A Psalm of David. A Contemplation.

This is another psalm by David, Israel’s great shepherd-king. This psalm is called, in the NKJV, a “contemplation,” but the Hebrew word Maschil might better be translated “Instruction,” according to the Companion Bible. This is the first instruction psalm we have come upon in the book of Psalms. This psalm teaches us the truth of how greatly blessed are those whose sins are forgiven. We might say that it is a song of congratulations to the one who has been forgiven. It is closely connected with Psalm 33, which is an example of a song sung by the forgiven person spoken of in this psalm.

1.  Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,

Here again we come upon this word “blessed,” which in Hebrew speaks of great happiness. This is an emotional term, and I have suggested that it speaks of a “how happy” type of person. “O the happiness,” we might say, and, if we charged those words with emotion, we would be approaching the idea in this Hebrew word “blessed.”

So we see that the one whose transgression is forgiven is a “how happy” person. This transgression speaks of rebellion, particularly rebellion in a person’s mind. The person whose thoughts had at one time been in rebellion against God now finds himself forgiven. All of us who have experienced the forgiveness found in our Lord Jesus Christ can plug ourselves into this phrase. Happy indeed are all of us whose rebellion against God has been forgiven!

Whose sin is covered.

The “how happy” man’s sin has been covered. This was done by the atoning sacrifice of Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins, taking our place as a substitute and removing our transgressions.

Today the search for happiness consumes many people’s lives. They search for the happiness they do not have in many, many things. Often they set their minds on something, and become convinced that if they just had that thing, they would be happy. For some it is money, for others possessions. Some think that if they just won the lottery, they would be happy. Some think if they were just thinner, or had just been born more beautiful, they would find happiness. Some imagine marriage would be the one thing that would bring happiness to them. Yet usually if these people get the thing they wanted, they find that happiness was not in it. They are just as unhappy with the thing they desired as they were without it. How little we know the things that would truly make us happy!

Here in this Psalm the LORD tells us something that will truly make us happy. That is to have our rebellion forgiven and our transgressions covered. There is a real happiness in this, though there are few who realize it or look for happiness in this way. Yet for those of us who have experienced the gracious forgiveness of God, we know that there is a real happiness and joy and satisfaction and peace in that forgiveness we have received. Perhaps we should do a better job of letting those around us who are searching for happiness in places they will never find it know of the “how happy” reality of experiencing God’s forgiveness!

2.  Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,

This speaks of a legal imputation. The LORD does not legally impute iniquity against the “how happy” man. What a joy it is to know that we need never fear standing before His court!

And in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Many in our day live by deceit, thinking that this will help them “get ahead.” Little do they realize that ultimately their chosen course of action holds them back from happiness. Yet the “how happy” man has no deceit in his spirit. He is free from thinking he needs to live life this way.

3.  When I kept silent, my bones grew old

This speaks of silence kept when confession of sin should have been made. David is speaking very personally here. This probably refers to the time after his sin with Bathsheba, for we know that it was not until after his son with her was born that the LORD sent Nathan the prophet to condemn David and he confessed the sin he had committed. That leaves almost a year that David kept silent and did not confess to what he had done. It seems that his silence took a great toll upon him. It may have been the strain of guilt and knowing his sin and being cut off from his LORD that weighed heavy upon the spirit of David, and his mental anguish caused this physical suffering. But we know that under the law, God could curse a man for unconfessed sin, so His hand was also heavy upon David. It seems that his very body was affected by the weight of this unconfessed sin.

Through my groaning all the day long.

This was the anguish David experienced during this time when he tried to cover up his sin. He well knew the unhappiness of a deceitful spirit, and the happiness that comes from clearing away that deceit, as he spoke of in the last verse!

4.  For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;

The LORD did not allow David to rest in his unconfessed sin, but day and night His hand lay heavy upon David, pressing down upon him for the sin and rebellion he had committed. We may never have experienced the heavy hand of God in this way, but no doubt many of my readers can relate to the weight and sorrow that guilt can bring upon us when we try to cover up our sins. So many in our world are under this weight, and know not how to remove it! Anti-depressants can never bring the happiness that God in His grace can supply to those whose iniquities are no longer imputed against them.

My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.  Selah

David speaks of his strength and vitality as a pool of water that has been dried up by the drought: the hot, dry weather of summer. Life had lost its spark, we might say, and his life had become drudgery. But this is not the end of the tale. For the word selah here connects the suffering of the conviction that David was under with the confession of sin it brought about in the next verse. Guilt is a terrible thing, but when it leads to true humility and acknowledgement before God, it has accomplished its purpose!

5.  I acknowledged my sin to You,

This probably refers to II Samuel 12:13a, when, after being accused of his crime by Nathan the prophet, David admitted, “I have sinned against the LORD.” At last David decided to acknowledge his sin before his God, and take whatever consequences might come from doing that. How many even today are unwilling to admit their sins to the LORD, fearing what might come after.

And my iniquity I have not hidden.

He did hide it at first, but once he made up his mind, he no longer tried to hide it from God.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”

This is what David decided to do, and we see him doing it in II Samuel 12:13, as I mentioned above.

And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.  Selah

The result of David’s confession was not anger and rejection, as he may have feared or anticipated, but rather was the forgiveness of the LORD. How much better it is to confess to the LORD and receive His forgiveness than to carry the burden of guilt that comes from sin! Yet many never are willing to trust their sins to the LORD and to experience the forgiveness He offers!

We must not become mixed up here, however, and start applying this passage to ourselves with no acknowledgement of right division and the dispensation we live under today. In David’s day, confession would bring forgiveness. Yet that is not the way it is in our day. Many people think it is, however. They will point to I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Then they think that confession is necessary to forgiveness. But that is not a rule for today in the dispensation of grace, but rather speaks of the way things will be in God’s coming Kingdom, and the law that will be enforced when His government is upon the earth. To make confession to be the means of attaining forgiveness today is to deny present truth, and the blood of Christ on the cross. The truth for today is found in God’s words to us today, such as in Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” We are already forgiven in Christ. Confession is not necessary. This is not to say that it is not good to confess our sins before God. Yet in our day we do not even know all the things we do that are considered sin in God’s sight. It is simply impossible for us to ever confess them all.

So we, like David, often need to confess our sins before God to give Him the weight of guilt and shame that lies upon us. Yet we must not think that this confession is what secures us forgiveness. It might unburden our hearts of guilt, but it does not change the work that Christ has already done for us, and that we are already forgiven.

But for David, the confession of his transgressions was immediately followed by the forgiveness of his sin, as we see in II Samuel 12:13b, “And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.’” The LORD forgave David as soon as he was willing to acknowledge his sin to Him. How hard that step had seemed all that time that David had refused to do it, yet how easy it turned out to be once he actually did it, and how quickly the response of God was to deliver him from the burden he had been under! God does indeed delight in forgiving our sins.

The verse ends with the word selah, which connects the forgiveness of God with the prayer and worship that it produces in those who are thus forgiven, as we see it in the following verse.
6.  For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You

The godly person here is one who has experienced the grace or lovingkindness of God through forgiveness, as was described above. Because of receiving this forgiveness, such a person living in grace will pray unto the LORD.

In a time when You may be found;

This seems a strange translation, for the LORD may always be found by His people when they come to Him sincerely in prayer. The reference is probably to his need being found, as the Companion Bible suggests. Whether our need is great or small, we can always know that we can find the LORD to present our prayer to Him.

Surely in a flood of great waters

This poetically describes our need as a flood of great waters building against us.

They shall not come near him.

The troubles a forgiven one faces will not come near like a flood to overwhelm him, because he makes his prayer to the LORD Who will help him. It is like one standing on top of a dike or a dam and looking down upon the waters below him. Though they may rage, they cannot come near him, for his safety is in the rock he is standing upon. So our safety is in the Rock we stand upon: the God Who has forgiven us.

7.  You are my hiding place;

The LORD is a hiding place to all who are forgiven, and who put their trust in Him in times of need. How often in our own lives is God a place of refuge and safety when it seems that all the world is against us! Praise the LORD that He is a hiding place indeed.

You shall preserve me from trouble;

David, forgiven, now is confident that he will be preserved from all trouble in the hiding place that the LORD affords him.

You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.  Selah

Having been forgiven, delivered, and preserved, David now is confident that the LORD will surround him with songs of deliverance. These are the songs that the redeemed sing of the One Who has forgiven them.

The word selah here connects this reference to the songs of deliverance with the words that follow, which are such a song.

8.  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

The LORD now speaks in the song of deliverance sung by David. He promises to instruct and teach David (or the forgiven one) in the way he should go. This instruction is what was referred to in the title as a “Contemplation” or Maschil. The instruction of the LORD will teach David in the way he should go, so that he will not again fall under such sin and condemnation as he did in the past.

I will guide you with My eye.

It is the counsel of the LORD that will guide David in the future, and His watch care over David will keep him from further sin.

9.  Do not be like the horse or like the mule,

Yahweh now calls upon those He instructs not to be like the horse or the mule. We will see what He means in the next phrases.

Which have no understanding,

The horse and the mule do not understand the instruction of those who guide them, but will ever rebel unless they forced to do what they are told. Of course, we know that some of these animals can be trained to the point where they will obey instructions, but usually for this to be so the animal has to be brought to the point where there is little fire or spark left in his personality. But for the most part, these animals will not do what they are instructed without some form of guidance to make them do so. It is not that they do not understand what is wanted of them, but rather that they do not understand why they should have to do it if they are not forced to.

Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle,

The horse and mule must have the bit and bridle to guide them, or they will not do what their owners want them to do.

Else they will not come near you.

Many men, we know, are like a horse or mule. In our day, when God puts no restraints upon men and their behavior, they run free and wild, paying no attention to the instruction of God as to what they are to do. Ultimately, these have no understanding, for the LORD’s righteous instructions are for their own good, and they only hurt themselves by ignoring them. Yet like an unbridled horse or mule, they continue to go their own way. Only when God puts a bit and bridle in their mouths, only when His government comes to earth and His restraints are placed upon them, will they ever obey the instructions He gives.

So the LORD calls upon those of us who hear His instruction to do what He asks of us freely, and without being forced to do so. We are not to act like those in the world, who behave like an unbridled horse or mule. Instead, we are to obey the LORD’s commands merely because He has made them, and not because any restraint is placed upon us. By doing so, we will avoid the kind of guilt and sorrow that David had brought upon himself by his sin. By doing so, we will truly be among those who are called, “how happy.”

10.  Many sorrows shall be to the wicked;

In our day, when through entertainment and advertising, Satan’s lies are constantly preached, men are apt to have the idea that wickedness brings pleasure and happiness, and that those who live by the LORD’s rules are doomed to boring and unhappy lives. Yet how opposite the truth this belief is! In reality, the wicked bring many sorrows upon themselves. Even if they manage to sear their consciences and are not bothered by the guilt of what they have done, they still must bear the consequences of their wickedness, and these do not bring happiness. The pleasures of sin still only last for a season.

But he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him.

The one who trusts in Yahweh, however, and who obeys Him freely, him shall the LORD surround with mercy. It is not that his trust makes him perfect or sinless or worthy of the LORD’s reward. Rather, he finds that his trust results in mercy being given to him. He is forgiven, and that is how he can be accepted. None of us could stand before God without His grace.
11.  Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous;

Those who are righteous, not because they have never done wrong, but rather because the LORD has forgiven them, are called upon to be glad in Him. Indeed, in our Lord Jesus Christ we do find happiness! The world looks for happiness in places it can never be found, but we have found happiness, and know that it is in Him.

And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

The upright in heart are called upon to shout for joy. There is joy, indeed, in being forgiven. Praise God that we have this forgiveness through our Lord Jesus Christ!