Psalm 32 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!
It didn’t use to be this way. It didn’t used to be that a guy like Lebron James would post a shot of himself standing in front of a gorgeous ocean on Facebook featuring the word “blessed.” It didn’t used to be that celebrities would Instagram one of their physical “assets” and hashtag their posterior or pec with the word blessed. And it didn’t used to be that you could make your braggy post look humble (The internet calls that a humble-brag.) post about your perfect fiancée or your amazing job or your sweet vacation by hash tagging it #blessed. But these days? That’s just what people do. These beatitudes – that’s what a blessed statement is – have been so misused that on the internet that now it’s become a bit of a pastime to make fun of them. It was already back in 2013 when a comedian by the name of Davon tweeted out this joke: “Caught a piece of bacon falling out of my sandwich right before it hit the ground.” #blessed. What the internet has realized all too well is that beatitudes really do matter. They really do grab your attention. They really do draw people to your pec, your beauty, your success, or your vacation. It’s the perfect cover for bragging. Just hashtag your post “blessed” and you’re good to go.
They’re right in a way. Beatitudes are incredibly powerful draws. It’s just that they’re not supposed to draw us to someone’s Caribbean vacation or pectoral muscle or God-forbid a bacon-falling-out-of-sandwich joke. Beatitudes or “blessed” statements are in divine literature to draw us to their truth. Truths that if they didn’t have #blessed attached to them wouldn’t look nearly so compelling to us. In fact, beatitudes in Scripture are used almost exclusively to draw us to the most difficult of scriptural truth. Truths that are counterintuitive. Truths that seem wrong. Truths that don’t sound right. Like when Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” (Matthew 5:3) That actually doesn’t sound true. So Jesus makes it a beatitude. Or when Eliphaz says to Job in his suffering, “Blessed is the one whom God corrects.” (Job 5:17) That doesn’t sound true either especially when you’re the one being corrected. The point? The point is that beatitudes are intentionally exotic and rare in the Scriptures. If everything was blessed – if everything was happy all the time, beatitudes would lose their power to draw us in. So they’re rare.
And they’re here. They’re right here in this Psalm. And, yes, I did say, “They.” Psalm 32 isn’t just a single beatitude. It’s a double. Twice we’re told something is blessed. Twice we’re told something is happy. And, yes, in this case I do believe the psalmist, David, meant happy. Sometimes blessed doesn’t include the idea of happy. Sometimes it just means enriched. But here? This means happy. This means joyful. This means peaceful. All you have to do is keep reading the psalm to discover that. If the end of the psalm is any indication (It is!), this is the happiest condition that a person can have. It leads to rejoicing and being glad and singing. And that’s just one verse of the psalm and not surprisingly also the closing verse of the psalm. So, yeah, I’m pretty sure that this double beatitude includes the idea of being happy. But you know what’s probably most surprising and most compelling about these double beatitudes? They’re not only back-to-back, they’re also about the exact same idea. The exact same idea. The Spirit apparently wants to draw us to one single, important truth. He apparently thinks that we’re going to have an awful hard to believing it without this one-two punch of “blessed” truth right at the outset of the psalm.
What’s interesting is that at first glance these beatitudinal (Is that a word?) truths that Spirit is drawing us toward don’t seem especially counterintuitive. Or hard to believe. Or not true. I mean come on. Who doesn’t believe or understand that, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (v. 1)? Who doesn’t actually think that it’s the most beautiful thing in the world that when I’ve been in out and out rebellion saying, “Lord, I know your rules about who I should love and how, but – well – the heart wants what the heart wants,” that the Lord will forgive that and lift that up and off of me? Who isn’t compelled by the idea that my unredeemed personality that can so often miss the mark with its flaws and insecurities and little miscues is covered up by the Lord himself? Who isn’t captivated by that idea? And who doesn’t love the doctrine of justification that says, “Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them” (v. 2)? Who doesn’t want to already know now how they stand with the Lord now and then also on into eternity? Who doesn’t actually want to know how the gavel will come down; how the Lord is going to count the beans of my life? All of this beatitudinal truth is incredibly captivating and happy and beautiful.
You know what isn’t though? That sneaky little line that comes in right at the end of the beatitudes here. That squirrely and uncomfortable bugger that undergirds the entire framework of these beatitudes – the line that says the person is happy, “in whose spirit is no deceit.” (v. 2) That’s the uncomfortable part – the part that has us seeing ourselves clearly and clarifying for ourselves why, in fact, we need this kind of promised triple cleansing that’s here promised. That part? Well – it’s uncomfortable to think about. So we often don’t. David certainly didn’t. He didn’t think of the way he lusted after and then violated another man’s wife. He didn’t think of how he purposely got that woman’s husband, Uriah, sloppy drunk. He didn’t think of his massive misuse of political power with his general, Joab, for which he definitely deserved impeachment. He didn’t think of how it all culminated in him murdering Uriah or how it all started with his lazing around his palace. Or if he did, he someone justified it or minimized it or passed the blame for it or repressed it or suppressed or generally pursued one of about 18 improper ways that humans beings use to deal with their personal rebellion, sin, and guilt.
It’s actually one of the more amazing truths about David that for somewhere around a year David hung on to all that mess. And not once – not once! – during that time did he come to the conclusion that he’d like dump it all on the Lord to be happy once again. God had to send him a prophet for that happen. Think about that. There he was his hands dripping with blood and adultery and evil politics. There he was completely self-deceived. No wiser than a mule or a horse what he was really like as a man – his words not mine. David was so committed to himself that he’d rather have his evil than the Lord’s forgiveness. And that – that right there! – that is a perfect microcosm of the human condition. I remember when I was at the Seminary the dorkiest of us seminarians would send emojis to each other on instant messenger (Remember instant messenger?) every time one of our professors would talk about that. They even had a sweet Latin term for it that got really hot in the Reformation. They called it the opinio legis or the opinion of the law. You know what it is? It’s humanity’s most durable belief system. It’s also every human soul’s factory-made, and default-setting when they come into this world. Our false self-view before the law is this: I’m good and God should like me. “Just look at me. I keep the rules. See?”
Let me make this really simple. You know what we call that? We call that pride. Pride was so important to David that he let his, “bones waste away,” (v. 3) rather than confess to his crime of murdering Uriah. Pride was so important to David that he sat there, “groaning all day long,” (v. 3) rather than admit any wrongdoing about Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. Pride was so important to David that he wanted “strength sapped as in the heat of the summer,” (v. 4) rather than say anything sincere about any of this to God. Do you see what that means? It’s one of the Spirit’s most massive miracles when we give up our most fundamental belief where we say, “I’m ok. God will accept me the way I am.” And we come to say and believe, “No. I’m not ok. (Insert here whatever sin you know and feel in your heart.) I’m rebellious. I’m the guy who viciously told off his mom in the ninth grade. I’m a sinner. I’m the person who relies obsessively on the approval of people in my life to feel ok. I’m guilty too. God should punish me for a prayer life that looks a lot more like God’s honey-do list than thoughts of thanks and awe for the God of creation and redemption.”
But that massive miracle called faith does happen. And the Spirit does do his incredible work. And this is what that looks like: The Spirit changes our most foundational belief from one in our own goodness into a belief in God’s goodness. You realize that’s what’s happening when you come to faith, don’t you? When we come to faith we go from believing in our own basic goodness to believing in God’s basic goodness. It’s also when we gush and we come clean and we admit and we confess and we repent, or, call it whatever you want to call it we dump our not-so-good self on an incredibly good God. That’s what’s so awesome about the Lord. It’s not like we don’t know what’s going to happen when we dump on him whatever it is that keeps us up at night. It’s not like we have to guess how he’s going to receive us when we tell him what we did last summer. It’s not like we can’t predict how he’ll treat us once we speak what’s unspeakable about us to him. We absolutely can. There’s nothing he wants you surer about. Nothing. He not only reeling you in with a double beatitude, but he’s also giving you David as the perfect case study of a person who tried it out. When David acknowledged his murder. When he spoke out loud his adultery and pulled out his laundry list of no-noes he had committed, “You forgave the guilt of my sin.” (v. 5)
But, honestly, I didn’t even tell you the best part yet. Seriously, I didn’t. It’s not just a double and back-to-back beatitude and a case study in David that is meant to move you to dump yourself on God’s goodness. It’s way, way better than that. Did I say way better? I really don’t think it’s an accident that when Luke wrote about Jesus and his first reactions on the cross Luke told us two things. #1 Jesus asked for forgiveness for us saying, “Father, forgive them.” (Luke 23:34) You know why I think he did that? So we wouldn’t panic. So we wouldn’t have to think, “Did I confess enough? Did I miss anything? Did I truly repent sincerely enough?” Stop panicking. We definitely haven’t. And we’ve definitely missed stuff. That’s why Jesus asked forgiveness for us. #2 The very next thing Luke reports is that Jesus’ clothes got passed around to his enemies. When I read that I couldn’t help but think of what a gospel note that really is. In a very real way, that’s the heart of the gospel. When we admit we’re not good, God covers us with the goodness that is Christ’s life. That’s how it works. When we come clean, God makes us clean. When we uncover ourselves before God, God covers us with Christ’s robes of righteousness. When we stop hiding from him, God becomes our, “hiding place.” (v. 7)
There’s actually no true alternative for dealing with ourselves. That’s David’s – how shall I say it? – very picturesque point as he finishes out the psalm. We could – I suppose – hold the line on our most durable belief. We could stay at the spiritual factory setting that we entered the world with, “I’m good and nobody will tell me differently.” We could keep believing that way or as David very picturesquely said (Sorry equestrians who are here! BTW dogs fare much worse in the Scriptures.), “like a horse or a mule, which have no understanding.” (v. 9) But that’s no real spirituality. It’s being a spiritual – well – mule. And David will tell you from experience it only results in, “Woe.” (v. 10) But the Lord? He wants you covered. He wants you hidden in him. He wants to surround you with, “songs of deliverance.” (v. 7) That’s you. That’s your life. That’s your Jesus. You’ll confess and be covered. You’ll admit your true self only to learn the Lord’s true self. That’s how it’ll always work for you. You’ll come clean only to be made perfectly clean in the blood of the Lamb. You’ll tell him what you did last summer only to be forgiven. You’ll say out loud to him what’s unspeakable about you and you’ll be covered with his Son. You’ll reveal to him what nobody else knows and the Lord will never hold it against you.
You know what the Spirit calls that? #blessed. No Caribbean vacation or physical asset or fiancée or awesome job or piece of bacon-falling-out-of-a sandwich-save can hold a candle to it. So Instagram your forgiveness #blessed. Facebook Christ’s righteousness that you now have #blessed. You know what awesome about doing that? It’s no humble-brag. No doubt, it’s bragging. It’s the biggest brag in the world. It’s just that it’s not about you. Salvation never is. It’s about promoting the one belief that is the most difficult one in the world to believe. God is good. God is merciful. God is forgiveness itself in Jesus Christ. No, seriously, he is. Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven. Blessed is the one whose sins the Lord does not count against them. Two back-to-back beatitudes preaching the exact same thing to open this psalm. Apparently, the Spirit would have you know that more than anything else in his entire book. Because, apparently, he wants to make you the happiest person in the world. That’s why he gave you these beatitudes and David as a case study in forgiveness, but even better? He gave you Jesus. Lebron James standing in front of a gorgeous ocean? Take a seat. I know where my hashtag belongs. Behind my forgiveness in Jesus. That’s happy. That’s #blessed. Amen.