By James Boice
Theme: A Great Admonition and Promise
In this week’s lessons we see what the proper approach to our own sin needs to be, and what God does for us in response.
Scripture: Psalm 32:1-11
In Psalm 51, after David has confessed his sin and asked God to forgive him, he says “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you” (v. 13). We find the same thing in the third stanza of Psalm 33 (vv. 6, 7), because, having experienced the forgiveness of God, David next and naturally turns to others, exclaiming, “Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found” (v. 6). He wants everyone to experience the joy he has found as the result of his confession.
David gives two reasons why we should do as he did. First, today is a day of opportunity, a time when God “may be found.” It is as Isaiah also wrote: “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Isa. 55:6, 7).
It is a great thing to be living in a day of grace, in a time when God “is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). But implied in David’s words is the sobering teaching that the day of God’s grace will not last forever. The day of judgment is coming, and on that day it will be too late to repent and find forgiveness. Do not wait until them. Come to Christ now.
Second, we should do as David did, because God will protect the penitent: “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (v. 7). Charles Wesley thought of these troubles as the troubles of life and the waters of verse 6 as our afflictions when he wrote:
Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high:
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into thy haven guide, O receive my soul at last!
But it is equally if not more likely that David is thinking of the waters of God’s final judgment. In verses 3 and 4 David was seen hiding from God, but in verse 7 he is hiding in God and is eternally secure. J. J. Stewart Perowne interprets this verse as saying, “He who thus seeks Jehovah when he may be found shall not be swept away when his judgments are let loose like a flood of waters upon the earth.”6 As the hymn expresses it: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”
From a poetical standpoint Psalm 32 might have stopped with verse 7. But David adds a fourth stanza (vv. 8-10) on spiritual and moral guidance to which is appended a final verse calling on those who have experienced forgiveness and guidance to rejoice in God and praise him.
Verse 8 (and possibly the entire stanza) is written as if God is speaking directly to the restored individual, promising to “instruct,” “teach,” “counsel” and “watch over” him. In the King James Version of the Bible this often quoted text seemed to suggest that God promises to guide us “with his eye,” but, as attractive as this idea is, the true meaning seems to be that God will continually watch over us. The idea is of one who is offering direction to another so he can follow a certain path and reach a certain place but who promises as well to keep an eye on him as he travels so he will not get lost and go wrong.
I am glad God promises to do that for us. For great as forgiveness is, the one who has sinned and been forgiven does not want to repeat the sin or again fall into error but rather wants to go on walking in the right way and so please our heavenly Father. How are we to do that unless God continues to keep his eye on us? If we ignore that care and refuse that counsel, we will be like brute beasts that have no understanding (v. 9). If we persist in our folly, we will be like the wicked who experience many woes (v. 10). But if we listen to God, obey him and so walk in his right way, we will be able to rejoice in God. And we will be able to teach others also, which is what David has been doing in this psalm.
- What is implied in the reality that today is the day of grace?
- What is the theme of the fourth stanza? How does God do these things for us?
Reflection: What does it mean to make the Lord your hiding place (v. 7)?
For Further Study: To learn more about the nature of true repentance, download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “Torn Hearts, Torn Garments.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
6J. J. Stewart Perowne, Commentary on the Psalms, 2 vols. in 1 (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989), vol. 1, p. 292. Original edition 1878-1879.
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