PSALM 32 OVERVIEW
Title. A Psalm of David, Maschil. That David wrote this gloriously evangelic Psalm is proved not only by this heading, but by the words of the apostle Paul, in Romans 4:6-8 . "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works," &c. Probably his deep repentance over his great sin was followed by such blissful peace, that he was led to pour out his spirit in the soft music of this choice song. In the order of history it seems to follow the fifty-first. Maschil is a new title to us, and indicates that this is an instructive or didactic Psalm. The experience of one believer affords rich instruction to others, it reveals the footsteps of the flock, and so comforts and directs the weak. Perhaps it was important in this case to prefix the word, that doubting saints might not imagine the Psalm to be the peculiar utterance of a singular individual, but might appropriate it to themselves as a lesson from the Spirit of God. David promised in the fifty-first Psalm to teach transgressors the Lord's ways, and here he does it most effectually. Grotius thinks that this Psalm was meant to be sung on the annual day of the Jewish expiation, when a general confession of their sins was made.
Division. In our reading we have found it convenient to note the benediction of the pardoned, Psalms 32:1-2 ; David's personal confession, Psalms 32:3-5 ; and the application of the case to others, Psalms 32:6-7 . The voice of God is heard by the forgiven one in Psalms 32:8-9 ; and the Psalm then concludes with a portion for each of the two great classes of men, Ps 32:10-11.
Verse 1. Blessed. Like the sermon on the mount on the mount, this Psalm begins with beatitudes. This is the second Psalm of benediction. The first Psalm describes the result of holy blessedness, the thirty-second details the cause of it. The first pictures the tree in full growth, this depicts it in its first planting and watering. He who in the first Psalm is a reader of God's book, is here a suppliant at God's throne accepted and heard. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven. He is now blessed and ever shall be. Be he ever so poor, or sick, or sorrowful, he is blessed in very deed. Pardoning mercy is of all things in the world most to be prized, for it is the only and sure way to happiness. To hear from God's own Spirit the words, "absolvo te" is joy unspeakable. Blessedness is not in this case ascribed to the man who has been a diligent law keeper, for then it would never come to us, but rather to a lawbreaker, who by grace most rich and free has been forgiven. Self righteous Pharisees have no portion in this blessedness. Over the returning prodigal, the word of welcome is here pronounced, and the music and dancing begin. A full, instantaneous, irreversible pardon of transgression turns the poor sinner's hell into heaven, and makes the heir of wrath a partaker in blessing. The word rendered forgiven is in the original taken off or taken away, as a burden is lifted or a barrier removed. What a lift is here! It cost our Saviour a sweat of blood to bear our load, yea, it cost him his life to bear it quite away. Samson carried the gates of Gaza, but what was that to the weight which Jesus bore on our behalf? Whose sin is covered. Covered by God, as the ark was covered by the mercyseat, as Noah was covered from the flood, as the Egyptians were covered by the depths of the sea. What a cover must that be which hides away for ever from the sight of the all seeing God all the filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit! He who has once seen sin in its horrible deformity, will appreciate the happiness of seeing it no more for ever. Christ's atonement is the propitiation, the covering, the making an end of sin; where this is seen and trusted in, the soul knows itself to be now accepted in the Beloved, and therefore enjoys a conscious blessedness which is the antepast of heaven. It is clear from the text that a man may know that he is pardoned: where would be the blessedness of an unknown forgiveness? Clearly it is a matter of knowledge, for it is the ground of comfort.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. The term Maschil is prefixed to thirteen Psalms. Our translators have not ventured to do more, in the text, than simply print the word in English characters; in the margin however they render it, as the Geneva version had done before them, "to give instruction." It would be going too far to affirm that this interpretation is subject to no doubt. Some good Hebraists take exception to it; so that, perhaps, our venerable translators did well to leave it untranslated. Still the interpretation they have set down in the margin, as it is in the most ancient, so it is sustained by the great preponderance of authority. It agrees remarkably with the contents of the thirty-second Psalm, which affords the earliest instance of its use, for that Psalm is preeminently didactic. Its scope is to instruct the convicted soul how to obtain peace with God, and be compassed about with songs of deliverance. William Binnie, D.D., in "The Psalms: Their History, Teachings, and Use," 1870.
Whole Psalm. This is a Didactic Psalm, wherein David teacheth sinners to repent by his doctrine, who taught them to sin by his example. This science is universal and pertaineth to all men, and which necessarily we must all learn; princes, priests, people, men, women, children, tradesmen; all, I say, must be put to this school, without which lesson all others are unprofitable. But to the point. This is a mark of a true penitent, when he hath been a stumbling block to others, to be as careful to raise them up by his repentance as he was hurtful to them by his sin; and I never think that man truly penitent who is ashamed to teach sinners repentance by his own particular proof. The Samaritan woman, when she was converted, left her bucket at the well, entered the city, and said, "Come forth, yonder is a man who hath told me all that I have done." And our Saviour saith to St. Peter, "When thou art converted, strength thy brethren." John 4:29 Luke 22:32 . St. Paul also after his conversion is not ashamed to call himself chiefest of all sinners, and to teach others to repent of their sins by repenting for his own. Happy, and thrice happy, is the man who can build so much as he hath cast down. Archibald Symson.
Whole Psalm. It is told of Luther that one day being asked which of all the Psalms were the best, he made answer, "Psalmi Paulini," and when his friends pressed to know which these might be, he said, "The 32nd, the 51st, the 130th, and the 143rd. For they all teach that the forgiveness of our sins comes, without the law and without works, to the man who believes, and therefore I call them Pauline Psalms; and David sings, `There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared,' this is just what Paul says, `God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.' Romans 11:32 . Thus no man may boast of his own righteousness. That word, `That thou mayest be feared,' dusts away all merit, and teaches us to uncover our heads before God, and confess gratia est, non meritum: remissio, non satisfactio; it is mere forgiveness, not merit at all." Luther's Table Talk.
Whole Psalm. Some assert that this Psalm used to be sung on the day of expiation. Robert Leighton.
The Penitential Psalms. When Galileo was imprisoned by the Inquisition at Rome, for asserting the Copernican System, he was enjoined, as a penance, to repeat the Seven Penitential Psalms every week for three years. This must have been intended as extorting a sort of confession from him of his guilt, and acknowledgment of the justice of his sentence; and in which there certainly was some cleverness and, indeed, humour, however adding to the iniquity (or foolishness) of the proceeding. Otherwise it is not easy to understand what idea of painfulness or punishment the good fathers could attach to a devotional exercise such as this, which, in whatever way, could only have been agreeable and consoling to their prisoner. M. Montague, in "The Seven Penitential Psalms in Verse ... with an Appendix and Notes," 1844.
Verse 1. Blessed. Or, O blessed man; or, Oh, the felicities of that man! to denote the most supreme and perfect blessedness. As the elephant, to denote its vast bulk, is spoken of in the plural number, Behemoth. Robert Leighton.
Verse 1. Notice, this is the first Psalm, except the first of all, which begins with Blessedness. In the first Psalm we have the blessing of innocence, or rather, of him who only was innocent: here we have the blessing of repentance, as the next happiest state to that of sinlessness. Lorinus, in Neale's Commentary.
Verse 1. Blessed is the man, saith David, whose sins are pardoned, where he maketh remission of sins to be true felicity. Now there is no true felicity but that which is enjoyed, and felicity cannot be enjoyed unless it be felt; and it cannot be felt unless a man know himself to be in possession of it; and a man cannot know himself to be in possession of it, if he doubt whether he hath it or not; and therefore this doubting of the remission of sins is contrary to true felicity, and is nothing else but a torment of the conscience. For a man cannot doubt whether his sins be pardoned or not, but straightway, if his conscience be not seared with a hot iron, the very thought of his sin will strike a great fear into him; for the fear of eternal death, and the horror of God's judgment will come to his remembrance, the consideration of which is most terrible. William Perkins.
Verse 1. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Get your sins hid. There is a covering of sin which proves a curse. Proverbs 28:13 . "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper;" there is a covering it, by not confessing it, or which is worse, by denying it -- Gehazi's covering -- a covering of sin by a lie; and there is also a covering of sin by justifying ourselves in it. I have not done this thing; or, I did no evil in it. All these are evil coverings: he that thus covereth his sin shall not prosper. But there is a blessed covering of sin: forgiveness of sin is the hiding it out of sight, and that's the blessedness. Richard Alleine.
Verse 1. Whose transgression is forgiven. We may lull the soul asleep with carnal delights, but the virtue of that opium will be soon spent. All those joys are but stolen waters, and bread eaten in secret -- a poor sorry peace that dares not come to the light and endure the trial; a sorry peace that is soon disturbed by a few serious and sober thoughts of God and the world to come; but when once sin is pardoned, then you have true joy indeed. "Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee." Matthew 9:2 . Thomas Manton.
Verse 1. Forgiven. Holy David, in the front of this Psalm shows us wherein true happiness consists: not in beauty, honour, riches (the world's trinity), but in the forgiveness of sin. The Hebrew word to forgive, signifies to carry out of sight; which well agrees with that Jeremiah 50:20 . "In those days, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found." This is an incomprehensible blessing, and such as lays a foundation for all other mercies. I shall but glance at it, and lay down these five assertions about it.
- Forgiveness is an act of God's free grace. The Greek word to forgive, deciphers the original of pardon; it ariseth not from anything inherent in us, but is the pure result of free grace. Isaiah 43:25 . "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake." When a creditor forgives a debtor, he doeth it freely. Paul cries out, "I obtained mercy." 1 Timothy 1:13 . The Greek signifies, "I was be-mercied;" he who is pardoned, is all bestrewed with mercy. When the Lord pardons a sinner, he doth not pay a debt, but gives a legacy.
- God in forgiving sin, remits the guilt and penalty. Guilt cries for justice: no sooner had Adam eaten the apple, but he saw the flaming sword, and heard the curse; but in remission God doth indulge the sinner; he seems to say thus to him: Though thou art fallen into the hands of my justice, and deserve to die, yet I will absolve thee, and whatever is charged upon thee shall be discharged.
- Forgiveness of sin is through the blood of Christ. Free grace is the impulsive cause; Christ's blood is the meritorious. "Without shedding of blood is no remission." Heb 9:22. Justice would be revenged either on the sinner or the surety. Every pardon is the price of blood.
- Before sin is forgiven, it must be repented of. Therefore repentance and remission are linked together. "That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name." Luke 24:47 . Not that repentance doth in a Popish sense merit forgiveness; Christ's blood must wash our tears; but repentance is a qualification, though not a cause. He who is humbled for sin will the more value pardoning mercy.
- God having forgiven sin, he will call it no more into remembrance. Jeremiah 31:34 . The Lord will make an act of indemnity, he will not upbraid us with former unkindnesses, or sue us with a cancelled bond. "He will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." Mic 7:19. Sin shall not be cast in as a cork which riseth up again, but as lead which sinks to the bottom. How should we all labour for this covenant blessing! Thomas Watson.
Verse 1. Sin is covered. Every man that must be happy, must have something to hide and cover his sins from God's eyes; and nothing in the world can do it, but Christ and his righteousness, typified in the ark of the covenant, whose cover was of gold, and called a propitiatory, that as it covered the tables that were within the ark, so God covers our sins against those tables. So the cloud covering the Israelites in the wilderness, signified God's covering us from the danger of our sins. Thomas Taylor's "David's Learning: or the Way to True Happiness." 1617.
Verse 1. Sin covered. This covering hath relation to some nakedness and filthiness which should be covered, even sin, which defileth us and maketh us naked. Why, saith Moses to Aaron, hast thou made the people naked? Exodus 32:25 . The garments of our merits are too short and cannot cover us, we have need therefore to borrow of Christ Jesus his merits and the mantle of his righteousness, that it may be unto us as a garment, and as those breeches of leather which God made unto Adam and Eve after their fall. Garments are ordained to cover our nakedness, defend us from the injury of the weather, and to adorn us. So the mediation of our Saviour serveth to cover our nakedness, that the wrath of God seize not upon us -- he is that "white raiment" wherewith we should be clothed, that our filthy nakedness may not appear -- to defend us against Satan -- he is "mighty to save," etc. -- and to be an ornament to decorate us, for he is that "wedding garment:" "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ." Revelation 3:18 Isaiah 63:1 Matthew 22:11 Romans 13:14 . Archibald Symson.
Verse 1. The object of pardon -- about which it is conversant, is set forth under diverse expressions -- iniquity, transgression, and sin. As in law many words of like import and signification are heaped up and put together, to make the deed and legal instrument more comprehensive and effectual. I observe it the rather, because when God proclaims his name the same words are used, Exodus 34:7 , "Taking away iniquity, transgressions, and sin." Well, we have seen the meaning of the expression. Why doth the holy man of God use such vigour and vehemency of inculcation. "Blessed is the man!" and again, "Blessed is the man!" Partly with respect to his own case. David knew how sweet it was to have sin pardoned; he had felt the bitterness of sin in his own soul, to the drying up of his blood, and therefore he doth express his sense of pardon in the most lively terms. And then, partly, too, with respect to those for whose use this instruction was written, that they might not look upon it as a light and trivial thing, but be thoroughly apprehensive of the worth of so great a privilege. Blessed, happy, thrice happy they who have obtained pardon of their sins, and justification by Jesus Christ. Thomas Manton.
Verse 1-2. In these verses four evils are mentioned; 1. -- Transgression, ([fp) pesha.
- Sin, (hajx) chataah.
- -- Iniquity, (!w[) avon.
- -- Guile, (hymd) 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 it is often taken to express sinfulness, or sin in the nature, producing transgression in the life. The third signifies what is turned out of its proper course or situation; anything morally distorted or perverted. Iniquity, what is contrary to equity or justice. The fourth signifies fraud, deceit, guile, etc. To remove these evils, three acts are mentioned: forgiving, covering, and not imputing.
- TRANSGRESSION, ([fp) pesha, must be forgiven, (ywvn) nesui, borne away, i.e., by a vicarious sacrifice; for bearing sin, or bearing away sin, always implies this.
- SIN, (hajx) chataah, must be covered, (ywsb) kesui, hidden from the sight. It is odious and abominable, and must be put out of sight.
- INIQUITY, (!w[) avon, what is perverse or distorted, must not be imputed, (bvxyal) lo yachshobh, must not be reckoned to his account.
- GUILE, (hymd) 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. Adam Clarke.
Verse 1-2. Transgression. Prevarication. Some understand by it sins of omission and commission.
Sin. Some understand those inward inclinations, lusts, and motions, whereby the soul swerves from the law of God, and which are the immediate cause of external sins.
Iniquity. Notes original sin, the root of all.
Levatus, forgiven, eased, signifies to take away, to bear, to carry away. Two words in Scripture are chiefly used to denote remission, to expiate, to bear or carry away: the one signifies the manner whereby it is done, namely, atonement, the other the effect of this expiation, carrying away; one notes the meritorious cause, the other the consequent.
Covered. Alluding to the covering of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. Menochius thinks it alludes to the manner of writing among the Hebrews, which he thinks to be the same with that of the Romans; as writing with a pencil upon wax spread upon tables, which when they would blot out they made the wax plain, and drawing it over the writing, covered the former letters. And so it is equivalent with that expression of "blotting out sin," as in the other allusion it is with "casting sin into the depths of the sea."
Impute. Not charging upon account. As sin is a defection from the law, so it is forgiven; as it is offensive to God's holiness, so it is covered; as it is a debt involving man in a debt of punishment, so it is not imputed; they all note the certainty, and extent, and perfection of pardon: the three words expressing sin here, being the same that are used by God in the declaration of his name. Stephen Charnock.
Verse 1-2, 6-7. Who is blessed? Not he who cloaks, conceals, confesses not his sin. As long as David was in this state he was miserable. There was guile in his spirit Psalms 32:2 misery in his heart, his very bones waxed old, his moisture was dried up as the drought in summer Psalms 32:3-4 . Who is blessed? He that is without sin, he who sins not, he who grieves no more by his sin the bosom on which he reclines. This is superlative blessedness, its highest element the happiness of heaven. To be like God, to yield implicit, ready, full, perfect obedience, the obedience of the heart, of our entire being; this is to be blessed above all blessedness. But among those who live in a world of sin, who are surrounded by sin, who are themselves sinners, who is blessed? He whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered, to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity; and especially does he feel it to be so, who can, in some degree, enter into the previous state of David's soul Psalms 32:3-4 . Ah, in what a wretched state was the psalmist previously to this blessedness! How must sin have darkened and deadened his spiritual faculties, to have guile in the spirit of one who could elsewhere exclaim, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me," any way of pain or grief, any way of sin which most surely leads to these. Ps 139:23-34. What a mournful condition of soul was his, who while he roared all the day long, yet kept silence before God, had no heart to open his heart unto God, was dumb before him, not in submission to his will, not in accepting the punishment of his iniquity Leviticus 26:46 , not in real confession, and honest, upright, and sincere acknowledgment of his iniquity to him against whom he had committed it. "I kept silence," not merely I was silent, "I kept silence," resolutely, perseveringly; I kept it notwithstanding all the remembrance of my past mercies, notwithstanding my reproaches of conscience, and my anguish of heart. I kept it notwithstanding "thy hand was heavy upon me day and night," notwithstanding "my moisture," all that was spiritual in me, my vital spirit, all that was indicative of spiritual life in my soul, seemed dried up and gone. Yes, Lord, notwithstanding all this, I kept it. But Nathan came, thou didst send him. He was to me a messenger full of reproof, full of faithfulness, but full of love. He came with thy word, and with the word of a King there was power. I acknowledged my sin unto him, and my iniquity did I not hide, but this was little. Against thee, thee only, did I sin, and to thee was my confession made. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, O Lord. I solemnly said that I would do so, and I did it. I confessed my transgression unto the Lord, "and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin."
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven. Behold the man who is blessed; blessed in the state of his mind, his guileless spirit, his contrite heart, the fruit of the spirit of grace; blessed in the forgiveness of a forgiving God; a forgiveness, perfect, entire, lacking nothing, signified by sin "covered," "iniquity not imputed" of the Lord; blessed in the blessings which followed it. Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Beneath the hollow of that hand which was once so heavy upon me, I can now repose. Thou art my hiding place, I dread thee no more; nay, I dwell in thee as my habitation, and my high tower, my covert, my safety, my house. Safe in thy love, whatever trouble may be my portion, and by the mouth of Nathan thy servant thou hast declared that trouble shall be my portion, I shall yet be preserved; yea, more, so fully wilt thou deliver me that I believe thou wilt encompass me so with the arms of thy mercy, as to call forth songs of grateful praise for thy gracious interposition.
Behold, the blessedness of him whom God forgives! No wonder, then, that the psalmist adds, for this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. As much as if he had said, Surely after this thy gracious conduct towards me, all that truly love and fear thee, every one that is godly, when he hears of thy dealings with me, "will pray unto thee." Encouraged by my example, he will not keep silence as I foolishly and sinfully did, but will confess and supplicate before thee, since thou art to be "found," and hast so wondrously shown that thou art, of all that truly seek thee, since there is the place of finding, as I lay my hand upon the victim, and look through that victim to him the promised Seed; since there is the time of finding, declared in thy word, and manifested by the secret drawing of my heart to thee by thy grace; since the unwillingness is not in thee, but in thy sinning creature to come to thee; for this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee, then, however deep the water floods may be, however fierce the torrent, and headlong the stream, they shall not even come nigh unto him, much less shall they overwhelm him. James Harrington Evans, M.A., 1785-1849.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. Gospel benedictions. Take the first Psalm with thirty-second, show the doctrinal and practical harmoniously blended. Or, take the first, the thirty-second, and the forty-first, and show how we go from reading the word, to feeling its power, and thence to living charitably towards men.
Verse 1. Evangelical Blessedness.
- The original condition of its possessor.
- The nature of the benefit received.
- The channel by which it came.
- The means by which it may be obtained by us.
Verse 1-2. The nature of sin and the modes of pardon.
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE THIRTY-SECOND PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
This treatyse concernynge the fruytful sonnges of David the Kynge & prophete in the seuen penytencyall psalmes. Deuyded in seuen sermons was made and compyled by the ryght reuerent fader In god Juhau fyssher doctore of dyuynyte & bysshop of Rochester at the exortacyo and sterynge of the most excellet princesse Margarete contesse of Rychemont and Derby & moder to our souerayne lorde Kynge henry the
(No date, but marked in the B.M. Cat. 1509. An 8 volume edition has on Title Page, An. M.D.J.A.)
David's Learning, or Way to True Happiness: in a Commentarie upon the 32 Psalme. Preached and now published by THOMAS TAYLOR, late fellow of Christ's College in Cambridge. London: 1617.
David's Teares. By SIR JOHN HAYWARD, Knight, Doctor of Lawe. London. Printed by John Bell. 1623. On Psalms VI, XXXII, and CXXX.
Meditations on Psalm
- in Archbishop Leighton's Works.
In the Works of JOHN DONNE: Sermons on Psalm
- Vols. II.,
- Alford's Edition.
A Godly and Fruitful Exposition on the Thirty-second Psalme, the Third of the Penitentials; in A Sacred Septenarie; or, a Godly and Fruitful Exposition on the Seven Psalmes of Repentance. By Mr. ARCHIBALD SYMSON, late Pastor of the Church at Dalkeeth in Scotland. 1638.
Meditations and Disquisitions upon the 32 Psalme, in Meditations and Disquisitions upon the Seven Psalmes of David, commonly called the Penitential Psalmes. By SIR RICHARD BAKER, Knight. 1639.
Lectures on the Thirty-second Psalm. By CHARLES H. BINGHAM, B.A., Curate of Hale Magna. 1836.
Lectures on the Thirty-second Psalm, preached in Portman Chapel, Baker Street, during Lent, 1859. By the Rev. J. W. REEVE, M.A., Minister of the Chapel. 1859.