Written by Paul J. Bucknell on June, 12, 2019
The Secrets of Confession (Psalm 32)
The Confession of Sin
One of the significant problems with the Christian church comes from her way of minimizing the importance of the forgiveness of sins. Evangelicals do rightly emphasize the necessity of forgiveness for entering the kingdom but neglect considering how such a truth as repentance plays itself out in salvation. They profess Christ has done it all and nothing more needs to be done (by me or others). Please don’t misunderstand me, this is the Gospel truth, and we applaud those proclaiming the Gospel. Truths, however, including the importance of forgiveness of sin, by their nature send out deep roots into our minds and lives as believers, giving us stability (Eph 3:17-19).
Our confession of sin remains an essential and practical truth affecting every area of our lives: our person, relationship with God, and with others. Ignore confession at your peril. Truths do not live in a vacuum, that is, without respect to real life. Confession of sin remains ultra important because it is a fundamental truth upon which good relationships are founded.
Let me give you an example of this by highlighting the area of communication. Communication is based on trust and clarity. The hiding of sin, however, breaks trust and hides key elements for its own subtle purposes. Without the confession of sin, people are devious, arrogant, and often rude. Sin will overrun a marriage or church if allowed to mushroom.
I know that you might think of this as an oversimplification of life, but hopefully, by the end, you will see the reason confession of sin is properly included in every basic discipleship program (that I know of). Ignoring this truth is like trying to run a combustion engine without oil.
As we progress through these eleven verses, David first glees in the glory of forgiveness then jumps back to past scenes from his dark days when hiding his sin and the consequences. Starting in verse 5 he speaks about how he regained forgiveness and concludes with verses 8-11 by speaking of the discerning mind obtained by the insights of this truth.
1.) Joy from Possessing Confession (32:1-2)
Forgiveness, no matter how evil you’ve been!
1 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! 2 How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!
There is no doubt that all of us have wallowed in sin—maybe some are desperately gulping for a gasp of help now, but whatever the case, we need to recognize how God’s way of confession, thanks to Jesus Christ, leads us to discover His rich blessed life. Fortunately, the Lord is ready to pick us up once we humble our hearts and come before Him seeking His grace.
Notice how the Psalmist openly speaks about the tragedy of sin by the four terms used.
Four words for sin
✕ transgression (32:1): Crosses over a boundary.
✕ sin (32:1): Misses the mark.
✕ iniquity (32:2): Morally distorted, perverted.
✕ deceit (32:2): Fraud, deceit, guile, etc.
These words, unfortunately, well-describe our culture. Many now assert that perversion is our right. The general terms of sin are, sooner or later, outwardly seen in all sorts of various dark scenes: violence, drug-happy incidents, sexually immoral, bribe-giving, broken relationships, etc.
Three Words for Forgiveness
The Psalmist also mentioned three words to describe and celebrate God’s forgiveness.
✝ Forgiven (32:1): Taken away, carried away, expiated.
✝ Covered (32:1): Blotted out, covered, concealed.
✝ Not Imputed (32:2): Not charging the account, not counted.
Twice he uses the word “blessed” to describe the man having found forgiveness.
1 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven…
2 How blessed is the man…
No matter how tragic sin might be, or how dark the night, we can, like the Psalmist, be of great hope to find forgiveness and restoration with God.
There is instant hope born from these verses. The hurt, abused, broken, stubborn, fallen, bruised, and crushed can all find hope in God through forgiveness. This is one of the first and most important facts for evangelism and counseling. We must bring hope to the hopeless for only in the cross lies the possibility of finding restoration through forgiveness. God offers freedom to those described here ensnared in sin and impurity.
All can find hope in God through forgiveness!
Pick up the hurt, abused, broken, stubborn, fallen, bruised, crushed, and lead them to hope in God through the forgiveness of sin found in Christ alone. Only God’s abounding grace can bring a person through the full cycle where the undeserving sinner can live as if he never sinned. But, let us now look at sin’s demise.
2.) ‘Down’ from Lacking Forgiveness (32:3-4)
The pretense of godliness does not negate sin’s pain.
3 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah (Psalm 32:3-4).
Selah is a musical ending; a pause providing time to meditate. Why is it that we often wait until the destruction has come before we turn from our sin? We are deceived and do not believe sin is that bad. Only when pressed so desperately hard by sin’s consequences do we at all begin to connect our demise with our sins and struggle to cease from them.
Just look around to see a horrible negative picture of our society (though I might have also said this ten years ago). The pain gauge increases each day along with its deception. The drugs increase due to growing suffering, rejection, physical pain, emotional worries, and sad depression. The suicide rates are not just from the poor but those who have money. The reason is clear. If people who suffer do not hear the Gospel and turn around, they will increasingly feel the claws of the evil one dig in. Whether one uses measurements from poverty, lack of hope, drug prescriptions, broken relationships, or offending language, sin projects itself bringing its accompanying evils. When God’s people turn away from God, the devil can strategically carry out more of his diabolical missions precipitating increased casualties and even death.
Our society now wants to expand its waywardness, allowing the immoral and violent to describe our everyday affairs. But though they speak of the liberation of “free sex,” they are unwilling to admit to the pain of STDs (by hiding statistics) or telling how many take medication due to it. They flounce the laws and try to remake them, but judgment sits on the bleachers keeping track of their evil.
Having said these things, we must not forget this is the day of grace. Are we, those who profess confession not also admitting to our sins? Of course. It doesn’t mean anyone gets away with anything, but that if the wicked turn, they, like David and like us, can find grace. The greatest tragedy of sin is hiding it away so that one does not find grace, forgiveness, love, and direction through Jesus.
• I kept silent (ignore, ignorant, make excuse).
• The celebration of ungodliness brings sin’s pain.
• Compassion for our ‘experiential’ age.
One of man’s greatest challenges to receiving forgiveness is that he does not understand the horribleness of his sin. The longer we allow sin’s infestation of our souls, the more damage it does. Like cancer, it seeks its own expansion oblivious to the damage of its supporting system. Sin and its consequences increase with time. The interest of sin is pain, shame, and loneliness; its result is death itself. Oh, that we might seek the healing and freedom from one’s past sin, present bitterness, or future conflicts without acknowledging the unpleasant nature of one’s sin.
Mistaken Ideas of Sin
Here is a list of some common mistaken ideas of sin:
Each of these errors leads us further away from an honest assessment of our lives which can bring life. The further we wait, the more trouble we bring to others and ourselves if indeed we do not repent. We use these above lies to excuse our actions, but judgment still seeks us out—thus the ensuing pain.
• Sin is not so bad (moral perversion).
• Sin is okay—just if I don’t get caught. (judgment)
• We can live better lives with sin. (hedonism)
• There is no such thing as sin and guilt. (evolution)
• Sin’s curse will dissipate; mankind is improving (delusion).
• God will overlook our sin (blind ignorance).
God never overlooks sin. Judgment might be coming but it is sure. What about the believer’s forgiveness? That is only a possibility because Jesus took the full brunt of God’s wrath when He died on the cross for our sins (1 John 2:2). There is no easy way to handle sin and its accompanying curse of death.
Our society is so vociferous about the nonexistence of God, but why is it that His dictates are being increasingly proven?
3.) Hope from Finding Confession (Ps 32:5-7)
Confession can be found no matter how far one is from God. “I acknowledged my sin to Thee, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; and Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:5).
Saying goodbye to one’s pretense of goodness welcomes the entrance of light and freedom. Godliness is not typified by pretending to be good but by a sincere confession of what is wrong: “I acknowledged my sin to Thee.” The proof of real confession is the improvement of behavior through repentance.
How joyous to think that forgiveness can be offered to all because it is not based on one’s sex, station in life, or wealth. We “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). With this common thread of selfishness, only the Gospel opens the door for all to find Christ and forgiveness through His work on the cross.
Religiosity is a killer because it has people pretending to be virtuous, having them think they are good enough to be saved even though God calls them to confess their sins. We also congratulate ourselves by presenting dishonest evaluations of our lives. This was the very problem Jesus had with the Pharisees. Thankfully, upon admittance of our evil, we can then seek our Savior.
How kind of the Lord not to grant forgiveness in stages, dependent on what we could say, give, or do, but only our faith in what Christ has done for us. Forgiveness is not 80%, 90% but complete, therefore leading to full restoration.
Due to the drastic and sudden change leading from slavery and wickedness to forgiveness in His love, unexpected and delightful changes occur in our lives. Now that we have repented from our sins, our lives are wholly transformed for the good (see verses 1-2). Praise God!
Hide sin => despair, disaster, and death.
Confess (admit) sin => humility, understanding, forgiveness, and improvement
• Confession can be found no matter one’s resources.
• Confession does not come by pretending to be good.
• Confession brings complete forgiveness.
• Confession’s deliverance is always great.
Godliness is not typified by pretending to be good but by honest confession of what is wrong. Confession involves on the honest acknowledgment of what one has done wrong. Of course, we should not be confused thinking that confession is just for show. What we find here is genuine confession, that is, confession from the heart. Genuine revival is marked by open confession of sin rather than the concealing of it. The proof of real confession is the improvement of behavior through repentance.
6 Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found; surely in a flood of great waters they shall not reach him. 7 Thou art my hiding place; Thou dost preserve me from trouble; Thou dost surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah (Psalm 32:6-7).
We should be smarter to blame ourselves for our own sin rather than God. These verses offer a promise for any godly person wanting to flee sin and avoid its destructive path. When we turn to Him in time of need, we will begin to see the glory of His power revealed to help His children.
• Am I too far from God?
• What sin do you think God is unwilling to forgive?
• How is it that God rejects those that hide sin but accepts and protects those who reveal their sin?
“Let everyone who is godly pray to Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found.”
Because of the deceit of our hearts and devilish deceptions, we should not take for granted this opportunity to turn from sin. His grace cannot always be easily found. This is not due to God’s grace but the dangers of our spiritual blindness and Satan-induced deception. Once ensnared in sin, our hearts get hardened, and we are much less likely to think or believe there is an opportunity or desire to return to Him. Our excuses become, so to speak, embedded in cement and so rule our minds.
Notice in verse seven that we are no longer hiding sin but hiding ourselves in the Lord. What a complete difference, just what the Psalmist elatedly stated in the first two verses.
The depth of praise doesn’t depend on how good one is but on how one sees and admits His need for the Savior.
4.) Discernment from Understanding Confession (Ps 32:8-11)
Knowledge of sin can be ignored but only at great costs.
“8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. 9 Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you. 10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked; but he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him. 11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones, and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.” (Psalms 32:8-11)
The godly person lives by wisdom rather than event; obedience rather than stubbornness. We all have an element of “stubborn” pride. This arrogance opposes any willingness to follow the Lord’s admonition. Those who have gone through this forgiveness cycle are “poor in spirit” and will readily see its stages of development. But it is so hard to give proper judgment to others merely by telling them what we have experienced.
Let me give an example of the stubborn horse or mule (9). Some people grow up under very oppressed and wrong circumstances. They tend to be hard and bitter, unrelenting in their blame against those who have so greatly hurt them. But, though, they are right in their assessment of the other’s wrong (they are typically off in some respects though), they themselves are bitter and unforgiving, being hard, disobedient, sneaky, and even fascinated by evil planning. Those caught in their cycle of bitterness go down and down through the dredges of bitterness, just as these verses (3-4) describe. But they? Though they acknowledge the sins of others, they are like the mule not seeking instruction for themselves. “Many are the sorrows of the wicked” (10). Yes, others are wrong, but you yourself are wicked and must see and confess your own hidden sins including your bitterness.
Finding help in time of need brings great relief, but a wise person lives by instruction rather than temptation, obedience rather than a stubborn insistence on one’s ideas. Verse 9 clearly tells us not to be stubborn. The Lord is quite willing to teach us which way to go or even to counsel us, but how slow we normally are to trust in Him.
The difference between the righteous and the wicked is clearly marked. Those who trust in the Lord have His lovingkindness surrounding them. Although they both have stood in the same sinful mess, one repents and turns to the Lord for forgiveness, seeking out His gracious ways in their lives. The other, however, continues to fall in sin’s dread ways.
Can we honestly say that we will diligently seek His ways so that we might not sin against Him?
• Confession remains a key part of our lives.
• Our sins can be ignored but only at the great cost of Jesus’ death on the cross.
• Blessings come by acknowledging one’s sins (not other people’s sins).
• Seek a pure conscience by remaining clean. Don’t just hang about in your sin by thoughts: “Oh, my sin isn’t so bad.” “God doesn’t care.” Identify your sins and seek the Lord. Through confession we can live above sin—not perfectly but in spirit.
Discussion Questions on Psalm 32
Paul J. Bucknell
1) What is the difference between verses 1-2 and 3-4?
2) Like the Psalmist, identify at least one point where the Lord graciously forgave you?
3) Verses 3-4 describe a saddened state of those who hide sins. What does it mean to hide sins?
4) Look at verses 3-4 and name the consequences of hiding one’s sins. Can you add any?
5) Describe what the Psalmist did in verse 5.
6) Why doesn’t everyone just confess their sins and escape their doom like judgment?
7) Why do you think the admonition in verse 6, “Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found” is recorded here?
8) Verses 8-9 present a contrast. Describe how one way of life differs so much from the other.
9) Verse 10 states “many are the sorrows of the wicked” but from verses 3-4, do we not find this Psalmist also had a wicked past? Explain.
10) Explain how one gets to be upright in heart (11). Have you sought full cleansing from your sin?
11) Why is it that a Christian needs to confess his/her sins if one is already justified?