The Greatest Blessing: An Exposition of Psalm 32
The Greatest Blessing: An Exposition of Psalm 32 David was a man who knew the heights of blessing. He was a man after God’s own heart. God chose him, even though he was the least of his brother and set him upon the throne of Israel. He stood up to Goliath and the Philistines. He knew how to dance with joy before the LORD. Truly David was a blessed man. But what was the greatest blessing? One could see something like the capture of Jerusalem, for example. We always are attracted by blessings like this. But David knew a greater blessing. We will see what this greatest blessing when we examine the 32nd Psalm. For all of the spiritual heights David experienced, David also knew the utter depths of spiritual despair and sin. The killing of Uriah the Hittite to cover up the adultery with Bathsheba comes to mind. As a result, his family was cursed. The son Bathsheba bore died. Ammon raped his sister Tamar. Absalom killed Ammon in revenge. Absalom usurped the throne and was killed by Joab. Even after his death, Adonijah had to be executed for treason against Solomon. A plague came on the people for David’s sin of numbering the people. These are just some of the difficulties his sin caused. Add to this the many troubles he had with Saul, his wife Milcah, the Philistines and other problems also weighed David down. The blessings of wealth and power are transitory. But there is a blessing that is not. We see this from the very beginning of the 32nd Psalm. Verses 1 and 2 make a parallel statement to describe this blessing. “Blessed is he whose sin is covered.” There is a priestly idea of the covering of sin. The sinner could come to the place where the LORD’s presence was displayed and offer a sacrificial animal as a sin offering. The blood of this animal atoned for this sin when presented in an attitude of faith in Yahweh. This is the way the LORD had established for Israel. The sinner believed he or she could present this offering as a covering of sin. The next statement states the parallel idea: “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord does not impute iniquity.” The words “sin” and “iniquity” are similar in meaning, but the fact that different words are set in parallel indicates that they interpret each other. What is the difference? The rest of verse two sheds some light upon this: “in whose spirit is no deceit.” There is an internal dimension to sin as well as an external one. Jesus said that external manifestations of sin derive from an evil heart. The sacrificial system satisfied the external penalty for sin. This is what Luther calls “external righteousness.” We see this kind of justice when a criminal has “paid his debt to society.” There is an external restoration, but this does nothing to address the root cause as to why the transgression happened in the first place. The threat of punishment or public humiliation does help to suppress acts of sin. So this dies serve a useful purpose as if people were allowed freely to exercise the depravity of their heart, the world would be worse than it is already. David got caught in his sin by the LORD by Nathan the Prophet. He would be exposed to public humiliation. This was later seen in his son Absalom lying with David’s concubines in public amongst other things. The external consequences served as an example to all Israel. But the issue of the heart had to be addressed. He was called a “man after God’s own heart.” But David’s heart was far from God. We see this in the 51st Psalm which is a prayer of repentance based upon the incident. We also see it here. David was a man haunted internally by his sin. In some ways, this is a good thing, because a person who can sin without regret is a person beyond redemption. Hebrews tells us we should rejoice when the LORD chastises us. This is because a father disciplines his own children and not someone else’s. David was still in covenant relationship with Yahweh. Likewise, we should take comfort when the LORD troubles our heart when we sin. We need to address this lest our conscience be burned to the point we cannot feel our depravity. David had tried to subvert his conscience by remaining silent. Yet the LORD caused his bones to roar. The LORD would not let David sweep his sin under the rug. It does not say that a person who tries to cover his or her own sin is blessed after all. The LORD’s hand was heavy upon David all day and all night. It wasn’t just being exposed by Nathan. He was already greatly troubled with his sin before Nathan exposed it. It is a great act of God’s grace when he hounds you in your sin. The chastisement is not pleasant, but it is soul saving if one repents. He felt a thirst like that of being in the desert on a hot summer day. David vividly paints the picture of his suffering. David now realizes that confession before the LORD was the only way he could deal with the pain of guilt. He acknowledged his sin. In Psalm 51, he adds “against thee only have I sinned.” He prayed to the LORD and He found relief. The LORD had forgiven the iniquity of his sin. The person who turns to the LORD and prays to Him at a time He can be found. The very fact that David was troubled by the LORD showed that the LORD was in a position to hear. Instead of the dry desert, he was now in the floods of joy. We must note that this restoration was entirely the LORD’s work and not David’s. It is all by grace. A man who is ungodly becomes godly. When one whose relationship with the LORD is restored, the attitude changes from one of dread of the LORD to the surety that the LORD is the believer’s true shelter. The LORD will keep him from trouble. The songs of deliverance will flow through the believer’s heart. The beautiful psalms of David demonstrate this. The restored person can now instruct those who are troubled by sin. David had already been in the slough of despond. He knew from where He had come. He had now tasted grace. He can not say to the sinner to stop obstructing the wooing of the LORD like a stubborn animal. There is no reason to be haunted by one’s iniquity. There is a way out. Turn to the LORD and believe that you will find peace, even as I have found peace. One day of suffering for sin is too long. Put away pride and find rest. The sinner has many sorrows, but the one who trusts Yahweh shall find mercy. The one who is restored will be glad and filled with great joy because they are not righteous. They are upright in heart. The sorrow of sin is great, the joy of being forgiven is even greater. Paul uses Psalm 32 in Romans to illustrate justification by faith. One cannot cover their own sin. External righteousness and even public penance cannot address the root cause of sin which lies in the human heart. No sacrifice or external observance of the Law can make one right. In fact, Paul says that no one will be justified by the works of the Law. To him, the Law can only disclose one’s iniquity. But as we have discussed, the exposure of one’s sin to one’s own conscience is the first step of grace. One has to know they are a sinner before they can know the grace of God. Sin has to be covered. We now know that this covering is not based upon the sacrifice of an animal, but by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, upon whom all of our sins have been placed. But we must believe that God has done this for us. We must believe in our heart, the heart which once was so full of guile. All have sinned. All need to be restored, whether they were Israelites under the Law or the rest of humankind who transgressed in Adam. We have fallen. The briars and hard earth remind us. The pains of childbirth declare that the joy that should accompany birth are tempered by the misery of giving birth. But now that Christ has died for us, we need to stop being like a senseless animal. We must stop stubbornly clinging to our sin, even though it pains our body as well as our conscience. The way to joy is to come to Jesus Christ and find relief. Joy awaits you, the joy of a clean heart. Why wallow in misery any longer? The true blessing is not based upon what one possesses. Are the rich any happier than the poor. They might be able to afford the finest homes, best food and medical care. Yet for all their pleasures, they are some of the angriest and troubled people anywhere. They are always trying to atone for their “privilege.” They cannot even rejoice in their abundance. Why? It is because they are missing the greatest blessing, the blessing of a pure and upright heart. What they are missing is Jesus. And Jesus will never let such as these live in peace. He loves the wayward sinner too much to let them get by with their sin. The blessings of this life decay. The blessing of an upright heart is for ever. Jesus gives eternal life to all who will believe on Him in their heart and then publicly confess Him. Instead of bringing a sacrificial animal in public contrition, they bring the sacrifice of praise and joy. Come and learn of Him. Take His yoke upon you and you shall find true freedom.