By Ben W. Curtis
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Tracy City
Augustine of Hippo, a third century church father from northern Africa, most likely spent his last days reflecting on Psalm 32. It’s easy to see why a dying saint would find comfort in these words because they are about the happiness, joy, and blessing of those who have experienced God’s forgiveness.
In verses 1-2, David uses three words to reflect on the seriousness of his sin: transgression, sin, and iniquity. Sin is intentional rebellion against God. It’s missing the mark or crossing a line that shouldn’t be crossed. David shares his own testimony about a time when he kept his sin hidden for a time (vv. 3-4). His bones, the strongest part of his body, crumbled and fell apart with his “groaning all day long.” Haven’t we all been there? We feel so sick over our sin at times that we long to go back and change what has happened. Yet, we conceal our sin out of fear. Leaders especially feel an expectation to be perfect, which makes it so much harder to confess our sins. But David found that unconfessed sin was like a cancer which clung to him day and night, a heavy weight which suffocated him. Hidden sin diminished his strength, much like a desert sun beating down upon his body.
Since David couldn’t bear the weight of the Lord’s heavy hand, he did the only thing he could do; he fell on his face before God and asked forgiveness for his sin. In verse 5, David includes in his confession the same three words for sin used in verses 1-2. He held nothing back, confessing the ugly secrets of his heart, and God instantaneously forgave him. Isn’t it amazing to think that we are only a millisecond away from full and absolute forgiveness?
David concludes his testimony with a warning against procrastination. The time to offer prayer and ask for forgiveness is when the Lord may be found (vv. 6-7). The phrase, “rush of great waters,” should remind us of the flood in Noah’s day or the story of Israel crossing the Red Sea. Both are examples of God’s righteous judgment upon a sinful people. Just as Noah’s ark was shut when the rain began to fall, so God’s ear will be shut to the cries of mercy when Jesus Christ returns (Matthew 25:10). Are you ashamed of your sin? Rather than hiding from God, the gospel calls us to hide in God (Psalm 32:7).
Once we have received cleansing for our sin, God promises to give us direction: I will instruct you, I will teach you, and I will counsel you (v. 8). After hiding our sin for so long, we find ourselves desensitized to God’s heavy hand. If we become stubborn and mule-like, God is willing to make us bite the bitter bit of His discipline to help us learn. Why continue down this path when it only leads to a life of sorrow? How can we not trust the Lord when He promises to surround our lives with His “steadfast love” (v. 10)? Our psalm ends with the expression of the one who is blessed, because of His cleansing (v. 11). There is nothing but gladness and joy for the one who has tasted the sweetness of God’s full and absolute forgiveness. If you want God’s forgiveness and cleansing, the time is now!