************ Sermon on Psalm 32:1-6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 4, 2011
"How Blest Are They Whose Trespass"
I had to read "The Scarlet Letter" in highschool. The book fascinated me. But not because of the woman who had to wear a scarlet "A" – the "A" stands for adulteress – whenever she appeared in public. Not because of the attitude and reaction of the people to the adulterous woman – so quick to condemn and to avoid her and to gossip. What fascinated me was the preacher. What fascinated me was his guilt and shame. Because he was the one who slept with the woman and made her pregnant. He was torn between confessing his sin and continuing in his sin. He was torn between his lust and his shame.
Do you recognize the name of "John Wayne Gacy"? In some ways, he was a model citizen. During the day he worked at his own construction firm in the Chicago area, did volunteer work for the Democratic Party, and provided entertainment at picnics and parties as a clown. At night he was a cold-blooded killer of 32 teen-aged boys. One day there was a knock on the door. It was the police. When Gacy opened the door his first comment was, "Thank God you have come." You see, Gacy couldn't bear to live with the dark secrets of his life anymore. For him it was a relief to confess.
The preacher in "The Scarlet Letter" and John Wayne Gacy show us that guilt is a heavy burden to carry. No burden is heavier.
Few people carried a heavier burden of guilt than did King David. We know his story all too well. He – the man after God's own heart, the man who composed so many of the psalms, the man chosen by the Lord to lead His people Israel – committed unspeakably vile and callous acts. He lusted after his neighbor's wife, committed adultery with her, and had her husband killed to cover it all up (2 Sam 11:1-27).
If a man like David can fall into sin and be burdened with guilt then who are we to think we are above or beyond such things? If a man like David can cry out to the Lord for forgiveness, then shouldn't we be doing the same?
In this Preparatory Service I want to look at Psalm 32. This psalm tells us about the burden of guilt, the need for confession, and the joy of forgiveness. The main point of Psalm 32 is that if we confess our sins, God – out of grace – will forgive us our sins.
I The Seriousness of Sin (vs 1-2)
A Forgiveness was a not light thing to David. He regards himself as being "blessed" in receiving it. By using the word "blessed," he was essentially saying, "How very happy!" David was happy, and relieved, to be forgiven.
If we do not share David's appreciation for forgiveness, it is most certainly because we do not share his understanding of sin. It starts off with recognizing there is an absolute standard of right and wrong. That standard, of course, is God and His Law.
David recognizes God's standards by the words he uses for his sin:
(Ps 32:1-2) Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. (2) Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.In the Hebrew of these two verses we find three separate words for sin.
First, David calls what he has done a "transgression." A transgression indicates a stepping over a known boundary – a trespassing onto God's territory. Second, David calls what he has done a "sin." The Hebrew word means missing a mark or a target. Third, David calls it an "iniquity." This means to twist something that is straight and true.
In each case, the thought is the same, namely, failing to live up to God's standards. A boundary, a target, and a yardstick has been set up by God. But sin steps over the boundary, misses the target, and twists the yardstick.
B Sin is not something to take lightly. Think of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in paradise. One of the first symptoms of their guilt was blushing at their own nakedness. Sin makes us loathsome in the sight of God and utterly unfit for communion with Him. And, when our conscience is awakened, sin makes us loathsome to ourselves as well. We come to hate ourselves and our sin and our shame. And, we say with the Apostle Paul,
(Rom 7:24) What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
As you prepare for the Lord's Supper this coming week, I want you to see how terrible is your condition because of sin. I want you to recognize the tragedy of sin in your life.
II The Agony of Not Confessing (vs 3-4)
A Many times a pastor has gone to the bed of a dying person to hear that person confess something that has been bothering them for years. They want to unburden themselves so they can die in peace and in the joy of forgiveness.
For most people here I presume the same thing would happen if you did not live up to and confess your sins. You see, it has been proven over and over again that we just cannot cover up our sins and forget about them. Sins have an annoying tendency to nag our mind and bother our conscience.
I'm reminded of a letter received by the I.R.S. a number of years ago from a guilt-ridden taxpayer:
Gentlemen:Unconfessed sin leads to a troubled heart.
Enclosed you will find a check for $150. I cheated on my income tax return last year and have not been able to sleep ever since.
P.S. If I still have trouble sleeping I will send you the rest!
According to Psalm 32, this certainly was David's experience. Unconfessed sin led to a troubled heart.
At one time David thought he could escape the scrutiny of God; he thought it was possible to sin without God knowing it. David tried to cover up his sin. We read in verse 3, "... I kept silent ..." David did not confess it to God right away. He tried to forget about it. Remember how Cain tried the same thing? He killed his brother Abel. He was unrepentant. He was punished by God. So what did he do? How did he respond? He tried to lose himself in his work. He tried to keep himself busy by building a city (Gen 4:17). Many a man and woman today take the same approach – they bury themselves in their work, their career, their kids, their church or community activities so they don't have the time to think about their sin. All that Cain needed to do and all that David needed to do and all that we need to do is make confession. All we need to do is unburden our conscience by a penitent confession to God. All we need to is fall down on our knees and cry out with the publican, "Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!" (Lk 18:13).
B David's cover up was not at all successful. In fact, as with John Gacey, it only produced pain and agony. Listen to what David says:
(Ps 32:3-4) When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. (4) ... my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.What happened? David's conscience started to bother him. He lost weight. Inwardly he groaned under the agony of his sin. Physically, mentally, and spiritually David was wasting away because of his unconfessed sin. His strength was sapped – it was sucked up and gone like water in the summer desert. Because David tried to cover up his sin, because he did not confess his sin, he went into a state of severe depression. He lost all vitality and vigor of life. He became an empty living shell. He was a man with no peace in his heart. His soul was eaten up with worry. His conscience was being seared by a burning heat. Because David did not confess his sin his life turned into utter misery. Though he was still young, David felt as though he were old and decrepit.
Unconfessed sin lodges in our conscience and festers there. Like blood under a banged-up finger nail, unconfessed sin creates terrible pressure. Karl Menninger, the famous psychologist, once said that if he could convince the patients in his psychiatric hospital that their sins were forgiven, 75% of them could walk out the next day.
Unconfessed sin causes sickness, especially in our souls. Are you filled with pain? Is there a sin in your life you have not confessed? Ask yourself that as you prepare for the Lord's Supper during the coming week.
C David lets us know in verse 4 that the hand of God was behind his misery: "For day and night your hand was heavy upon me ..." God was tormenting David's soul as long as he had unconfessed sin in his life. You need to know that God sees and knows everything – including our sins. So God, so to speak, was tapping David on the shoulder and telling him, "I know what you did; it is no use covering it up; I will torment you until you confess your sins to me." David admits here we cannot escape from or hide from God. David felt and knew the hand of divine wrath lying heavily upon his soul.
How does God do this? How does God torment people with their sins? God uses our conscience, His Law, His Word, His Spirit, His church. All of these work together to make us feel bad, to feel guilty, when we do wrong.
Why does God lay His hand upon His people in such a way? Why does He make our sins bother us? He does this so we will fall on our knees before Him and confess our sins.
Do you feel the hand of God on you? As you prepare for the Lord's Supper this coming week take the time to confess your sin to God.
III The Confession (vs 5-6)
A By not confessing his sin, David was needlessly tormenting and torturing himself. So he finally confessed his sin to God. We read his confession in verse 5:
(Ps 32:5) Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD" -- and you forgave the guilt of my sin.Notice what happened: David confessed and he was forgiven; David admitted his guilt and he was pardoned.
This is not a quick "Forgive me my sins" appended to the end of a prayer like we so often do. David poured out to the throne of God his sin and his sinful nature. And he was pardoned.
Let's make sure we understand this. David was not forgiven because he confessed. There is nothing automatic or cheap about forgiveness. We cannot simply get down on our knees before God and expect forgiveness. Forgiveness, says Paul in Romans 4 (which quotes Psalm 32), is by grace and through faith. We, with David, are forgiven only when we have faith in Christ.
We see two very important principles here. First, we are forgiven by grace and through faith. Second, God wants us to confess our sins to Him so we can live in the joy of forgiveness.
The point here is not to lay awake at night wondering and agonizing about whether you have confessed every single sin. Martin Luther was that way. He would lay awake in the middle of the night because some little sin he had forgotten to confess came to mind. He would scurry off to a fellow priest to make confession. His fellow priests became very exasperated with him and finally one told him to stop bothering him or to commit a real sin.
What is important is not only the confession but also the theology or the attitude or the mindset behind the confession – namely, an awareness that I am a sinner, that I have sinned against God, that I cannot save myself, that I need the forgiveness and salvation that only God gives only through Jesus Christ.
Within this framework, we have to say that confessed sin is – by grace – forgiven sin. There is no need to doubt that. And, there is no reason to be worried or torn apart by sins that you have forgotten to confess. At the same time, we have to say that within this framework unconfessed sin is unforgiven sin.
B Confessed sin is forgiven sin. Unconfessed sin is unforgiven sin. For this reason David makes an appeal in verse 6:
(Ps 32:6) Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him.Pray to God, says David. Confess your sins to Him. Do so now while you are still able to. Do so now before Jesus returns as the Judge of the living and the dead. Do so as you prepare for the Lord's Supper this coming week.
IV The Joy of Forgiveness
A As I already indicated, the main point of this psalm is not to tell us about confession or about sin but to tell us about the joy of forgiveness. Notice how David expresses this in verse 1:
(Ps 32:1) Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.David had been suffering the torments of an inner hell, he had been wasting away, his mood had been one of despair and sorrow. But now that he has confessed his sin his mood is one of elation and joy and gladness. I am "blessed," says David. I am at peace. I have been set free. My transgressions are forgiven – they have been taken away. My sins are covered – God's grace has hid them under the blood of Jesus. David, by not confessing, was in the dumps. After confession David soared to the heights.
Notice what happens when David makes confession: his transgressions are forgiven and his sins are covered. God does the same for us as He did for Adam and Eve in the Garden. Like the coat of skins with which God clothed Adam and Eve, God covers us – with the robe of Christ's righteousness. So that God is no longer displeased with us but perfectly reconciled to and with us.
Let's make sure we rightly understand what God does when He covers over our sin. More than once someone has asked me if God forgets our sins or hides our sins when He forgives us. Yes and no. Nothing is hid, of course, from God's omniscience. God continues to know all things and see all things – including our sin. But the sin is hid from God's justice. So, when God forgives sin He remembers it no more TO HOLD AGAINST US. In the sight of God's justice it is as if the sin has never happened.
B We notice in verse 2 that David has learned his lesson. He knows not to cover up his own sin. He knows it is best to be open and truthful.
(Ps 32:2) Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit."I am blessed," says David, only when there is "no deceit" in me. By deceit David means his attempt to cover up his sin, his refusal to confess. "He is blessed," says David, "who is honest with God. He is blessed who confessed the truth to God, who tells God his sins." Notice, David does not claim there is no guilt. Rather, he mention "deceit." So, David is honest with himself and he is honest with God. He is heartfelt in his confession and in his prayers for forgiveness.
C David ends the psalm with a note of praise to the God Who heard his confession and forgave his sin:
(Ps 32:11) Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!Of course he praises God. God deserves all of the praise and the honor and the glory. God has delivered him from the burden of sin.
Congregation, confess your sins to God and by grace and through faith you will experience the joy of forgiveness. Not only that, but you can finally concentrate again on serving God. You see, when David was so desperately trying to hide his sin and hide from his sin he was not able to do the work of the Lord. But once he confessed, once he had been forgiven, he was open to God's leading and to God's teaching (see verses 8-9).
Spend time this week, congregation, looking over your life. Realize you are a sinner. Realize you have sins that need confessing. Realize you need salvation. And then come – come to the Lord's Table in the joy of forgiveness.
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