this way.  David is suffering from a tortured conscience and he is showing to us something that has been proven over and over again: we cannot cover up our sin and refuse to deal with them.  Sins have an annoying tendency to nag us and bother our conscience.

Verses 6-7 give us the truth to be drawn.  In light of what he has just said—that is, in light of the fact that lasting happiness and true peace are only found through confession and receiving forgiveness—David’s conclusion is that believers should confess their sins while we still have time.  This is consistent with the prophet Isaiah’s words in 55:6: Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.

Some wonder if David is writing for believers here.  Notice in v. 6 David says, “Let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you . . .”  Yes, this is for believers.  No, we don’t receive justification over and over again.  But because we do continue to sin, we need to come to the Lord and ask forgiveness.  After all, Jesus taught us to pray, “Father forgive us our debts . . .”

Verses 8-11 give us the instruction to be heeded.  After David has received forgiveness from God, his first impulse is tell others about what he’s experienced.  Some commentators think this is God speaking back to David.  But others think these are David’s words that he would have spoken to the people of Israel in the Temple.  I’m inclined to think the second view is correct because, if it is true that this Psalm is connected to Psalm 51, then it makes sense that in Psalm 51, after David confessed his sin there, he said in v. 13, Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 

On one level we could read this Psalm and say, “Wow, David was such a great man.  He was convicted of his sin and confessed and received forgiveness from God.  Therefore, we should confess our sins as well.”  But if that’s all we did, we would be neglecting the unfolding drama of redemption that we are supposed to grasp as we read the Bible.  Here’s the truth of the matter: We, as believers in Jesus Christ, are in a better position than David was in.  David’s understanding of forgiveness came through what the Bible calls types and shadows that prefigured Christ; and these types and shadows were pointing ahead to a future deliverance.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post to read about this future deliverance in Christ . . .


[1] Michael Wilcock, The Message of Psalms 1-72 (Downers Grove: IVP, 2001), 266-267.

[2] Ibid., 266.

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