True blessedness consists in remission of sin, and purification of the heart, 1,2. What the psalmist felt in seeking these blessings, 3-5. How they should be sought, 6,7. The necessity of humility and teachableness, 8,9. The misery of the wicked, 10. The blessedness of the righteous, 11.
NOTES ON PSALM XXXII
The title of this Psalm is significant, ledavid maskil, A Psalm of David, giving instruction, an instructive Psalm; so called by way of eminence, because it is calculated to give the highest instruction relative to the guilt of sin, and the blessedness of pardon and holiness or justification and sanctification. It is supposed to have been composed after David's transgression with Bath-sheba, and subsequently to his obtaining pardon. The Syriac entitles it, "A Psalm of David concerning the sin of Adam, who dared and transgressed; and a prophecy concerning Christ, because through him we are to be delivered from hell." The Arabic says, "David spoke this Psalm prophetically concerning the redemption." The Vulgate, Septuagint, and AEthiopic, are the same in meaning as the Hebrew.
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven
In this and the following verse four evils are mentioned: 1. Transgression, pesha. 2. Sin, chataah. 3. Iniquity, avon. 4. Guile, remiyah. The first signifies the passing over a boundary, doing what is prohibited. The second signifies the missing of a mark, not doing what was commanded; but is often taken to express sinfulness, or sin in the future, producing transgression in the life. The third signifies what is turned out of its proper course or situation; any thing morally distorted or perverted. Iniquity, what is contrary to equity or justice. The fourth signifies fraud, deceit, guile, three acts are mentioned: forgiving, covering, and not imputing. 1. TRANSGRESSION, pesha, must be forgiven, nesui, borne away, i.e., by a vicarious sacrifice; for bearing sin, or bearing away sin, always implies this. 2. SIN, chataah, must be covered, kesui, hidden from the sight. It is odious and abominable, and must be put out of sight. 3. INIQUITY, anon, which is perverse or distorted, must not be imputed, lo yachshob, must not be reckoned to his account. 4. GUILE, remiyah, must be annihilated from the soul: In whose spirit there is no GUILE. The man whose transgression is forgiven; whose sin is hidden, God having cast it as a millstone into the depths of the sea; whose iniquity and perversion is not reckoned to his account; and whose guile, the deceitful and desperately wicked heart, is annihilated, being emptied of sin and filled with righteousness, is necessarily a happy man.
The old Psalter translates these two verses thus: Blissid qwas wikednes es for gyven, and qwas synnes is hyled (covered.) Blisful man til qwam Lord retted (reckoneth) noght Syn: ne na treson es in his gast (spirit.) In vain does any man look for or expect happiness while the power of sin remains, its guilt unpardoned, and its impurity not purged away. To the person who has got such blessings, we may say as the psalmist said, ashrey, O the blessedness of that man, whose transgression is forgiven!
St. Paul quotes this passage, Romans 4:6,7, to illustrate the doctrine of justification by faith; where see the notes.
When I kept silence
Before I humbled myself, and confessed my sin, my soul was under the deepest horror. "I roared all the day long;" and felt the hand of God heavy upon my soul.
I acknowledged my sin
When this confession was made thoroughly and sincerely, and I ceased to cover and extenuate my offence, then thou didst forgive the iniquity of my sin. I felt the hardness of heart: I felt the deep distress of soul; I felt power to confess and abhor my sin; I felt confidence in the mercy of the Lord; and I felt the forgiveness of the iniquity of my sin.
This is all true; I know it; I felt it; I feel it.
For this shall every one that is godly
Because thou art merciful; because thou hast shown mercy to all who have truly turned to thee, and believed in thee; every one who fears thee, and hears of this, shall pray unto thee in an acceptable time, when thou mayest be found; in the time of finding. When the heart is softened and the conscience alarmed, that is a time of finding. God is ever ready; men are not so. Who can pray with a hard heart and a dark mind? While you feel relentings, pray.
Surely in the floods
In violent trials, afflictions, and temptations; when the rains descend, the winds blow, and the floods beat against that godly man who prays and trusts in God; "they shall not come nigh him," so as to weaken his confidence or destroy his soul. His house is founded on a rock.
Thou art my hiding place
An allusion, probably, to the city of refuge: "Thou shalt preserve me from trouble." The avenger of blood shall not be able to overtake me. And being encompassed with an impregnable wall, I shall feel myself encompassed with songs of deliverance-I shall know that I am safe.
I will instruct thee
These are probably the Lord's words to David. Seeing thou art now sensible of the mercy thou hast received from me, and art purposing to live to my glory, I will give thee all the assistance requisite. I will become thy Instructor, "and will teach thee," in all occurrences, "the way thou shouldst go." I will keep mine eyes upon thee, and thou shalt keep thine upon me: as I go, thou must follow me; and I will continually watch for thy good.
Be ye not as the horse or as the mule
They will only act by force and constraint; be not like them; give a willing service to your Maker. "They have no understanding;" you have a rational soul, made to be guided and influenced by reason. The service of your God is a reasonable service; act, therefore, as a rational being. The horse and the mule are turned with difficulty; they must be constrained with bit and bridle. Do not be like them; do not oblige your Maker to have continual recourse to afflictions, trials, and severe dispensations of providence, to keep you in the way, or to recover you after you have gone out of it.
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked
Every wicked man is a miserable man. God has wedded sin and misery as strongly as he has holiness and happiness. God hath joined them together; none can put them asunder.
But he that trusteth in the Lord
Such a person is both safe and happy.
Be glad-and rejoice
Let every righteous soul rejoice and glory, but let it be in the Lord. Man was made for happiness, but his happiness must be founded on holiness: and holiness, as it comes from God, must be retained by continual union with him. Probably this verse belongs to the next Psalm, and was originally its first verse.
ANALYSIS OF THE THIRTY-SECOND PSALM
This Psalm is doctrinal, and shows the happiness of the man whose sin is pardoned, and who is himself restored to the favour and image of God. It is called maschil, or instruction; and the reason of this is shown at the eighth verse: "I will instruct thee, and teach thee." In it we have instruction, especially on these three points, which divide the Psalm:-
I. The happy state of a justified person, Psalms 32:1,2.
II. The unhappy condition of that man who is not assured that he is justified and reconciled to God, Psalms 32:3,4. And the way is prescribed how to gain this assurance, Psalms 32:5.
III. A lesson given for obedience after a man is brought into that state, Psalms 32:8,9.
I. The prophet first instructs us in what justification consists:-
I. It is a free remission, a covering of sin; a nonimputation of iniquities. 2. In what state a person must be in order to obtain it. He must be honest, sincere, and upright in heart; deeply penitent, feeling the guilt of sin, and acknowledging its enormity. He must avoid guile or deceit; and not excuse, palliate, or extenuate his sin, but confess it.
II. This he proves by his own experience: he hid his sin, he confessed it not; and was in consequence, miserable.
1. I held my peace I confessed not. I did not ask pardon: "When I kept silence,"
2. I was wounded with the sting of a guilty conscience; fears, horrors, troubles of soul, came upon me: "My bones waxed old through my roaring."
3. And then he shows the way he took to regain happiness; it was a contrary course to that above; he concealed his sin no longer. 1. "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity I have not hidden." 2. "I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord."
Of which the effects were various:-
1. Upon himself. He recovered his happiness in being justified: "Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin."
2. On the whole Church: "For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee."
3. Comfort in extremities, and safety in the greatest danger: "Surely in the floods of great waters," in an inundation of calamities, they-the troubles-shall not come nigh him who depends upon God's goodness and mercy, and is reconciled to him. And he shows the reason from his own experience. God was his Protector: 1. "Thou art my hiding place: thou shalt preserve me from trouble." 2. "Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance."
III. And now David sets down the duty of a justified person; that he is, after his pardon, obedient to God; and that not out of compulsion, but freely and willingly. In order to this, God condescends to be his Instructor.
1. "I will instruct;" give thee general counsel.
2. "I will guide thee with mine eye." A good servant needs no stripes; he will observe nutum, the nod, or nicturn heri, the wink of the master. As my eye is always over you, carefully to instruct; so be you as ready to observe it.
3. Be not like beasts: the HORSE, headlong; the MULE, headstrong; "whose mouths must be held in with bit and bridle," lest they fling, kick, hurt, or kill thee. Constrained obedience is for a beast; free and voluntary obedience, for a man.
4. Besides, to quicken your obedience, I will teach you two reasons. 1. From inconvenience and loss: "Many sorrows shall be to the wicked:" their griefs, troubles and punishments, are many and grievous. Be not, therefore, disobedient like the wicked. 2. From the gain. Your obedience shall be rewarded, and that amply: "He that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him round about." It shall be like the girdle with which he is girded. God will be present with him in his troubles. He shall perceive that he is in favour with God, that his sins are pardoned, and that he is an heir of eternal life.
Upon which he concludes with this exhortation: "Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous; and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart." For this rejoicing there is great cause; for this doctrine of free remission of sin can alone quiet a guilty conscience. And this pardon can only be obtained by faith in Christ Jesus.