A psalm of forgiveness
"A Psalm of David. A Contemplation. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit." (verses 1-2)
David identifies himself as the author of this beautiful psalm and classifies it as a "Contemplation," meaning that this psalm was intended to aid in private introspection regarding our personal relationship with the LORD. Three times throughout the psalm David inserts the word, "Selah," which literally means, "pause and meditate," or "contemplate." While the song may certainly have been sung in the temple, aiding worshippers in their self-examination before offering sacrifices for sin, it also may simply have been a psalm written for his own personal use, later added to the national treasury we now know as "The Psalms."
In the very first words of the psalm, we have its theme clearly defined. The word "blessed" simply translates "happy," but it is not so shallow a word as our modern English happy. "Blessed" implies a state of bountiful goodness resulting in great satisfaction and joy, or blessedness. Those who appreciate classical English might say to be blessed is to be "incandescently" happy, or so happy that the person seems to be shining from the inside out.
What does David here say that will cause such profound happiness? Forgiven transgressions and covered sins. What then is a "transgression"? "Trans" means to cross and "gress" means to step. To transgress, then, is to "step across," as in over a line. Thus a transgression is when someone has violated a known rule of law. It was deliberate and intentional act of disobedience.
To "forgive" is to completely absolve another person of their guilt. The root of “forgive” is the Latin word “perdonare,” meaning “to give completely, without reservation.” (That “perdonare” is also the source of our English “pardon.”)  The idea being that of a cancelled debt, to "forgive" is to wipe the slate totally clean, requiring nothing further from the indebted person. They are no longer in debt; they are no longer guilty. They are as free and clean as if they had never even transgressed the law to start with. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven."
What does David mean by "whose sin is covered"? Isn't that a bad thing generally... to cover up sin? David is not speaking about hiding our own sin up so others won't see it, but rather God covering our sin up so He won't see it. In the Old Covenant of the law, God instructed His people to make animal sacrifices for their sins as a regular reminder of two things: 1. Sin causes death, and only death can atone for sin. 2. God had promised a Redeemer who would make an end of sin, and by offering sacrifices for their sins, the people were acknowledging their need for this Saviour.
When the people thus offered sacrifices to God in faith, He covered their sins from His own eyes. The man whose sin is covered is the man whose offering of faith has been accepted by God. "Blessed is he... whose sin is covered."
David again reiterates the "blessedness" of a person who has been cleared of all guilt in verse 2, "to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity." To "impute" is to attribute something to another person. Iniquity is related to the word "inequality", implying injustice. To break a just law is unjust, and as such is iniquity, or simply sin. "Sin", by the way, is an archery term used to describe arrows that miss the mark. It says in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." The fact is that we all have sinned, as we all have not hit the mark of God's glory, His state of perfection. We all have committed iniquity and we all have transgressed God's laws. We are undeniably guilty.
Yet, we have great cause to rejoice, for David's hypothetical state of bliss, this blessedness, is actually a reality for all those who have trusted in Jesus. Our transgressions, sins, and iniquity are all forgiven... cancelled... wiped clean... covered... removed... GONE. Why do new believers wear such broad grins everywhere they go? They are FORGIVEN!!! They are experiencing that incredible state of bliss known as blessedness. They are incandescently happy beyond anything they have known.
If you are a believer in Jesus, but are not feeling so blessed right now, perhaps you have forgotten just how much you have been forgiven. Remember where you came from, who you were before Jesus came into your life and changed you. Remember what it felt like to live in sin and guilt, and remember how wonderful it felt to be finally free of that guilt! You are blessed.
If you are carrying guilt for what ever reason, remember that Jesus died for ALL of it, and put it down right now. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Simply confess your sin and let it go. It was forgiven before you committed it. You are free, because whom the Son sets free is free indeed!
To have a spirit where "there is no deceit" is to walk in transparency before God and men. Don't cover up your sin; confess it and be free of it. Forgiveness is obtained by faith, and fellowship is restored by confession.
"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)
You CAN be blessed. Contemplate that.
"When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah. (verses 3-4)
David here describes what it felt like to carry around the burden of guilt and sin. He felt like he was aging from within, his miserable soul moaning like a withering old man. He felt like God's hand was actually pressing down with weight upon his soul, too heavy to bear up under. He felt like his life and love for life was drying up like the dew in the consuming heat of the summer sun.
When did he feel this way? "When I kept silent." David, like so many of us when caught up in private sin, was hiding his sin from others and avoiding dealing with God. His guilt was essentially eating him up inside. Have you ever felt physically ill from guilt before? Do you know that unresolved guilt is recognized even among secular psychologists as the root cause of most mental illnesses? Guilt can even wreak havoc on a person's physical health, as the body, soul, and spirit are all somehow entwined.
"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed." (James 5:16)
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
David pauses the psalm with a "Selah," that the worshipper may contemplate what they have just sung.
"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." (verse 5)
Knowing that the remedy for his troubles is confession, David comes before the LORD to get things right spiritually. He acknowledged his sin to God and revealed his iniquity that he had been hiding. Citing the course of his own thoughts, David recalls that at some point he said to himself, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD." It was an act of the will, as much as it was an act of faith. When he originally transgressed, it was an act of the will in disobedience to God, so to make it right, David deliberately chooses now to confess his sin to the One he has sinned against.
And oh, the relief! No sooner had David confessed it than God forgave it. The just judge pardoned the unjust iniquity. How does that work? How does God's righteousness dwell alongside His love? One demands judgement while the other demands mercy. He cannot offend Himself by offering one to the exclusion of the other.
That is the miracle of the gospel. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God's holy righteous judgement met face to face with God's holy loving mercy, and both were satisfied. There was no contradiction, as both were simultaneously poured forth upon mankind through our perfect representative, Jesus our Saviour. He died our death for our sins and He rose to life to make a way for us to be raised to life. Through simple, child-like trust in Him to save us from our sin and judgment, we receive complete pardon! We are totally forgiven, spotless, and holy before God, never mind what our present life may look like. Our righteousness is a gift, unearned and undeserved, just simply received. No wonder it is called the "gospel," which is translated in English as "good news!"
Selah. Indeed. Think on that.
"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. You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah." (verses 6-7)
So when you stumble and fall, as you will, (we all do.... our souls may be redeemed, but our bodies and minds are still attuned to patterns of sin), remember that yours sins were already punished on the cross never to be brought before the face of God again. They were forgiven. So when you sin, come boldly to the Throne of God, called the throne of grace in Hebrews, and confess your sin to God, that you may be restored in heart and mind to that place of peace that comes from walking in obedience.
As David says in verse 6 here, "everyone who is godly shall pray" to God when He is able to be found. When is God able to be found? Now. Every day. All the time.
"For He says: 'In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2)
When we feel guilty for unconfessed sin, we become a target for the enemy of our souls. He whispers fear, despair, and judgment into our hearts, so that we begin to see life and other people through distorted lenses. We think others are always judging us or that God is angry with us. We become like the proverbial wicked man who, plagued by his own conscience, will "flee when no one pursues." (Proverbs 28:1)
But when the air is cleared between us and God, there is a pervading peace that weathers the storms that may still follow as a result of our sin. Sometimes our sins come with clear consequences in this life, and while we must still endure them, we need not bear the weight of the accompanying guilt. Jesus already bore that for us on the cross. Spiritually we are clean. As such, when the "flood waters" and the "trouble" present themselves on our doorstep, we don't have to fear being swept away in them nor overcome by them. We can hide our hearts in Jesus, who will preserve our hearts through the coming storm.
Isn't that such a beautiful word picture in verse 7? The LORD will surround us with "songs of deliverance." While we may be assaulted by fresh reminders of our sin as we walk throughout the consequences of it, He is there with us, "surrounding" us with powerful reminders of the deliverance He has already accomplished for us at the cross. When you are assailed by satan's words of condemnation, remember that Jesus is singing over you songs of deliverance!
Now that is something to Selah on.
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. 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." (verses 8-9)
The speaker changes. David was not only a poet, but a prophet. At any given point in writing his psalms, sometimes the Lord would just take over and begin to write through him. Here the LORD answers the repentant sinner who has confessed and is now rejoicing in the finished work of Christ on the cross in their behalf.
The LORD says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye." How many times have you wondered, like me, what to do in a situation? You pray and wish the LORD would just answer you clearly, so you can be certain what course of action to take. Here God promises to instruct, teach, and guide you in the way you should go!
But notice the context: You have just sinned and confessed it to God. You are rejoicing in His forgiveness and meditating on His completed work on Calvary. At this point, while you are in a place of humility and worship, God speaks to you. What does He say? He will show you what to do and where to go. He will direct your steps.
The promise is written to the humbled sinner who is basking in the forgiveness of the cross from the floor of the valley of humiliation. He is as low as he can go and is content, even blessed, to be there because of the renewed joy of his salvation.
At this place, in this time, God offers this promise. When we have hit rock bottom, we legitimatley need someone to extend us a hand and help us up, to recommission us on a path and purpose in life. That is what God is doing here. The repentant sinner lying broken in the valley is lifted up, healed, and restored to a calling and purpose in the kingdom of God.
Note what God says next, however. Don't be like a stubborn mule that has to be forced in the right direction! Sometimes when we ask for guidance, and then God clearly answers us, we may wish He hadn't! His calling may be anything but what we had envisioned for our life. His directions may seem hard or even unpleasant to obey. I can assure you, though, that the only place you ever want to be is in the will of God. Read that sentence again. Yes. There is no other place you want to be in. It is only in His will that you have promises of peace, protection, provision, and power. He is with you wherever you go, but His presence will be felt when you are walking in obedience to His will.
If you are at a place right now where you are not experiencing the many promises of God in His word, and feel like you may have taken a wrong turn somewhere, it is not too late to Selah in your life's course. Pause. Meditate. Contemplate when was the last time you KNEW that God had spoken to you... that you knew what He wanted you to do. Are you still there, or did you get impatient and move on in your own way?
Was it taking too long for that husband to show up? Did you give up on waiting for God to lead you into a ministry you once believed you were called to? Did you tire of waiting for life "to begin" and set out on your own to make it happen? Are you striving to maintain a lifestyle that you likewise obtained by striving, rather than waiting on God to fulfil His word to you?
If so, don't despair. It is not too late to turn back and turn to Him. He can right your wrong and lead you in the way to go. It says in James 4:10, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." God is just waiting for you to humble yourself and cry out to Him. Confess your sin, and He will forgive you. Rejoice in His forgiveness, and He will instruct and teach you in the way you should go.
One last thing. It says He will guide you with His eye. This is a reference to a servant waiting upon his master for instruction. While going about his daily duties, a faithful servant would always keep his eyes attuned to his master's posture and position in the house, ready at any moment to to do his bidding. The highly attentive servant would notice if his master desired anything of him by simply watching his eyes.
If, for example, he looked at a wilting plant, the observant and faithful servant would immediately move to water it, without a word spoken to that effect. If the servant noticed his master glance at his bare feet while walking on a cold stone floor, the servant would hurry to bring him his house shoes. Furthermore, the master had only to meet the servant's eye and then direct his gaze towards something to be done, and the faithful servant would be prompt to do it.
This is all to say that waiting upon the LORD is not the same as doing nothing. It means to be attentive to the LORD, ready to act upon His guidance when finally given. Be eager to obey Him.
"Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him." (verse 10)
David resumes speaking and gives a contrast: those who live in their sin unrepentantly, who do not turn to the LORD for forgiveness: the "wicked"- they will experience many sorrows. They will not have the promises of God as their shield, joy, and confidence. They will reap the fruit of their own bad choices without the comfort of God's surrounding songs of deliverance. Rather than blessedly happy, they will be very sorrowful.
Those who put their trust in Jesus and receive forgiveness of their sins shall be surrounded by God's mercy. Thank you, LORD!
"Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!" (verse 11)
The psalm concluded with an admonition to all who hear and understand its message: if you have been forgiven and are counted righteous by virtue of Christ's sacrifice on your behalf, Rejoice! Be glad! Shout for joy!
You have every reason to bask in the light of God's love for you. You are blessed! Be incandescently happy! You have every reason to be. God has forgiven you because of what Jesus did out of love for you.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever should believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Now that is a reason to celebrate!