Marghanita Laski was one of England’s best-known secular humanists and novelists. Just before she died in 1988, she said in a television interview, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.” Unfortunately, there are many people like her in the world today without the experience of God’s forgiveness.
The Psalmist said in Psalm 103:3 that God is the One who forgives all our sins. Psalm 32 is a psalm that instructs us on how we can experience the blessings of forgiveness. This psalm is credited to David, the most celebrated of all the kings of Israel. David knew how it felt to need God’s forgiveness. This happened when he was rebuked by Prophet Nathan for his sins of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 12:9–12).
But that’s not all. He also knew the joy and relief of experiencing God’s forgiveness. After he had acknowledged his sins against God, Nathan said to him, “The LORD has taken away your sins. You are not going to die” (2 Samuel 12:13).
First, what can we learn from David on how to experience the blessings of forgiveness? To experience the blessing of forgiveness, we must feel the burden of guilt. Guilt is a feeling of having done something wrong. When the Holy Spirit convicts a person of sin, He makes them feel guilty for what they have done. Unfortunately, rather than feel guilty and seek forgiveness from God, we may choose to justify our sinful behaviour or actions.
David knew that he had sinned and he felt deeply the guilt of his wrong actions but he did not seek forgiveness immediately. The guilt feelings he had, however, made him feel physically ill (32:3-4; Psalm 38:2–8). Guilt is often centred around fear, anxiety, depression, sadness, and even anger. In addition to altering a person’s emotional well-being, guilt feelings can also alter the way a person’s mind and body functions.
The burden of guilt that we bear should drive us to seek the blessings of forgiveness. Maybe some of us here this morning are being tormented by guilt. Perhaps no one else knows about your sin, and although you are trying to put up a good front, deep down inside you are troubled. Don’t shrug it off or explain it away. Let it drive you to the cross, where you’ll know God’s boundless mercy!
Second, the blessings of God’s forgiveness are great. There are at least four blessings for the person who experiences God’s forgiveness. These include, one, the blessing of a clean conscience (32:1 2). David uses four words for sin and three words for forgiveness and these help us understand what it means to have a clean conscience before God.
He describes sin as “transgression,” which means rebellion or refusal to submit to rightful authority. God has ordained certain limits for human behaviour for our good and the good of society. When we go against those limits, we transgress; we refuse to be subject to God’s rightful authority in our lives.
He also uses the word, “Sin.” This means “to miss the mark,” While transgression looks at the violation of a known law, sin refers to coming short of God’s perfect will for our lives. The third word used to describe sin is “Iniquity” (NIV, “sin”), which has the sense of perverting that which is right, or going astray from the way. Any time you do something crooked you have committed iniquity.
The last is “deceit,” which is a deliberate cover-up, falsehood, or hypocrisy. This occurs when you try to present a false front so that you look good even when you know you’re not. These words for sin—transgression, sin, iniquity, and deceit—condemn us all as guilty before God.
But David’s words of forgiveness show us what it means to have a clean conscience before God. These include the word “Forgiven” which means to bear, carry off, or take away a burden. Our sin is a burden that God Himself, through Jesus Christ, bears or takes away (Psalm 103:12; 1 John 3:5). He bore our sins away once and for all so that when we put our trust in what Jesus did on the cross, our sins are gone.
It also includes the word “Covered” which means Out of sight. God puts our sins out of His sight, which means He will never bring up our sins as a matter of judgment between Him and us. If we’re in Christ, our sins are covered by His blood! The third word is “not counted” or not charged to our account. We are no longer required to account to God for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Martin Luther said, “Sin has but two places where it may be; either it may be with you so that it lies upon your neck, or upon Christ, the Lamb of God. If now it lies upon your neck, you are lost; if, however, it lies upon Christ, you are free and will be saved.” If your sin is upon Christ, you enjoy the blessing of a clean conscience.
Two, the blessing of having God as your refuge (32:6 7). David, who in verse 4 complained that he was oppressed by God’s hand, now declares God to be his hiding place. Instead of continuing to fear God as his judge, he now takes refuge in Him as his protector who surrounds him with songs of deliverance. The flood of great waters (32:6) refers to God’s judgment. The man who has experienced God’s forgiveness need not fear the flood of God’s judgment. What a blessing that, instead of having to run from God, now we can run to God and know we are safe!
Three, the blessing of God’s instruction (32:8 9). The promise of God’s instruction is one of the benefits of His forgiveness. God will use His Spirit and His Word to direct the forgiven sinner into paths of righteousness. We’re not pardoned to go our way, but rather to go God’s way. The person who understands forgiveness by God’s grace won’t continue in sin but will grow more sensitive to the ways of the God who has freely pardoned him.
Four, the blessing of God’s joy (32:10-11). David ends the psalm by contrasting the wicked, who have many sorrows, with the righteous, who are surrounded by the Lord’s unfailing love. The righteous are not those who never sin, but rather those who became “upright in heart” because they confessed their sins. The thought of God’s mercy towards sinners who don’t deserve it causes David to break forth with joy (32:11). There is no greater joy than knowing that your sins are forgiven. These are only some of the blessings of experiencing God’s forgiveness: we have a clear conscience before God, we have God as our refuge, we have His instruction, and we have great joy in Him. There are many more besides these.
So, how do we experience the blessings of His forgiveness? The great blessings of God’s forgiveness are experienced when we confess our sins. The turning point in this psalm is verse 5, where
David confesses his sin, and verse 6 where he exhorts his readers to pray to God while He may be found. This implies that there is a window of opportunity for repentance when God is appealing to our conscience. If we refuse to turn to the Lord, we may be hardened beyond remedy (Prov. 29:1).
Please note that David confessed his sins directly to the Lord (32:5), not to a priest; not even to the ones he had wronged at this point. Sin is first and foremost against the Lord, and so we must confess it to Him. But what does it mean to confess sin?
One, to confess means to acknowledge our sin to God. Acknowledging our sin means that we call sin “sin.” We don’t excuse it as “weakness” or “just human nature.” We say, “Lord, I sinned.” The sooner we confess, the sooner we experience God’s blessing. It also means that we see sin as serious. The closer you get to the Lord and thus see sin from His perspective, the more serious you will see it. My sin put my Saviour on the cross. And sin always causes damage to the name of Christ; to others in His body; and, to me. Sin always erects barriers between us and God and between fellow human beings. Thus, we must take sin seriously. Confession must not be flippant!
It means that we see confessed sin as forgiven. “You forgave the guilt of my sin” (32:5b). No sin is too great to be forgiven. If I have truly confessed my sin and still feel guilty, it is not the Lord but the accuser of the brethren who is troubling me (Rev. 12:10–11). The blood of the Lamb fully satisfied the demands of God’s righteousness. We must rest in the promise of God that He is faithful and just to forgive all our sins when we confess them to Him.
Two, to confess means to accept responsibility for our sins. Accepting responsibility means being willing to forsake the sin with the strength that God provides. “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Prov. 28:13). You must forsake sin. It’s a shame to confess sin if you have no intention or willingness to forsake it. Accepting responsibility for sin also means confessing to others you have wronged. David doesn’t deal with this aspect here, but it is a part of the biblical teaching on the subject that cannot be ignored. If you have sinned against someone else, first confess it to God, but then go to the person and confess your sin to them and seek their forgiveness. That way, your conscience is clear before God and man. You may need to make restitution if your wrong has deprived another person.
Thus, the great blessings of God’s forgiveness are experienced as we confess our sins. Confession involves acknowledging our sins to God and accepting responsibility for it. The forgiveness and freedom from guilt that Christ offers change lives. You can be free from guilt before God today and every day! There is no greater blessing than that of having your transgressions forgiven, your sins covered, and your iniquities not counted against you by the Lord. That blessing is available to you right now if you will confess your sins.
If you want to give your life to Jesus Christ, you may offer this prayer to God: “Dear God, I thank you for sending Jesus to die for my sins. I am sorry for my sins and repent of them all. I invite Jesus into my life right now to be my Lord and Saviour. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen”
Your eternal salvation and spiritual well-being are our concerns. If you prayed to accept Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, please write to let us know at the address below. You may also join us to worship God in the Yoruba language at 7.30 a.m. or in the English language at 9 a.m. every Sunday.
Good New Baptist Church,
47/49, Olufemi Road,
off Ogunlana Drive,