Before I lead us in prayer, I just want to say it’s quite an honor to open up God’s Word with y’all here this evening. We are members of this church, and as Wiley mentioned, I am RUF campus minister at Mississippi College. We are so grateful for your love and encouragement, for your friendship, for all the ways that you minister to us as a family and the ways that you encourage us in our ministry to college students. I love my job. I’ve been doing this now for eleven years; the last five here in Mississippi at Mississippi College. And it’s an honor to get to minister on your behalf to these students. They’re all on Spring Break this week but I want to say thank you on behalf of RUF at MC and as well as RUF nationally. This church is well-known for its generosity and support for RUF campus ministries across the nation. Y’all have produced many campus ministers from your midst, covenant children from this congregation who have gone on to be campus ministers, and I count it a great privilege that I get to worship week in and week out with y’all. In fact, I believe this time is some of the sweetest time we have as a family. On Sunday evenings, sometimes we’re a mess, sometimes we’re half falling asleep, but yet closing the Lord’s Day with y’all in worship and opening up God’s Word. And so it’s a treat for me to get to be up here with you doing that tonight.
We are going to study Psalm 32, so if you want to turn in your Bible to Psalm 32 and before we read it together I’m going to pray for us. Let’s go to the Lord in prayer!
Father, we turn our faces to You now, setting our faces to seek You in Your Word. You are the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love You and keep Your commandments. And yet we confess, just as the prophet Daniel did many years ago,
that we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from Your commandments and rules. To You, O Lord belongs righteousness, but to us, open shame. But to You also belongs mercy and forgiveness which is the basis for our prayer this evening. Please listen to the prayer of Your servants as we now ask for You to open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things in Your Law. Make Your face to shine upon Your sanctuary as we seek You, for we do not present these pleas before You because of any righteousness of our own, but because of Your great mercy. We pray these things in Christ’s name, amen.
Look with me in Psalm 32. We’ll read the psalm in its entirety, verses 1 through 11:
“A Maskil of David.
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”
The grass withers and the flower fades, but God’s Word will remain forever.
This psalm has two main parts, two main halves to it. Verses 1 through 5 is about forgiveness. And in the second part, verses 6 through 11, is about God’s protection and direction. I remember studying this psalm in seminary. It was one I did an exegesis paper on. I had to study the Hebrew, the original language, and this long paper about this psalm. And in it, as I read about the scholars who studied this in what we call higher criticism, many of them thought that this was kind of a hodgepodge of different psalms put together. They thought that it wasn’t originally one psalm; it didn’t go together. But the thing is, they didn’t understand how those things that I just mentioned go together. They didn’t understand – these were scholars who, many of whom didn’t profess to be Christians but yet were academics in Scripture – they didn’t understand how forgiveness in one sense went with God’s protection and direction in the other. That was something that seemed foreign to them. How could one person in verses 1 through 2 be a sinner who has transgression and iniquity and then down in verse 6, why are they talking about someone who is godly? Where did the godly person come from in verse 6?
Well, what’s the riddle behind that is what’s at stake here and it’s actually the main point of this psalm. It’s that God’s forgiveness leads us to love. That it’s God’s justification of us in our sin that leads us to sanctification. In Luke chapter 7, Jesus says, “He who has been forgiven much, loves much.” He who has been forgiven much loves much. And look at how this psalm falls out. It says in verse 1, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Then skip all the way to verse 11. It ends with, “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O you righteous, and should for joy, all you upright in heart!” See, it begins with sin and yet it ends with being glad in the Lord and shouting for joy as one who is upright in heart. Romans 2 said it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance and that same pattern is being played out here – that same pattern of God’s forgiveness and mercy leading to God’s protection and direction.
So let’s look at this more closely. First, we look at God’s forgiveness, verses 1 through 5. He says, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Now David, who wrote this psalm, is using different words for sin here – iniquity, transgression. He’s referring to sin in all sorts of ways to communicate that it’s not just one or the other; it’s sin in all the ways that we commit it – in small ways and big ways. It’s ways in which we just miss the mark in which we’re just off. And it’s also ways that we refer to as iniquity – ways in which at our core we are rebelling against God in defiance against Him. And he’s saying it’s that type of sin, all types, that is forgiven here, that is met with mercy.
But yet it comes, this forgiveness comes after a great deliberation on David’s part. He describes in verses 3 through 4, he says, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night, your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” He’s describing flu-like symptoms. You know, he’s describing being distraught. He’s describing groaning. Have you ever been in such agony that you let out this audible sigh, like a groan, to communicate the pain inside of you? Well, that’s what’s going on inside of David. And there’s a reason this is happening in him. It’s because he’s unwilling to go to the Lord and confess his sins. He’s unwilling to bring his sin to God.
Some of y’all are in this very circumstance tonight. Some of you find yourself groaning, as it were, with your silence. Day and night God’s hand is heavy upon you and you’ve wondered what it is. You’ve wondered if it’s just something off emotionally; is it something off at work, like you’re working too hard? Maybe something off with your relationship with your spouse or to your kids? But what this psalm is telling you tonight is that, no, it’s not. It’s actually that the Lord’s hand is heavy upon you and that He, through these things, through these difficulties, is drawing you to Himself because He wants you to come clean. That’s what that means at the end of verse 2 when it says, “in whose spirit is no deceit.” It’s this sense in which David finally comes forth and he says, “I will confess my sins to the Lord; I will acknowledge my sin.”
“Til Sin Be Bitter, Christ Will Not Be Sweet.”
There’s an old Puritan named Thomas Watson who said, “Til sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” Til sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet. And some of us read the beginning of this psalm, “Blessed is the one,” and we really don’t understand the second half where it says, “whose transgression is forgiven.” See, there’s a hardness that’s come over our hearts and we don’t realize that our deepest problem, our deepest need is our sin against God. It’s not our money, it’s not having enough, it’s not not having enough, it’s not our health. It’s not, again, these things that we want to have God’s blessing on – our marriages, our parenting, our work. And yet, the problem of every individual in here isn’t those things. Those are symptoms. All the problems you experience in those realms of marriage and parenting and work and health, those are all symptoms of a greater problem and it’s your alienation from God through your sin. That is the heart of your problem.
And yet we deny that, right? We put it off. We try to numb that sense of guilt and shame and we try to say that we won’t listen to it and that we won’t have to come to God in confession. See, it’s because it’s our nature not to go to God. We are just like our parents, Adam and Eve. You may remember in an account of Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve sinned, it said that “they heard the Lord God walking in the garden and they hid from him.” Well, that’s our instinct. That’s our instinct.
We acquired a pet several months ago; a dog named, Scout. It’s a Mountain Cur breed. And this particular breed, his instincts are to chase after squirrels at all costs; and I mean at all costs! It doesn’t matter if there is a leash; it doesn’t matter if there is a collar. It doesn’t matter if he is being zapped with the shock collar, you know, electricity going through his veins! He is going to get that squirrel because that is his instinct! And we’re trying to teach him, just like this psalm, it says in verse 9, “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” That’s what we’re trying to do with Scout; we’re trying to keep him near us, but he doesn’t understand.
Acknowledge Your Sin
Well, the same is true for us. It’s our instinct, it’s our instinct to run from God in our sin. We don’t want to go to Him; we want to flee from Him. And yet, we must work against that instinct. We must work against those instincts and follow the dance steps given to us here in Psalm 32. He says in verse 5, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’” So picture King David making this resolution. He’s saying, “I’m no longer going to keep this bottled up. I’m going to go to the Lord and confess it.” And look at the very next half of the verse. It says, “And you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Do you see how quickly that happens? Here David was, keeping it all bottled up, keeping it all silent, and finally as the Lord applies enough pressure, he comes to God and he resolves. He says, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
Derek Kidner says of this psalm that “to be in close accord with God is true happiness.” That’s the meaning of this psalm – “To be in close accord with God is true happiness.” And that’s what this first part is teaching us – that we can be in close accord with God through His forgiveness and through His mercy. It’s in His character to be gracious. You’re not coming to a God who has His arms crossed, standing and waiting for you to rehearse your lines so that He can give you what’s coming. That’s not the Lord you serve.
Seek the Lord
There’s a very similar passage to this one in Isaiah 55. You may see that the title I entitled this sermon was, “A Time You May Be Found.” In verse 6 it says, “Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found.” Well, that same phrase is used in Isaiah 55. It says, “Come to the waters, ye who has no money, come and buy and eat. Come and buy bread and wine without money and without cost. Why do you spend your money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Come here diligently; listen to me. Hear the promises of David. Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts. For my ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts.” And he adds that on the end in Isaiah 55 because we’re not like that. You see? When someone wrongs us, we do let them have it; we are mean. We are frustrated; we do vent. But God is not like that.
And so that’s where the rest of this psalm plays out. You see, you have forgiveness in verses 1 through 5, but then in verses 6 through 11 you have God’s protection and God’s direction in your life. It says in verse 6, “Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.” “Let everyone who is godly” – that’s not by accident that David writes that. Fast-forward all the way to Romans 4 in Paul’s epistle to the Romans. He’s going to say in this passage, in this psalm, King David was talking about justification by faith. You see, the reason that God can forgive us so quickly and the reason that He could forgive David so quickly was because He was counting David righteous by faith. He was giving us the righteousness that Christ earned by faith. That’s what Wiley talked about this morning as he was talking about Gethsemane and as he was talking about Jesus preparing for the cross. Jesus earns that protection and Jesus earns that direction by His righteous acts and it’s given to us so that then we can enjoy the blessings that verse 6 through 11 describe – the blessings of protection and direction.
God’s Protection and Direction
Look at the blessing of protection. I already read it. Verse 6, “Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.” You see, the irony was, David was hiding from God just like we often do, and now he’s hiding in Him. He’s taking refuge in Him. And then he goes on. This is now the Lord speaking, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” Here it’s talking about the direction that God gives us. We’re not left to our own designs as if now we’re on our own. You know, God’s forgiven us and now He’s protecting us and yet we’re on our own to make all these decisions. No! It says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”
Some of you may remember in 2003, one of the playoff games, the Portland Trailblazers versus the Dallas Mavericks, a sweet young girl who was thirteen got up to sing the National Anthem. And as she got up to sing it, she forgot the words. It turns out she had had the flu and she was trying to sing because this was her big opportunity to shine, and yet she totally got confused in her words, much like I did a moment ago, and she didn’t know what to keep doing. Like how can she carry on? Everyone is watching her – 20,000 fans! And then the head coach for the Portland Trailblazers, Maurice Cheeks, slowly walks over to her, puts his arm around her, and whispers the words in her ears. And as you can imagine, the crowd gets into it until everybody is singing the national anthem at the top of their lungs as this girl, through tears, sings with Maurice Cheeks.
Well, that’s what I picture here in verses 8 through 11. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Many of us get to that moment, right, when we’re like, “I don’t know what to do, Lord. I don’t know what the next step is. I’ve done everything wrong, it feels like, and I’m not sure where to go from here.” But here, look at David’s words. He says in verse 10, “Many are the sorrow of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.” It’s a picture of abundance. It’s a picture that the Lord will provide exactly what you need at exactly the right time.
And then you have this wonderful conclusion, “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” See many of us in this room, again, do not take our sins to God in prayer. We do not go to Him with the confidence that there we can find forgiveness. And yet there’s forgiveness and so much more offered if we just come to Him as our Father, come to Him not on the basis of our own works but on the basis of Christ’s righteousness. And then we can say with David, “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” May God, by His Spirit, teach us to do that as we depend on Him in prayer. Let’s pray to Him now!
Father, we thank You for Your Word and we thank You for this example of coming to You with our sins and of trusting You for Your protection and of seeking You for your direction. We pray that You would counsel us with Your eye upon us and that we would not feel forsaken but that instead, we would see how You have taken care of all that we need in Christ. We pray this for Christ’s sake. Amen.
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