The Righteous One’s Blessedness in the Way of Forgiveness

a brief study of Psalm 32, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 12 Jan 2007

Psalm 32 is, together with the Psalm 51, the most famous of the Penitential Psalms.

It is believed that both of these Psalms were written by David after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan for his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah. Nathan had approached David with a parable about a rich man who killed the beloved lamb of a poor man to entertain a traveller. David had responded with anger that the rich man must pay fourfold. It was then that Nathan said: “Thou art the man!” David was immediately struck in his conscience and cried “I have sinned against the LORD!” (2 Sam 12:13).

From that moment David was under deep conviction for his sins. In the days following, David wrote two Psalms, namely Psalms 32 and 51. Most likely, Psalm 51 was written immediately after Nathan the prophet rebuked him. The wordings of Psalm 51 suggest that he had not had the assurance of forgiveness though he was under deep conviction for his sin. But Psalm 32 was probably written later: when he had fully confessed his sins, and knew that he was forgiven. But in both Psalms, he expressed some of his feelings when he was under conviction. These are feelings that we can all identify with when we are under conviction for sin ourselves.

But could this Psalm be taken up in the lips of our Holy Saviour who was tempted at all points like as we are and yet without sin?

Could our Lord have sung it?

Consider the wisdom of Andrew Bonar:

We generally take up this Psalm as if it was for the members of Christ alone; but we should not forget that the Head himself traversed the way of forgiveness. He stood for us, in our room, in our very place. He stood as substitute, and all the sins of all “that great multitude which no man can number” were upon him, laid upon him by imputation. So dreadful was his position, so truly awful did it seem to him to be reckoned a sinner, that even this, apart from the wrath and curse, would have been sufficient to make him cry, “O blessed is the man to whom the Lord doth not impute sin.” He was dumb for our sakes; his bones wasted away; he groaned from day to day, and during the lonesome hours of midnight was kept awake by our woes.… In this state He acknowledged our sin; it was only ours he had to acknowledge; he spread it out before God on the cross; he continued to do so till it was forgiven him as our substitute.

I agree with Bonar. This Psalm was indeed written by David to express the blessedness he enjoyed as he experienced God’s forgiveness following his grievous sin. But it was written in the spirit of Christ in a way that would express the grief of our Lord as He bore our sin, and the blessedness he felt when His sacrifice was accepted on our behalf. So this Psalm, as the word of Christ, expresses the pain and joy of our Lord on the Cross.

This Psalm is, of course, given also for the church to sing as a most perfect expression of the blessedness we experience when we become assured that God has forgiven us our sin for the sake of Christ Jesus our Lord.

In this study, therefore we want to look at how this Psalm expresses our Lord’s suffering and blessedness; and in our own experience.

This Psalm has essentially 4 stanzas, each stanza terminating with a selah, or pause.

a. v. 1-4 The Blessedness of the Forgiven

b. v. 5 The Confession of the Forgiven

c. v. 6-7 The Reflection of the Forgiven

d. v. 8-11 The Instruction of the Forgiven

Consider first…

1. The Blessedness of the Forgiven

Our Psalm begins with the word “blessed.”

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

Actually our English word ‘blessed’ does not quite capture the intensity of the Hebrew word in the context (yrev]a'). The word speaks of intensive joy or in other words, joy unspeakable.

The blessedness that comes with forgiveness is indescribable. It is joy unspeakable especially when it is experienced by a man “in whose spirit there is no guile [or deceit].” And you know there is no man that fits this description so perfectly as the Lord Himself. David might be described as such a man, when his web of lies was exposed and he repented of his deceit. But it seems almost incongruous for him to speak of himself as a man in whose spirit there is no guile at this juncture.

This blessedness of forgiveness is especially intense when there is a period of suffering on account of sin.

3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. 4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.

David, after he was confronted by Nathan, came under intense conviction of sin. He must have felt such a heavy burden upon his heart that he felt his bone ache and his energy sap away.

But our Lord experienced much more. His bones literally ached and He literally thirsted as He hung on the cross.

And in those three hours of darkness when all He saw was His Father’s wrath—how He must have felt the pains of hell multiplied a million times. It was no wonder that at the end of His ordeal, He cried out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Thank God that He was heard. Thank God that His sacrifice was accepted. “It is finished!” He exclaimed. Thank God that He would be raised from the dead as a token of the forgiveness He has procured for His church.

The blessedness He experienced must have been like one who has just been plucked out of hell and transported to heaven.

Today we too can enjoy the same blessedness of forgiveness, for our guilt was lifted from us and heaped upon the Lord Jesus, and from there cast into the black hole of forgetfulness.

Though I suspect that many of us would not know the intensity of blessedness that our Lord or even David experienced, we surely will be able to sing with real gratitude in our heart—“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”

Indeed, if you have never experienced such a blessing to any degree, then you should examine if your repentance from sin and confession of sin is for real.

But secondly, let us consider the…

2. The Confession of the Forgiven

5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.

Someone may object: “How could the Lord speak about His sin and iniquity, when He had no sin? So this psalm cannot be messianic!”

Our answer is that it is not only here that we see the Lord acknowledging iniquity. We see it also in the psalms that are biblically and universally accepted as Messianic, such as Psalm 40.

Psalm 40:12 reads—

“For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.”

The fact is Christ our Lord could acknowledge guilt because He took the guilt of our sin upon Himself. He bore it as if it is His own.

As He presented them before the Father one by one, the burden of guilt was also removed.

David as a member of the church did the same and found relief in a forgiveness that has been purchased by the Messiah. So too we can experience the same relief.

Have you sinned against the Lord in any particular way, beloved brethren? Is your burden so great and do you feel that no one understands? The Lord understands and there is no sin too big that the Father cannot forgive—for He has already forgiven us in Christ. What needs to be done is for you to acknowledge your sin and confess your guilt unto Him.

What is it to confess our guilt? It is to lay it before the Lord. It is to acknowledge that we have sin and deserve nothing but the wrath of God. As the Lord has already experienced the wrath of God due to us, shall we not take encouragement and seek His fatherly forgiveness.

Indeed, it is the reflection of our Lord that His own experience of forgiveness should encourage the godly to also seek forgiveness in prayer:

3. The Reflection of the Forgiven

6 For this [for the fact that thou has given forgiven my guilt and given me blessedness] shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.

The flood in Noah’s days was an outburst of God’s judgement.

All those who were overwhelmed in the great deluge were overwhelmed because they had remained in sin without repentance.

If God could forgive David for his sin of adultery and murder. If the Father could accept the sacrifice of His Son for such gross sin multiplied a million times, will He not forgive all who come unto Him?

Will not the godly go to the Lord and find deliverance from the judgement of God?

Will they not join our Lord in His eternal songs…

7 Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.

May the Lord’s reflection come true in your life. When you experience the burden of guilt and anticipate that you would be overwhelmed when God judges sinners, will you not crawl into the cleft of the rock which is Christ our Lord. As our Lord found refuge in the Father’s love and forgiveness. May you find the same refuge.

4. The Instruction of the Forgiven

8 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.

Who is this ‘I’? It does not seem to be David. Maybe it is the Father responding to the words of confessions and acknowledgment of the Son.

But perhaps it is our Lord Himself. As He went to the Cross for us, so He leads us by His example to walk in the way of forgiveness.

Let us follow the Lord when we fall into sin. Let us seek to respond to sin in the way that we should. Let us not be like a horse or mule which refuses to go to its owner unless it is dragged by the bit and bridle (v. 9).

In a certain way David was like that in the one year after he sinned, before Nathan confronted him.

Let us rather flee quickly to the Lord. Let us as such pray for a heart that is sensitive to the working of the Holy Spirit in our heart. Let us be quick to turn from our sin for many sorrows shall surround the wicked, whereas he who trust in the Lord shall be surrounded by the mercy of the Lord (v. 10).

11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.

The child of God should not be pulling a long face every day. He, of all men, can know the blessedness of God. He, of all men can have real joy because forgiveness is what really matters.

When we sin against man, we feel a heavy burden in our heart. We need to find the person to seek his forgiveness, but we know that that is not enough. Even if the person says, ‘I forgive you’ a hundred times, there is still no satisfaction in our heart until and unless we are assured of God’s forgiveness.

And the good news is: If you are united to Christ and so may be known as a righteous one on account of the righteousness of Christ, you have already been forgiven for Christ’s sake. And you have the warrant and encouragement of our Lord to go to the Father to seek His fatherly forgiveness.


Go to Him, beloved brethren. Go to Him and find peace and blessedness for your soul.

There is real forgiveness in Him; because every sin that the Father will forgive has been paid for by His son.

And beloved brethren and children in the Lord, your sins, past present and future have been forgiven for Christ’s sake. Learn, therefore, to go to the Father to seek His fatherly forgiveness in the name of His Son.

He will not deny it you because He is a just and holy God. Amen.

— JJ Lim