- December 27, 2007
- By John Rutledge
Bible Studies for Life Series for January 13
Breakthrough in Forgiveness
• Psalm 32
First Baptist Church, Gatesville
One of the things that I appreciate most about David is his honesty. When we read the stories of David’s life and we read through the Psalms, we see a man who plays both hero and goat and is not afraid to admit it. Such is the case with Psalm 32, David does not sing of the blessings of forgiveness in the abstract. He sings of the blessing of forgiveness because he has received forgiveness and knows the joy that comes from forgiveness personally. One of the strengths of this Psalm is its personal nature. David does not claim that this forgiveness is unique to him, but encourages all to seek forgiveness and the joy it brings. It is almost written in a manner that there is a blank at the end where we can fill in our name and make it our own.
David starts the psalm noting the blessed nature of the one who is forgiven. Blessed is a word that gets a lot of use in religious life these days, in many cases it is wrongly used. Blessedness is much better understood as a result rather than as a reward. To make blessing a reward would mean that we have somehow achieved a state of blessedness. This immediately leads to a hierarchy within the people of God and is divisive rather than unifying. Understanding blessing as a result of God’s gracious forgiveness is to understand ourselves as recipients of God’s grace. Psalm 32 rings the same note as Ephesians 2:8-9, “ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the figt of God not by words, so that no one can boast.” To be blessed is not the reward for a sinless life, it is the result of God’s forgiveness. David would never be able to write of a sinless life, he has confessed to too much sin already!
David speaks of this blessing from personal experience. In verses 3-4 of Psalm 32, David describes the grief that characterized his life before forgiveness. When he kept silent and refused to acknowledge his sin before God he suffered the consequences of his sin. While David might not have been physically ill, it would not be too far a stretch to believe that he was. With all of the news of the effects of stress on the body, it is not difficult for us to imagine the sin that ate away at David literally ate away at him. At the very least David’s words of grief and pain reveal the effect of sin upon a person.
The consequences of unconfessed sin in our lives are no different than they were for David. It eats away at us and causes us to be less than God intends for us. It decays our relationships and keeps them from being as fulfilling for either party as they were intended. David’s experience is our own, we know the pain of unconfessed sin whether it comes from the fear in being discovered, or our change in behavior in trying to hide our sin.
Psalm 32 echoes the truth that rings throughout the Bible; the worst does not have to be the last. When David acknowledged his sin and confessed his sin to God the result was that God forgave the guilt of his sin. The good news is that sin does not have the last word, God does. Confession has to happen for forgiveness to be received. One author has compared unconfessed sin to waters building pressure behind a dam. The water flows into the dam, creating pressure on it, but when the floodgates are opened the waters subside and the pressure is released.
Knowing the joy of forgiveness, David beckons others to God for the same forgiveness. All of the godly are invited to pray, David’s call excludes none of them. This is evidence of real blessing. David does not keep the blessing for himself, he calls others to the joy that he has experienced. It might better be said that David cannot keep this to himself, it is a joy that must be shared. He does more than tell people what he has experienced, he leads them before the God who can forgive them that they might experience the same. That is the evidence of blessing; it is always shared.
Why is it that we have to learn this lesson over and over again? The godly person is advised not to be stubborn like a horse or mule that constantly need restraint, but to be ready to run to the Lord for forgiveness. It may be that we have difficulty in confessing our sin because we are so hard on ourselves. We would rather wallow in our guilt to punish ourselves rather than experience the joy of forgiveness that God readily offers. God beckons us to a life of assurance, lived in his love by the acts of confession and repentance.