Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Psalm 32:5 - Confession and Forgiveness

I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”
And you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

David reaches a turning point here. The work of conviction which God has accomplished in His soul has reached its culmination, and David takes action. He does not begin with an attempt to reform himself, trying to clean himself up or making promises to change. He begins instead with a simple, honest confession of sin. And God responds.

David uses the same words for sin found in verses 1-2.

SinHeb. CHATA’AH – The general word for sin, missing the mark, inability to reach God’s requirement. This shows sin as that which generally characterizes us.
IniquityHeb. AVON – deep depravity, intrinsic sinfulness, evil nature, perversity, twistedness. This shows sin as that which corrupts our nature.
TransgressionHeb. PESHA – an act of sin, a crossing of the line, a deliberate act against God’s command. This shows sin as that which motivates and defines our actions.

It is interesting to see the way David builds a triangle out of these words, and the order in which they are mentioned: SIN - INIQUITY - TRANSGRESSION - INIQUITY - SIN. Hebrew poets were fond of this type of construction. It serves as a literary device that lends emphasis and calls our attention to the subject. David is fully convinced of his sin and he is earnestly confessing it.

Notice the way David approached each facet of his sin.

First, he acknowledged - or knew - his sinfulness. As sinners, we are prone to avoid this. We would rather not KNOW our sinfulness. We tend to focus on whatever good we see in ourselves instead. Or we strive to grow in other areas of knowledge, taking pains not to know ourselves. But knowing our sinfulness is the first step toward godliness. The knowledge of one’s sinfulness is a great gift from God - a gift to be cherished and received with gratefulness. Why? Because apart from this knowledge we never overcome our sin – it overcomes us. And apart from this knowledge we remain deceived, never realizing what it is in us that makes the cross a necessity. The best way to discover one's sinfulness is to spend time in the Word of God and to stay close to Jesus Christ. Focusing on the sins of others does not help at all. Oddly enough, sinning more does not always show us our sinfulness, either. When we practice sin, we generally become blind to its presence. This is known as "the deceitfulness of sin," and it leads to a hardened heart that gradually grows insensitive to evil.
Second, David did not hide his iniquity. When we see our deep depravity and the fact that we are by nature bent utterly toward evil, the typical reaction is to cover up. This is exactly what Adam and Eve did after they fell into sin in the garden. They found some fig leaves. By covering their bodies outwardly, they were painting a picture of what was going on in their hearts. They did not want to be known intimately, to be seen for what they were. Outwardly and at the heart, their most sensitive and emotionally responsive parts were now hidden from view. Between one another, they could decide if and when the outward parts would be seen. And between their souls and God, they could decide when their inward parts would be exposed. God has allowed man this capacity to hide from his Creator. We can separate ourselves from Him, hold back our honesty, and remain hard-hearted. Of course He still knows everything about us, but He doesn't KNOW US. It is sobering to realize that many will hear those very words, "I never knew you." The alternative is to lay our hearts bare and let Him truly know us as we are. Unbelievers NEVER lay their hearts bare before God, and indeed they cannot do so. As believers, we have the choice. And God’s response to our self-disclosure is to know us, love us, share Himself with us, and cover our unpresentable parts through His own self-sacrifice.
Third, David confessed his transgressions. He named the specific ways he had acted according to his depraved nature. He brought it into the light by speaking it with his own mouth and hearing it with his own ears. Our sins strike us in a new way when we hear ourselves tell of them in complete honesty. We can never confess all of our sin – that would be impossible. But laying out before God all that we know of our wicked acts is both healthy and necessary. The Puritans encouraged this as a daily habit. But we must never do this with the cross out of focus, or we will drown in a toxic sea of self-knowledge.

Note God's quick response. Before David even finished confessing, his sins were forgiven. He had only "said" he would confess his transgressions, but God had already rushed to meet Him in his repentance. God always meets repenting hearts, just as the father RAN to meet the prodigal son.

Note also the extent of the forgiveness David experienced. God forgave the INIQUITY of his sin. David was not only forgiven for his sinful acts, but for his depraved nature. God accepted him AS HE WAS and removed his guilt right down to the roots. See this clearly: Our great high priest does not merely forgive sins - He JUSTIFIES SINNERS! Let this fact settle in on your guilty heart for just a moment, and your joy will be unquenchable. Go ahead, let the truth about grace saturate your mind and heart! The Gospel IS Good News, my friend! God lavishes grace upon us (Ephesians 1), gives us more grace (James 4), pours His love into our hearts (Romans 5), and stands at our side as the One Who is FOR US (Romans 8)!

Up to this point, Psalm 32 has placed a lot of emphasis on the bitter experience of sin. Now, as David speaks of his repentance, we begin to see the wondrous blessings of grace displayed with a fresh and captivating beauty. As we move ahead to examine the benefits and results of repentance, may God break our hearts and draw us to Himself with a renewed appreciation for Who He IS and what He does in the soul of every penitent sinner.

The bad news of our sin is tough to face, but it makes the good news REALLY GOOD! Before offering us a complete makeover in the image of His Son, God sets us in front of the mirror. It's a very ugly mirror indeed, because it's perfectly accurate. But this is only the launch pad for what lies ahead.

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