Rev. Slopsema is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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. Selah.
Psalm 32 was wrtten by David. It was occasioned by his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah.
This sad chapter in David’s life is well known to us. While his armies were on the field of battle, David took Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, in adultery. When Bathsheba conceived, David tried to cover up this sin by making it appear as though the child was Uriah’s. He did this by calling Uriah home from the battlefield. When this failed, due to Uriah’s devotion to the Lord and his king, David arranged for his death on the battlefield.
For almost a year David lived in this sin.
He confessed this sin and found forgiveness only when he was approached by the prophet Nathan with the woeful tale of the rich man who stole his poor neighbor’s sheep.
In Psalm 32 David celebrates the blessedness, or happiness, of the sinner whose sins are forgiven by God. This is expressed in the opening verses of the Psalm. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
In verse 5, which we consider in this meditation, we learn that David found this forgiveness only in the way of proper confession of sins. For a long period of time he had hid his sins. This had brought untold misery and grief to him. But when he confessed his sins, he found forgiveness.
We too are sinners. We too must learn to confess our sins in true repentance, as David learned. Then the blessedness of forgiveness will be ours also.
A foolish hiding!
David uses three different words for sin that demonstrate its true character.
First, there is the term “transgression.” This describes sin as an act of rebellion against God that leads one to overstep the boundaries of God’s law.
The next term is “sin.” This means to miss the mark, signifying that all sin is a failure to achieve the goal that God has set before us, which is the honor and glory of His name. The implication is that sin dishonors God.
Finally, there is the term “iniquity.” Its original meaning is perversity, i.e., that which is twisted and perverted. It is often used to express the fact that sin renders us guilty before God, which is the idea here.
These terms are all closely related. Sin is an act of rebellion against God’s authority and law. This causes one to miss the mark of the glory of God. And that renders one guilty before God and worthy of punishment. Thus David speaks also of the iniquity of his transgression, i.e., the guilt of his sin.
This accurately describes David’s sin. David rebelled against God’s law and overstepped the bounds of God’s commandments by taking the wife of another in adultery and then also killing her husband to cover it up. By this transgression David certainly failed to honor and glorify God. He committed adultery and murder as the Lord’s anointed. This brought shame to himself and to the Lord. And it all rendered him guilty before God, worthy of punishment.
This is also a proper evaluation of our sins. Our sins are acts of rebellion against God. We overstep the bounds of the law. Through our sin we miss the mark that God has set for us, i.e., to glorify God’s name. And our sin always renders us guilty before God, worthy of punishment.
David speaks of hiding his sin.
To hide means to cover and thus to conceal.
Sometimes this word is used in the context of forgiveness, as it is in verse 1 of this Psalm, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” In this case the covering of sin is the covering that God provides in Jesus Christ and that serves as the basis for forgiveness.
But to cover sin also means to cover up sin, in the sense of hiding and concealing it from others.
For a long time David sought to cover sin in that sense. Rejecting and despising the covering that God provides for sin, David in his pride sought rather to cover up his sin.
He sought to cover it up from others. This explains his actions with Uriah. First, he brought Uriah from the battle so that it would appear that the child of adultery belonged to Uriah. When that failed, he arranged the death of Uriah in battle. But it was all to cover up his sin from the sight of men.
But David also concealed his terrible sin from himself. This is suggested by his response to the report of Uriah’s death, “The sword devoureth one as well as another” (II Sam. 11:24). Sin is often accompanied by self-deception, which leads one either to justify his sin or to minimize the seriousness of it. This is what David did, so that in a sense he concealed this sin from himself.
And ultimately David thought to hide his sin from God. The contrast this verse makes between hiding his sin and acknowledging his sin to God places this on the foreground. In his own self-deception, David thought that he could somehow hide his sin from God. According to Psalm 73:11 the wicked say, “How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?” In the deceitfulness of sin, David convinced himself of the same.
We must be careful not to hide our own sin, as did David. David’s sin and his covering up of that sin came from the same source—the pride of his sinful nature. We possess the same vile nature that leads us in pride to sin and inclines us to hide our sin, as did David.
A proper confession!
David speaks of confessing his sin.
According to this passage, David both acknowledged his sins to the Lord and confessed them. These are very close in meaning. That David acknowledged his sins means that he showed them to the Lord. That David confessed his sin means that he pointed them out to the Lord.
This is contrasted to David’s hiding of his sins. Before, David had hid his sin from God. Now he showed God his sins. You can neither hide from God what you have done, nor show God something about yourself that God does not already know. And so we understand that David expresses what happened within his heart. At one time he sought to hide his sin from God—foolish and impossible as that may be. But now all self-deception and denial are put away and he shows God all that he had done. Notice that David confessed his sins to the LORD. In the KJV the term “LORD” indicates that in the original there is the name “Jehovah.”
Jehovah is God’s covenant name. It indicates that God has established a wonderful covenant with His people. It emphasizes that God is always faithful to that covenant, even when we are not.
The covenant of Jehovah is the friendship He establishes and maintains with His people in Jesus Christ. Within the covenant, Jehovah becomes the friend of His people, and as their friend He saves them from all their sins. He forgives all their sins. He delivers them from the power of sin to live a new life of loving obedience to God that results in intimate fellowship and friendship with God. He provides for all their needs and brings them one day to eternal glory.
To this faithful covenant God, Jehovah, David confessed his sins. He did so with a view to being forgiven by God and reconciled. With Jehovah, there is a proper covering for sin. This is the perfect sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. David could see this only in a picture, the sacrifices. What was only pictured in the Old Testament became a reality through the death of Christ on the cross. To that covering David clung, as he sought forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
To this covering we also must cling, to find forgiveness and reconciliation.
A blessed forgiveness!
The Lord forgave David. His sin had been treacherous, scandalous, devastating. Yet the Lord forgave him.
There is forgiveness with God!
Forgiveness consists in this, that God no longer imputes to us (holds us accountable for) our sins. In fact, He deals with us as though we had never sinned.
What a blessing this is. Without forgiveness there is only the wrath of God’s punishment. We are cast away from God’s presence. There is only a fearful looking ahead to the day of judgment, when we will fall into the hands of an angry God. But when God forgives, there is the joy of reconciliation with God. There is the blessedness of God’s friendship and fellowship. There is the peace of God’s care and protection. There is the certain hope of everlasting life with God.
And the basis for this is that God in Christ has carried our sin away at the cross.
This forgiveness David found in the way of his confession. “I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”
For many months David neither acknowledged nor confessed his sin. What a miserable time this was. David describes this time of impenitence in verses 3 and 4. “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.”
This will be the experience of every child of God who foolishly lives in impenitence.
But when David confessed his sin, the Lord forgave him.
This passage emphasizes that God’s forgiveness was quick and complete. God forgave David as soon as he resolved within himself to confess his sins. This is the way God always works. We often forgive grudgingly or slowly. But God is quick to forgive those who confess their sins to Him with a genuine heart.
And God does that because proper confession of sin is an act of faith that leads one to cling to Jesus Christ. God’s forgiveness is based solely on the perfect work of Christ to atone at the cross. Whenever we cling to the cross in true confession, God quickly forgives.
Let us also cling to the cross daily.
In the power of the cross let us fight against sin, both around us and in us.
But when we in weakness fall into sin, as did David, let us cling to the cross in true confession. Without exception we will find forgiveness and all its blessing.