Throughout September 2022, I managed to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. For December 2022, I’m going to pick up the discipline. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:
- What is this Psalm about?
- What does this Psalm teach about God?
- How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.
On the first day of December, here’s Psalm 32:
1 Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
6 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
will not reach them.
7 You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.
11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!
What is this Psalm about?
This Psalm picks up the theme of forgiveness and life with God seen in Psalm 31 – and zooms in on a couple of aspects. It also appears to have an interesting structural feature – which as a not-a-specialist I wouldn’t count on – of blending human and divine speech: Verses 1-7 could come out of the mouths of God’s people, whereas verses 8 and 10 read more like God’s speech to his people, and verses 9 and 11 making some kind of response. Regardless, this is a Psalm that offers sound advice to the believer, ending in that wonderful yet realised/realistic call to ‘Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart’.
What does this Psalm teach about God?
First and foremost the God of Psalm 32 is a forgiving God – forgiving the ones ‘whose sin the Lord does not count against them’. Verse 2 also clarifies that God is Spirit, and has no deceit – unlike us, and unlike (perhaps) other things that have the name or classification ‘spirit’. There is much more that could be said about God from Psalm 32 – but the description of God’s ‘unfailing love’ in verse 10 is a stunning truth. Not only does God’s love not fail – unlike so many things, relationships and emotions/actions – but God’s love ‘surrounds the one who trusts in him’.
How does this Psalm connect to God’s People today?
There is a model for the Christian life here. Recognising sin, seeking God’s forgiveness, confessing it and moving on with God are part and parcel of the basic life of God’s people – yet so easily forgotten. Through His Word and His Spirit, God teaches and instructs his people, with verse 9 providing an alternative to be avoided. There is also, again, the classic Psalmist’s call at the end – with the full awareness of sin and forgiveness, of challenge and reality, to ‘Rejoice in the Lord and be glad’. Would that even in the darkest storm, we would look to the light, and rejoice.
A prayer drawn from Psalm 32:
‘I will confess my transgressions to you, Lord. And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Help me invite others into this place, this place of rejoicing and forgiveness and security. Many are the woes of the wicked, but your unfailing love, Lord, surrounds me as I trust in you. Help me to rejoice, even if it doesn’t feel like the obvious thing to do. Make me upright in heart! Amen’.