John T. Willis

Monday, August 10, 2015

Personal Experience of Sin and Forgiveness--Psalm 32

Psalm 32 is brief, but powerful. Several specific ideas suggest that this psalms is a Wisdom Psalm.
   1. "Happy" in verses 1-2 is characteristic of Wisdom :iterature--see for example, Proverbs 3:13; 8:34; 20:7.
   2. The admonition in verse 6 is common in Wisdom Literature.
   3. The composer of Psalm 32 says he will "instruct" and "teach" his audience is verses 8-9. This tone is clearly that of a wise person teaching a class.
   4. The contrast between the righteous and the wicked in verses 10-11 is common in Wisdom Literature.

The Psalmist's approach is compelling an persuasive. It falls into three natural parts.

I. The composer begins by giving the conclusion, the point, he wishes to emphasize. Psalm 32:1-2.
    a. The poet wants to persuade his audience that Yahweh's forgiveness of human sins makes the sinner happy.
    b. Here the psalmist uses the THREE terms for sin in the Bible: transgression (verses 1, 5); sin (verses 1, 3, 5 [2x]), iniquity (verses 2, 5). It would be a mistake to try to sharply distinguish between these three terms. They are simply synonyms; they mean essentially the same thing.
    c. The psalmist uses THREE terms for Yahweh's forgiveness: Yahweh "forgave" his transgression (verse 1) and the guilt of his sin (verse 5); Yahweh "covered" his sin so that no one would ever see it (verse 1); Yahweh "did not impute"  his iniquity on him (verse 2).
    d. The point in verses 1-2 is that Yahweh does not hold it against the sinner his sin as a large debt which he owed him.

II. The composer gives his own testimony about his experience with sin. Psalm 32:3-5.
     a. The psalmist confesses that when he first committed his sin, he tried to hide it, to pretend that it had never occurred, as if he had done nothing wrong. But the harder he tried, the more miserable he became. The human conscience will not allow a person to hide his sin ultimately. Yahweh's hand is heavy on the human heart when we sin. It is miserable every day to try to hide our sins. 32:3-4.
     b. After many struggling days, the psalmist finally came before Yahweh and confessed his sin. And when that happened, Yahweh graciously forgave him of his sin. 32:5.

III. Having shared his own experience, the psalmist urges his fellow-worshippers to follow his example. Psalm 32:6-11.
      a. Sin is so powerful that it feels like "mighty waters" overwhelm and drown the sinner. So the psalmist urges his comrades to offer prayer to Yahweh in confession of their sins. 32:6.
      b. The only protection from sin is Yahweh. He alone is the sinner's "hiding place." It is futile to try to hide oneself. Yahweh has the power of "surrounding" and protecting all who come to him in trust. 32:7.
      c. As a loving, faithful teacher, the psalmist declares he will instruct and teach his audience. The instruction is: "Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle." All human beings want to be independent, to do their own thing. This never works. The psalmist urges all of us to quit rebelling against God in pride, and turn to God in trust and seek his forgiveness. 32:8-9.
     d. The psalmist reminds his audience that the torments of the wicked are many. If one digs in and becomes hard-hearted, his heart and life are doomed. Only Yahweh's steadfast love "surrounds" everyone. Thus, the message is: trust in Yahweh alone, and you will rejoice in his deliverance. 32:10-11.

Share YOUR experiences and questions and confessions and shortcomings and reversals with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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