From My Soul Waits
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (v. 1)
There are two basic messages to Psalm 32: when we depart from the ways of God, confession of sin is the pathway to pardon; and, God will surely lead us in those ways if we will follow. The first message has to do with the joy of forgiveness, in this case, of being forgiven. The second message has to do with God’s willingness, even God’s desire, to forgive our wandering ways and to then keep his eye upon us. Living in the light of these unalterable truths makes the psalmist truly blessed.
The most famous description of the requirements for a blessed life is the Sermon on the Mount. There Jesus lists nine conditions for true, lasting happiness and fullness of life, each beginning, “Blessed are the…,” (see Matthew 5:1-11). The Hebrew word translated as blessed, used here and elsewhere by the psalmist, basically means “happy.” But it has less to do with an emotion than with the spiritual condition of the person who pursued God’s ways – who actually participates in life with God. Thus it is that blessed serves as the opening word of the entire Psalter: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers,” (Psalm 1:1-3).
In contrast to this state of ceaseless prosperity, the condition of the person who tries to hide his sin is one of arid misery. The psalmist describes himself under such circumstances as a scorched plant withering under the hot summer sun. There are no flowing streams of water for the unrepentant. Releasing the spring, the source of all refreshment and revival, requires that the psalmist admit his wrong before God. Blessedness really is only a prayer away: “I acknowledged my sin to you and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
Once he has turned around, admitting both to himself and to God that he has been wrong, the psalmist is relieved of the heaviness of heart that has been weighing him down. Now, if he will obediently give himself to God’s instruction, he can walk freely with his Lord, to be led, without “bit and bridle,” (v. 9), in the ways of peace and gladness.
From The Fathers
When you see people being baptized and ransomed out of a generation that is perishing, and you are in wonder at the loving-kindness of God toward the human race, then sing to them Psalm 32. (Athanasius)
Father, if your forgiving love were not enough to erase my sin, then I would in fact be lost, and without hope.
But, if your grace is sufficient,
And your Son’s work is finished,
And your steadfast love never comes to an end, then I am in fact found, and without despair.