The Psalms aren’t in chronological order and Psalm 32 came after Psalm 51, David’s great penitential Psalm, which was written after he “gave occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme” (2 Samuel 12:14). David’s sin was great, the earthly fruit of which was the death of the child that was born to Bathsheba; but his repentance was great also; not only did he publicly confess but his confession and repentance continue throughout the ages by virtue of the record he left of it.
In Psalm 51:13, David, having pleaded with God to forgive him, cleanse him and restore him, says; “Then will I teach transgressors your way and sinners shall be converted unto Thee”.
Psalm 32 is the outcome of that pledge; it is the first of thirteen psalms that bear the inscription Maschil, meaning “instruction” or “to make wise”. David could only write it because he had already confessed his sin and his brokenness, as a result of which God had told the prophet Nathan to inform David; “The Lord has put away your sin” (2 Samuel 12:13).
The opening two verses of Psalm 32 draw upon, and give life to, the Law as it applied to the sacrificial offerings on the Day of Atonement as set out in Leviticus 16. (See the post on Typology of the Atonement in the Biblical Typology Category).
“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven” David begins. “Transgression” is the translation of the Hebrew pasha and literally means “rebellion”; the Septuagint translates it into the Greek as anomia meaning “lawlessness”. This transgression is “forgiven”; Hebrew nasa, meaning “born away” and is a direct reference to the goat – “la Azazel” -that was released into the wilderness on the day of atonement to bear away the sins of Israel.
Blessed too, is the one “whose sin is covered” David continues; “sin” is the Hebrew chataah and describes a deviation from the path of well-pleasingness to God. This sin is “covered”, Hebrew kasha, meaning to “hide” or “cover” so that it becomes invisible to God, a direct reference to the covering of the mercy seat with the Blood of the goat – “la-Yehovah” – which was sacrificed for the sins of Israel and whose blood was sprinkled seven times on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies.
David goes on to instruct us that blessed also is the one unto whom “the Lord does not impute iniquity”. Iniquity is the Hebrew avon and describes the inward depravity of man that manifests itself in sin and rebellion. It is not imputed – lo-chashav in Hebrew, because it has already been laid upon the goat –la-Yehovah – that was sacrificed and whose blood covered the mercy seat.
All of these references form a divine link between the old covenant and the new; if we confess and truly repent, as did David, our transgression is “borne away” by Christ fulfilling the type of the goat la-Azazel; our sin is “covered” by His blood fulfilling the type of the scapegoat and our iniquity is “not imputed” to us, because “…the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all ” (Isaiah 53:6).
The last phrase of verse two – “in whose mouth there is no guile” – points to the need for integrity in all of these transactions. Our repentance must be as deep and sincere as was that of David.
Verses 3 and 4 set out the condition of the sinner before he is brought to confession and repentance; “Because I kept silence my bones waxed old through my crying the whole day. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer”. The great transgression was clearly lying heavily upon David’s soul; it was like the drying up of the sap of his life; his greatest torment was that of God hiding His face from him because, despite his sin and guilt he was still a servant of God and the loss of that intimacy of fellowship with Him cut into him deeply and was keenly felt.
Then comes divine relief; “I acknowledged my sin, and hid not mine iniquity: I said, I will confess mine transgressions to the Lord against myself; and thou forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Vs. 5).
There is a folly in trying to hide from God our iniquity and shame; He sees all. David came to this realization, no doubt as a result of the withdrawal of God’s presence that sustained him, and without which he had no life. David’s son Solomon no doubt learnt this lesson from his father for he was later to write; “He that hides his transgressions shall not prosper but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall find mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
Under the New Covenant, it is no different, for John teaches us that; “if we should say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us; if we should confess our sins He is faithful and just so as to let go our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
This ends the account of David’s sin and restoration to God; the rest of the Psalm builds upon this experience the lessons that must be drawn from it. Seek God while He may be found; He is our hiding place; He will preserve us from trouble if we cry out to Him when we are tempted. None of this David did at the time of his adultery with Bathsheba, so he speaks from bitter experience.
Then comes God’s reassuring words of confirmation.
He will instruct us and teach us in the way that we should go and counsel us and keep watch over us; doesn’t this refer to the work of the Holy Spirit who, Jesus said, will teach you and guide you into all truth (See John Chapters 14-16)?
After all, we are not dumb brute beasts (Vs. 9) but made in the image of God and, if we spend our time in the sanctuary of His holy presence, we will begin to reflect that image.
Trust in the Lord; that is the fullness of faith, and the sacrifice of righteousness (Psalm 4:5). Be glad, exult and rejoice in the Lord! All these verbs are in the imperative.