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Psalm 32

“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” (vv. 1–2).

Those who know the grace of God’s forgiveness can understand the pure joy evident in today’s passage, which was written by David after he experienced pardon for his sin. As he pours out his soul in rejoicing over the Lord’s grace, the king of Israel provides us with key instruction regarding the relationship of confession and repentance to forgiveness, and he provides us with a key text for the biblical doctrine of justification as well.

David begins with an expression of the blessedness of forgiven people, indicating that with the Lord, forgiveness entails both a covering of sin and not counting it to our records (vv. 1–2). The term covered comes from a Hebrew word that refers to the covering of shame by love in the act of forgiveness. Thus, when the Lord pardons His people, He stops counting their sin against them, and He hides their shame so that they may rejoice in His presence.

Verses 3–5 indicate that David’s forgiveness came only after he confessed his sins to God. Thus we see the close connection between repentance and pardon. The Lord does not forgive those who merely acknowledge Him but only those who turn from their transgression, who forsake their sin and cling to Him and His merciful Lordship alone. All those who do this receive God’s forgiveness, and the One from whom they hid before their confession becomes the One in whom they hide by faith and find shelter (vv. 6–11).

In Romans 4, the apostle Paul cites Psalm 32:1–2 to illustrate justification by faith alone apart from works of the law. In so doing, he shows that the non-imputation of sin—the act of not counting our transgressions against us—is the other side of the coin, as it were, when it comes to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. All who rest in Christ alone are declared righteous in the Lord’s sight. His righteousness becomes our possession; our sin is taken from our accounts. Our Creator does this with no reference to our works. They are never taken into account for our justification; only the righteousness of our Savior is considered. John Calvin comments on Psalm 32:1–2 that the forgiveness “David celebrates utterly destroys the righteousness of works.” We do not have the blessing of divine pardon if we try to establish our righteousness before God based on what we have done, even what we have done by grace. Calvin writes, “Let this therefore remain an established doctrine, that as we are only accounted righteous before God by the free remission of sins, this is the gate of eternal salvation; and, accordingly, that they only are blessed who rely upon God’s mercy.”

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

God’s free pardon in our justification is a great blessing indeed, but it is only one part of what happens. We are also declared righteous in Christ and admitted to the full rights and privileges afforded to Him for His faithfulness. It is a good thing to be forgiven of sin, but our faith is enriched when we realize that God has not only taken our sin from us but has given us the righteousness of Christ. That is our secure anchor in the storm.

For Further Study
  • Leviticus 4
  • Psalm 130:3–4
  • Ephesians 1:3–14
  • Hebrews 9:22

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From the February 2015 Issue
Feb 2015 Issue