By James Boice
Theme: A Great Testimony
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
Yesterday we concluded by looking at the first word that describes God’s action toward our sin when we confess it, which is that he forgives it.
The second word that describes what God does with our sin is “covers.” It is a strong religious term taken from the imagery of the Day of Atonement. On the Day of Atonement the high priest of Israel took blood from an animal that had been sacrificed in the courtyard of the temple and carried it into the Most Holy Place where it was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. The Mercy Seat was the lid or “covering” of the ark, and the blood was sprinkled there because it thereby came between the presence of the holy God, symbolized as dwelling in the space between the wings of the cherubim above the ark, and the broken law of God that was contained in the ark itself. It thus covered the broken law, shielding the sinner from God’s judgment.
In Greek the word for Mercy Seat is rendered “propitiation,” which is the act of turning God’s wrath aside. In Hebrew the word is translated as “covering,” the term used by David in our psalm.
The third word for what God does with sin is negative; that is, it describes what God does not do. He “does not count” the sin against us. The word “count” is elsewhere translated “impute,” and it is a bookkeeping term, as “count” especially suggests. It is the word used by Paul in Romans to explain how God writes our sin into Christ’s ledger and punishes it in him while, at the same time, writing the righteousness of Christ into our ledger and counting us as justified because of his merit. It is why Paul quotes these particular verses rather than others in Romans 4:7, 8.
There is more of this psalm to come, but I have taken half of this study to deal with the first two verses because there is no greater blessedness than to know that our sin has been forgiven, covered over by the blood of Christ and no longer counted against us. Do you know that blessedness yourself? If so, testify to it. If not, come to Jesus where alone that forgiveness may be found. It does not matter what you may have done. David had committed murder to cover up adultery. You may have stolen money, cheated your friends or business partners, and lied about nearly everything. You may even have cursed God. It does not matter. God will forgive and restore you. The forgiveness of God is for all and for all sins, and the blessing that follows confession and forgiveness is the greatest of all joys.
The second stanza of this psalm (vv. 3-5) is a recollection of David’s experience of unconfessed sin and of the immediate result of confessing it. It is the heart of this very great man’s great testimony.
Verses 3 and 4 recount the effect of his sin on David. We do not need to spend much time on them except to say that they aptly describe the malaise of any believer who is trying to ignore his or her sin. David says that his very bones seemed to be wasting away and that his strength was drawn out of him as if he were exposed to the heat of the summer sun. The reason, of course, is that the Lord’s hand was upon him heavily in judgment, as it will be with anyone who tries to do as David did. When we sin we wish that God would ignore our transgression. But God cannot ignore sin and will not. He brings pressure upon us, often very acute pressure, until we acknowledge the sin, confess it and return to him.
- What is the second word used to describe God’s action toward us? What important ideas are behind it?
- What is different about the third word of God’s response? Explain its meaning.
Application: How can you testify to others of the great work that God does for those who confess their sins and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation? Pray for opportunities to do this.
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