Thanksgiving for Forgiveness of Sins - Psalm 32
A reading from Psalm 32:
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. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah 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 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
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
“Blessed and happy are those whose sins--whose transgressions--are forgiven and taken away. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts--imputes...attributes--no iniquity” (Psalm 32:1-2). A double blessing.
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.
Last week, we began the season of Lent with a deep confession of sin, we remembered our mortality and our impending death with imposed ashes, and we reflected together on our sin. Yours...mine...humanity’s…
And specifically, we meditated on Psalm 51, a poem of David after he sinned grievously against the Lord.
Sin is not a fun topic. But, sin is inevitable. Because we fall short of the glory of God, because sin abounds in the world—we are born into it—it is inevitable that we humans fall into sin. But the author of this poem, David once again, gives us good news: our sin, our transgressions and iniquities, can be taken away. The LORD can impute us as if without blemish.
This incredible news leads me to reflect on my own sin. I imagine myself on trial in a courtroom, with judge and jury. I have pleaded guilty to the most heinous of my sin--for even my most “minor” sins make me a criminal. The jury returns with the verdict I know all too well. My heart sinks to my gut with guilt in anticipation. The foreman steps forward to read the finding--my eyes are closed, my head to floor--and he says…“Not...guilty.” I must have heard it wrong. The mighty gavel of the judge hits the block with thunder, and the momentous words of the judge hit me with euphoria: “You are free to go!”
Here in Psalm 32, we learn that sin is not the final word, and the author of this psalm knows that truth well. For sin removed makes a person very very happy. Sin removed makes a person blessed indeed.
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away...day and night your hand was heavy upon me” (Psalm 32:3-4).
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
The Psalms have endured for millennia because they are so personal and real; sometimes, so real they’re raw and unrestrained. They name our experience because they too come out of lived experience. David understands the deep, torrid nature of guilt. He’s felt the burden of conviction while wasting away in regret of his actions.
In the gospels, we see this same gut-filled regret in the story of the prodigal son. After receiving his inheritance--his blessing from his father--early, he squanders everything, living wildly, and reaches the depths of loss. On his knees, his gut is now filled with the food of pigs--gut-filled regret. But then, he opens his mouth for something different. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:18-19). Like David, the prodigal son understands the value of confession because he first tried to resist it. He hid his faults, sealed his heart and lips and would not speak his sins, but the result was agony and groaning all the day. Because he “kept silent,” his “bones wasted away.”
I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’
Unconfessed sin is an incredible weight on a person. If only we could feel the weight of our sin upon us. If only it would drive us to our knees so we, too, could experience the freedom and the unburdening, the grace and the joy the psalmist finds at last!
I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide (Psalm 32:5). And rather than shame or disgrace, David finds comfort...alleviation even. This comfort and alleviation is exactly what the prodigal son experiences as well. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
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
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1). Notice that this blessing is given not to the innocent or the sinless (they don’t exist!), but to the sinner who through confession has had his or her sin removed. The father runs to us, ready to give us a second blessing. Our weight and frustration, fading strength, and loss of joy vanish the moment we experience God’s mercy.
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
For the LORD is a hiding place. He surrounds us with glad cries of deliverance! Be glad in him and rejoice, you righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright of heart (Psalm 32:7, 11).
You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
The forgiven David culminates this poem by calling the entire community, all of us to rejoice. Rejoice! For a sinner has found forgiveness!
That is a very counter-cultural notion. Our culture doesn’t celebrate forgiveness. We revel in justice--even desiring the punishment of others. When some is forgiven or gets away with something, we grind our teeth, just like the older brother does when the prodigal returns. But God offers all the same restoration and we can choose to sulk and mope around or join into a celebration of forgiveness and grace. We can be generous or resentful. We can choose to believe that God creates us anew, or that he doesn’t.
The good news of Psalm 32 reminds us that we have a role to play when someone is forgiven. We are to rejoice! To take joy in the new life of the pardoned! To welcome back one who had been lost to us. “This brother of yours was dead and is alive again; for he was lost and now is found” (Luke 15:32). The good news of Psalm 32 is that as individuals and as a community, we can forgive too! We can welcome the lost back again! We can be made alive again, too! “Forgiveness may be the greatest power in our lives. Without it, all of the relationships on which we depend would be lost. Its repetitive narrative rolls through the stories of the Old Testament. God lovingly gives what the people need; the people turn away; God forgives and the cycle begins all over again. [As humans, we are] remarkably consistent and thankfully so is God.” (Beth Tanner’s Commentary on Psalm 32). Psalm 32 is a celebration of forgiveness.
Last week, we covered our foreheads with ash and reflected on our death. But it is by coming to terms with our death, it is through confessing the sin that keeps us chained to death, that we are released from bondage. You see, Lent, a word which means “spring,” is not about really about our death at all. Lent prepares us for death: death to our enslavement to sin, death to our guilt and shame, death to our silence and pride, death of an actual sinless and innocent savior, and joy of restoration, deliverance, forgiveness, and life for us. Through our Lord Jesus, our “transgression is forgiven...our sin is covered...and we...are...blessed” (Psalm 32:1). Amen.
Happy is he whose transgression is taken away, whose sin is covered.