The Blessing of Being Forgiven (How not to be a mule)

The words of the songs we sing reflect life back to us. Many times I can immediately recall an event or circumstance when I hear a particular song. I wonder if that was true with David and his psalms. Many of these inspired hymns of praise were associated with specific events or times of his life. One such psalm may have been Psalm 32. Many ascribe the this Psalm of David to the time following his sin with Bathsheba, and subsequent repentance. It may be that this song reflects the most difficult time of David’s life. Yet also describes a time of his greatest joy;

The blessing of forgiveness.

The divine description tells us it is “a contemplation”.  Some conclude that this means it is a Psalm of instruction or didactic teaching.  But most probably it indicates a Psalm of meditation or one that motivates deep thought.

Psalm 32

1   Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered.

2   Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3   When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long.

4   For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah

5   I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

6   For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You In a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters They shall not come near him.

7   You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah

8   I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.

9   Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you.

10  Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him.

11  Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

I. Blessed is he… There is a lot to learn here. I want to look at the Psalm as a whole and connect what appear to be disconnected thoughts and commands.

A.  Verses 1-5 clearly deal with confession and forgiveness of sin.

  • Verses 1-2 – being forgiven is a very happy (blessed) condition.
  • Verses 3-5 tell us how to attain that happy state:
    • verses 3 and 4 – don’t try to conceal your sin from God,
    • verse 5 – rather acknowledge your sin and confess it to God

So the point of verses 1-5 is: the person who does not conceal his sins but confesses them to God will be happy and have peace with God.

B.  I am convinced that these first verses provide the background and basis for the rest of the Psalm.

II.  The Psalmist considers both inferences and commands that flow directly from God’s glorious provision of forgiveness.

A.  Prayer:  “For this cause Verse 6 draws an inference: Since being forgiven brings happiness,    “everyone who is godly shall pray to You In a time when You may be found;  If such great blessedness follows the prayer of confession, then, for goodness sake, let’s all pray! This is the avenue to happiness and peace. The Psalmist presents this as a command to be followed in the context of confession. We cannot remain silent before God.

B.  Protection:  vs. 7 – 7 You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.

1.  In the second half of verse 6 and all of verse 7 He pictures the protection that God offers in a time of trouble. The flood of water will not reach the one who is open and honet with God. Surely God will protect him.

  • Isa 57:15For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
  • Isa 66:1-2 – Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? 2 For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.

2.  Probably David intends for us to understand that the blessedness of the forgiven man in verses 1 and 2 consists not only in his peace of conscience but also in the protection that God now gives him in the midst of troubles. Or, to put it another way, the man who prays and confesses his sin to God is blessed not only because of what God does not do — namely, impute iniquity to him — but he is also blessed by what God does do — namely, preserve him from trouble and surround him with songs of deliverance. God is not only not against him, He is mightily for him.

C.  Direction:  vs. 8 – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” Some suggest that David begins to speak here, and it is he who will instruct others. In the 51st Psalm, David promised God that it he were forgivien he would teach others about God.  Ps 51:12-1412 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.

1.  But it may also be that the Lord is still speaking about what He will do in the context of offerin forgiveness. He promises not only protection but instruction for how we should live from day to day.

2.   The blessing of forgiveness would be incomplete without the blessing of direction. (show a man lost in the woods where he is at on a map – not lost anymore- but do not show him the way out.) It is God’s eye that is guiding us. We see the world as He sees it and move in His direction.

D.  So the main point so far in verses 1-8 is that all the godly should pray to God in a time when He may be found. And as incentives David gives the promise of forgiveness (vv. 1-5), protection (vv. 6-7), and direction (v.8).

III.  The Threat of Stubborness: AS much of a blessing as forgiveness provides, why is this happiness so illusive?  Why had it evaded David so long?  I believe that he addresses that here in the last part of the Psalm, in the second imperative (besides prayer).

A.  vs. 9 – Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you. This command is the counterpart to vs. 6 – Do not be stubborn, but pray.

1.  The picture intended may be a farmyard of all sorts of animals. The farmer cares for all his animals, he shows them where they need to go and supplies a barn for their protection. But there is one beast on this animal farm that resists what the farmer does – the mule. He’s stubborn, and rebellious.  Even though the farmer calls the mule by name and shows him where to go, (“I will instruct you and teach you the way that you should go.”) for his own good, the mule resists.  He is without understanding.

2.  God is leading us in the way that is best for us.  When we sin, he encourages us to confess ourt sins and seek forgiveness in prayer.  But stubbornness (pride) get in the way. We only come when we are forced to come (bit and bridle).

3. Come to God in humility “while He can be found” or in a time when you are not hardened against it, or pride blocks the way.  (calling someone by the wrong name – after a while it has gone to far to undo it)

4.  This is a call for humility and submission. These qualities are key to our happiness. Matt 5:3-5 – Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.

5. The main reason I think David intends for us to understand verse 6 as the alternative to mule-like behavior is because I think verses 3 and 4 are a picture of David the mule before he learned to pray. “When I kept silent (about my sin) my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.” David was stubborn as a mule in his response to his own sin.

6.  God put David under the bridle in verse 4. “Day and night Thy hand was heavy on me. My moisture was turned into the drought of summer.” David would confess his sin, but only after suffering.  A guilty conscience and all the agonies that go with it is a merciful gift to the unrepentant.

7.  The main point, therefore, of verses 1-9 is “Let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found,” because the contrite, un-mule-like heart which comes to God in prayer is forgiven (v.5), protected (v.7) and counseled how to live (v.8).

8.  Verse 10 is essentially a repetition of verse 7 – a promise that God’s love will surround with love the person who trust Him. God will not despise the broken reed. He will come and protect the contrite heart with His affirmed mercy.

B.  As I meditated on this Psalm three questions came to mind:

  • What is the prerequisite of forgiveness?
  • Why is confession of sin necessary?
  • Why do we not cherish forgiveness like we should?

1.  What is the prerequisite to forgiveness?   humility and confession are the prerequisites to forgiveness presented here (repentance being included in a humble confession). We cannot attempt to deceive ourselves or God.

a.  Confession to God is not merely admitting our sin as real but also rejecting our sin as repulsive. There is deceit in the spirit of the person who admits with his mind that he sins but feels no revulsion in his heart at those sins: his bad temper and irritability, his hypercritical attitude, his gossiping, his lukewarm love for Christ, his failure to discipline his children, his dishonesty on tax forms and financial reports, etc.

b.  This is deceit because sin is repulsive and horrid in God’s eyes and ought to be hated and shunned. So to come to God admitting to sin and feeling no grief or repugnance is to come with deceit, for what you are acknowledging is not really acknowledged as sin. The prerequisite therefore of divine forgiveness is admitting our sin as real and rejecting our sin as repulsive,

2.  My second question was, Why is this necessary? Why doesn’t God, in His great grace just forgive all sin in everybody, no strings attached? Why does there have to be in every individual’s case the prerequisite of confession?

a.  Every sin we commit is an insult to God, a slap in His face, whether we see it that way or not. This has to be seen if we are to understand the dynamics of confession and forgiveness.  Having God’s mind demands I accept His evaluation of sin. Not mine.

  • God forgives me in order to restore a relationship. To that end He is willing to forgive the insults that threaten to ruin that fellowship through sin. But true fellowship cannot exist unless I am changed within to not keep insulting God through sin. Sinful conduct must be defeated within me. Rom 8:12-13 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors — not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

3.  Why do we not cherish forgiveness? I do not see myself as the guilty party. I am not that bad. (a TV story where the wife came confessing an insult said earlier, but the husband couldn’t remember being in a fight. He went on to milk the situation to get things for himself. There was no joy, only manipulation. We do not recognize that we are sinners, or even if we do, we do not know what that means.

a.  The woman in Simon’s house who wet Jesus feet with her tears and washed them. Why was she crying? Luke 7:47-48 – 7 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Her love flowed from her sense of sin and forgiveness. Simon was oblivious to it all.

b.  The horror of sin and the fearfulness of hell are the only backdrop that will let forgiveness shine for the infinite blessing it really is. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. It is a wonderful

Conclusion: What do you value most?  Compare the affections you feel for things and people in this world with the affection you feel for Jesus and for being forgiven through His death. And if you find that your heart leaps up more vigorously for anything else than it does for the forgiveness of God, repent.  Don’t be like the mule but run headlong to God in prayer while He may be found. For the contrite heart which prays will be forgiven and protected and taught the way to God and will be glad in the Lord forever.