************ Sermon on Psalm 32:11 ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on March 5, 2017


Psalm 32
Psalm 32:11
"The Joy of Forgiveness"

Introduction
This past Wednesday is marked on my calendar as "Ash Wednesday." A couple of new members and attenders asked me if we observe it.

Ash Wednesday is a Roman Catholic holiday that marks the start of Lent. Millions of people line up in church and get a smudge on the forehead in the shape of a cross. It is always celebrated exactly 40 days before Easter Sunday. Among Roman Catholics, Lent is intended to be a time of self-denial, moderation, fasting, and the forsaking of sinful activities and habits.

We don't observe Ash Wednesday. Technically speaking, we don't observe Lent either -- at least not the way as is done by the Roman Catholics. As I said when asked, self-denial, moderation, fasting, and the forsaking of sinful activities and habits is something we are to do always and not just during Lent.

We begin our observance of Lent today. But we don't look at ourselves and our habits. Rather, we observe Lent by looking to Christ and His cross and His atoning sacrifice in the place of sinners like you and me.

This year for Lent we will be focusing on the Psalms. We start with Psalm 32. Many people believe King David wrote the words of Psalm 32 after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. The words of Psalm 32 certainly fit this context.

We see five points when we look at Psalm 32: a blessing is announced; sin is confessed; sin is forgiven; instruction is heard; and praise is the response.

I A Blessing for Sinners (vs 1-2)
A Psalm 32 starts with the announcement of a most wonderful blessing for sinners:
(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.

Notice the word "blessed." I dare say every person here wants to be blessed by God. Every person here wants to receive good from the hands of God.

How do we get this blessing? Psalm 32 tells us. Only when we are reconciled to God through the forgiveness of sins do we receive the full blessing of God. To be blessed we need to be forgiven. To experience God's benevolence and God's care and God's love we need to become right with God.

B The greatest blessing in life is forgiveness and the right relationship with God that forgiveness brings. We need to hear this when we prepare our hearts to take the Lord's Supper. We need to hear this as we observe Lent.

Forgiveness reminds us of why Christ Jesus came. It reminds us of why the second person of the triune godhead took to Himself a truly human nature. It reminds us of why He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. It reminds us of why He suffered unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, especially on the cross but also earlier. As Paul put it to Timothy, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim 1:15). Christ Jesus came to give us forgiveness. This is the message we need to hear. This is the message we teach to our children. This is the message we declare to our neighbors and coworkers.

C Forgiveness also expresses man's greatest need. Our relationship with God is broken. This is true for every single person ever since the Fall into sin. What we need, what you need and what I need, is a right relationship with God through the forgiveness of sins that is ours because of Jesus Christ.

Many people, however, don't think they need this. Some are blinded by their hypocrisy and pride and think they are basically good. People who think this way don't think they need forgiveness; they don't think their relationship with God is broken. Others have a tragic contempt for God, His Word, and His Laws. So God's forgiveness is not something they seek or want. Still others make light of their sins and invent frivolous means by which to free themselves from their guilt; they think their good works, their good intentions, their attempts at godliness, will purchase God's mercy.

D We are broken people. We are fallen people. We are in enmity with God and neighbor. We deserve eternal destruction. We need the blessing of being reconciled to God through the forgiveness of sin. And we get this blessing only through Christ. This is a gift of God. This means it is not earned. It is not deserved. Rather, it is a gift of grace.

Therefore, those who are forgiven of their sins are truly blessed by God. They have been selected by God's grace. They have been reconciled to God. They receive the full blessing of God. No wonder our psalm ends with a song of praise to God:
(Ps 32:11) Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Are you one of the blessed ones who are singing? Are you one of the blessed ones who are rejoicing?

II Sin is Confessed (vs 3-4)
A David begins our second point by saying that for a long time he kept quiet about his sin. He tried to cover it up, hiding it from himself and from others. As time went along his remorse intensified. He became ill. His strength was sapped as he found himself unable to eat and sleep. Unconfessed sin led to a troubled heart.
(Ps 32:3) When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

Unconfessed sin causes sickness, especially in our souls. Are you filled with pain? Well, then, is there a sin in your life you have not confessed? Ask yourself that in this season of Lent. Ask yourself that as you come to the Lord's Table.

B Looking back David realized God's hand was heavy upon him. God was calling him to account. God was the cause of his troubled spirit and weak body.
(Ps 32:4) For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Some of you might recognize this is similar to what was faced by the church at Corinth. Members of this church ate and drank at the Lord's Table in an unworthy manner. They did not recognize the body of the Lord. That is, they did not recognize the death of Christ as the sacrifice for their sins. And, they did not recognize the unity of Christ's body, the church, by warring with one another. "That is why," says Paul, "many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep" (1 Cor 11:30). What was happening? The hand of God was upon them even as His hand was upon David.

Is God bothering your soul? Is His hand resting heavy upon you? Now, I want you to understand this the right way. We do not subscribe to the view of those Christians and churches who suggest that every time a Christian is weak, ill or dies that it is on account of a specific sin in their life. But, at the same time, we must recognize that God, in His grace and mercy, may lay His hand upon His people so that they confess their sin.

III Sin is Forgiven (vs 5)
A God wants His sinful people to confess their sins. God wants His sinful people to admit they are sinners who need His grace. God wants His sinful people to confess because sin confessed is -- by grace -- sin forgiven. God wants His sinful people to confess because when their sin is confessed and forgiven they are blessed. Listen to how David puts this 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.
I repeat what I just said: sin confessed is -- by grace -- sin forgiven.

B Does this mean sin that is not confessed is sin that is not forgiven? Are the Roman Catholics right when they declare we need to go through confession in order to be saved? We don't want to go there. We don't want to be like Martin Luther who kept waking up his fellow priests to confess sins he just remembered. Under this view confession becomes a way to forgiveness. But confession doesn't save us -- only Jesus does. Only Jesus' blood and sacrifice save us. Not the works of my hands. Not the words of my mouth. Not the confession of my sins.

Yet, those in a right relationship with God want to have a closer and dearer relationship with the Lord. They want to enjoy all the blessings of forgiveness. This happens when they admit their sin, owe up to their sin, confess their sin. This happens when they ask God to have mercy on them a sinner.

IV Instruction for Sinners (vs 6-10)
A In verses 6-10 we hear instruction for sinners. Listen to the prayer of David 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.

Do you hear what David is asking for? That the godly will pray for forgiveness. That the godly will confess their sins. Why? So they have the assurance that the waters of judgment will not reach them as it reached the world in the days of Noah, as it reached Pharaoh and his armies at the time of the Exodus. So that the godly will enjoy all the blessings of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. So that the godly, as our text puts it, have every reason for song:
(Ps 32:11) Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

B So many Christians rob themselves of the full joy of salvation by neglecting or refusing to confess their sins. Their walk with God could be so much closer and so much sweeter. "Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found." Come to God, congregation. Confess your sins. The song writer wrote a hymn about this:
Oh, for a closer walk with God,
a calm and heavenly frame,
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb!

Where is the blessedness I knew
when first I sought the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
of Jesus and his Word?

What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
the world can never fill.
Is this your cry? Is this your song? Is this your regret? Well, then, confess your sins. And, in Christ, yours will be that closer walk with God.

C 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 32:1,5) Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered ... (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.
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.

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 shame 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?

D In this season of Lent, as you come to the Lord's Table, confess your sin. "Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding." That's the warning David gives in verse 9. Horses and mules need to be controlled by force, by bit and bridle. But we as God's people should be controlled by a humble and contrite spirit that wants a closer walk with God.

Conclusion
Our last and final point I have been mentioning throughout this message. Verse 7 talks about "songs of deliverance." God surrounds us with songs of deliverance. We see and hear the songs of deliverance throughout the Bible. One of the first times is at the Red Sea:
(Ex 15:1-3) Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: "I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. (2) The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. (3) The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.
Deborah sang the songs of deliverance at the defeat of the Canaanite King Jabin and his general Sisera:
(Judg 5:1-3) On that day Deborah and Barak ... sang this song: (2) "When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves-- praise the LORD! (3) "Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I will sing to the LORD, I will sing; I will make music to the LORD, the God of Israel.
King David sang the songs of deliverance:
(2 Sam 22:1-4) David sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. (2) He said: "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; (3) my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior-- from violent men you save me. (4) I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.
According to the book of Revelation, the Apostle John heard the singing of the songs of deliverance in heaven:
(Rev 5:13) Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"

The songs of deliverance are to be our response to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. They are to be our response to forgiveness.
(Ps 32:11) Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

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