the joy of forgiveness

"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." (Psalms 32:1-2 ESV) 

"Confession is good for the soul."  We hear this often enough (and it's true), and indeed confession is a big theme in the Bible. It has an important role in the life of believers, whether individually or corporately (1 Jn 1:9). But confession is more than good for the soul, it is vital to our relationship with God, for it restores honesty and transparency before him. 

In confession I am agreeing with God about who he is and who I am. It can be restorative, as in confessing my failure before God, or it can be declarative, as in confessing my trust in the Lord and what he has done.  This psalm (32), along with Psalm 38 and Psalm 51, are called "penitential" psalms, for they recount David's confession of sin and failure. It is more than admitting that "mistakes were made" or expressing regrets without really taking responsibility, like, "I'm sorry that you feel hurt". Confession is coming clean and being honest before God and others. That's what "in whose spirit there is no deceit" (v 1) means. 

The Hebrew word that David uses for "cover" (כסה  kasah) in verse one is the same word used in verse five.  In verse one, it is the Lord who "covers" the sin of David (in forgiveness) and in verse five it is David who "does not cover" (i.e., who uncovers) his sin before God.  The principle then, taking the whole psalm into account, is this: what we cover (hide, conceal) before the Lord he will eventually uncover (reveal) to us and others, often painfully; but what we uncover to the Lord in confession he will then cover with his forgiveness.  What we uncover he will cover, but what we cover he will uncover.   

We are told in verses 8 and 9 that we should desire to live by the Lord's teaching and counsel (freely), rather than by his chastising discipline (forcefully).  Confession is not a burdensome act, but a freeing one, so that we might know the blessedness of forgiveness (v 1) and experience the joy of walking with God (v 11). 


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