Psalm 32:1
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1, 2) Transgressionsininiquity.—The same terms used here to express the compass and heinousness of sin are found, though in different order, in Exodus 34:7. For St. Paul’s reading of this passage, see Romans 4:6-7.

Psalms

A THREEFOLD THOUGHT OF SIN AND FORGIVENESS

Psalm 32:1 - Psalm 32:2
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This psalm, which has given healing to many a wounded conscience, comes from the depths of a conscience which itself has been wounded and healed. One must be very dull of hearing not to feel how it throbs with emotion, and is, in fact, a gush of rapture from a heart experiencing in its freshness the new joy of forgiveness. It matters very little who wrote it. If we accept the superscription, which many of those who usually reject these ancient Jewish notes do in the present case, the psalm is David’s, and it fits into some of the specific details of his great sin and penitence. But that is of very small moment. Whoever wrote it, he sings because he must.

The psalm begins with an exclamation, for the clause would be better translated, ‘Oh! the blessedness of the man.’ Then note the remarkable accumulation of clauses, all expressing substantially the same thing, but expressing it with a difference. The Psalmist’s heart is too full to be emptied by one utterance. He turns his jewel, as it were, round and round, and at each turn it reflects the light from a different angle. There are three clauses in my text, each substantially having the same meaning, but which yet present that substantially identical meaning with different shades. And that is true both in regard to the three words which are employed to describe the fact of transgression, and to the three which are employed to describe the fact of forgiveness. It is mainly to these, and the large lessons which lie in observing the shades of significance in them, that I wish to turn now.

I. Note the solemn picture which is here drawn of various phases of sin.

There are three words employed-’transgression,’ ‘sin,’ ‘iniquity.’ They all mean the same thing, but they mean it with a different association of ideas and suggestions of its foulness. Let me take them in order. The word translated ‘transgression’ seems literally to signify separation, or rending apart, or departure, and hence comes to express the notion of apostasy and rebellion.

So, then, here is this thought; all sin is a going away. From what? Rather the question should be-from whom? All sin is a departure from God. And that is its deepest and darkest characteristic. And it is the one that needs to be most urged, for it is the one that we are most apt to forget. We are all ready enough to acknowledge faults; none of us have any hesitation in saying that we have done wrong, and have gone wrong. We are ready to recognise that we have transgressed the law; but what about the Lawgiver? The personal element in every sin, great or small, is that it is a voluntary rending of a union which exists, a departure from God who is with us in the deepest recesses of our being, unless we drag ourselves away from the support of His enclosing arm, and from the illumination of His indwelling grace.

So, dear brethren! this was the first and the gravest aspect under which the penitent and the forgiven man in my text thought of his past, that in it, when he was wildly and eagerly rushing after the low and sensuous gratification of his worst desires, he was rebelling against, and wandering far away from, the ever-present Friend, the all-encircling support and joy, the Lord, his life. You do not understand the gravity of the most trivial wrong act when you think of it as a sin against the order of Nature, or against the law written on your heart, or as the breach of the constitution of your own nature, or as a crime against your fellows. You have not got to the bottom of the blackness until you see that it is flat rebellion against God Himself. This is the true devilish element in all our transgression, and this element is in it all. Oh! if once we do get the habit formed and continued until it becomes almost instinctive and spontaneous, of looking at each action of our lives in immediate and direct relation to God, there would come such an apocalypse as would startle some of us into salutary dread, and make us all feel that ‘it is an evil and a bitter thing’ {and the two characteristics must always go together}, ‘to depart from the living God.’ The great type of all wrongdoers is in that figure of the Prodigal Son, and the essence of his fault was, first, that he selfishly demanded for his own his father’s goods; and, second, that he went away into a far country. Your sins have separated between you and God. And when you do those little acts of selfish indulgence which you do twenty times a day, without a prick of conscience, each of them, trivial as it is, like some newly-hatched poisonous serpent, a finger-length long, has in it the serpent nature, it is rebellion and separation from God.

Then another aspect of the same foul thing rises before the Psalmist’s mind. This evil which he has done, which I suppose was the sin in the matter of Bathsheba, was not only rebellion against God, but it was, according to this text, in the second clause, ‘a sin,’ by which is meant literally missing an aim. So this word, in its pregnant meaning, corresponds with the signification of the ordinary New Testament word for sin, which also implies error, or missing that which ought to be the goal of our lives. That is to say, whilst the former word regarded the evil deed mainly in its relation to God, this word regards it mainly in its relation to ourselves, and that which before Him is rebellion, the assertion of my own individuality and my own will, and therefore in separation from His will, is, considered in reference to myself, my fatally missing the mark to which my whole energy and effort ought to be directed. All sin, big or little, is a blunder. It never hits what it aims at, and if it did, it is aiming at the wrong thing. So doubly, all transgression is folly, and the true name for the doer is ‘Thou fool!’ For every evil misses the mark which, regard being had to the man’s obvious destiny, he ought to aim at. ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever’; and whosoever in all his successes fails to realise that end is a failure through and through, in whatever smaller matters he may seem to himself and to others to succeed. He only strikes the target in the bull’s eye who lets his arrows be deflected by no gusts of passion, nor aimed wrong by any obliquity of vision; but with firm hand and clear eye seeks and secures the absolute conformity of his will to the Father’s will, and makes God his aim and end in all things. ‘Thou hast created us for Thyself, and only in Thee can we find rest.’ O brother! whatever be your aims and ends in life, take this for the surest verity, that you have fatally misunderstood the purpose of your being, and the object to which you should strain, if there is anything except God, who is the supreme desire of your heart and the goal of your life. All sin is missing the mark which God has set up for man.

Therefore let us press to the mark where hangs the prize which whoso possesses succeeds, whatsoever other trophies may have escaped his grasp.

But there is another aspect of this same thought, and that is that every piece of evil misses its own shabby mark. ‘A rogue is a round-about fool.’ No man ever gets, in doing wrong, the thing he did the wrong for, or if he gets it, he gets something else along with it that takes all the sweet taste out of it. The thief secures the booty, but he gets penal servitude besides. Sin tempts us with glowing tales of the delight to be found in drinking stolen waters and eating her bread in secret; but sin lies by suppression of the truth, if not by suggestions of the false, because she says never a word about the sickness and the headache that come after the debauch, nor about the poison that we drink down along with her sugared draughts. The paltering fiend keeps the word of promise to the ear, and breaks it to the hope. All sin, great or little, is a blunder, and missing of the mark.

And lastly, yet another aspect of the ugly thing rises before the Psalmist’s eye. In reference to God, evil is separation and rebellion; in reference to myself, it is an error and missing of my true goal; and in reference to the straight standard and law of duty, it is, according to the last of the three words for sin in the text, ‘iniquity,’ or, literally, something twisted or distorted. It is thus brought into contrast with the right line of the plain, straight path in which we ought to walk. We have the same metaphor in our own language. We talk about things being right and wrong, by which we mean, in the one case, parallel with the rigid law of duty, and in the other case, ‘wrung,’ or wavering, crooked and divergent from it. There is a standard as well as a Judge, and we have not only to think of evil as being rebellion against God and separation from Him, and as, for ourselves, issuing in fatal missing of the mark, but also as being divergent from the one manifest law to which we ought to be conformed. The path to God is a right line; the shortest road from earth to Heaven is absolutely straight. The Czar of Russia, when railways were introduced into that country, was asked to determine the line between St. Petersburg and Moscow. He took a ruler and drew a straight line across the map, and said, ‘There!’ Our Autocrat has drawn a line as straight as the road from earth to Heaven, and by the side of it are ‘the crooked, wandering ways in which we live.’

Take these three thoughts then-as for law, divergence; as for the aim of my life, a fatal miss; as for God, my Friend and my Life, rebellion and separation-and you have, if not the complete physiognomy of evil, at least grave thoughts concerning it, which become all the graver when we think that they are true about us and about our deeds.

II. And so let me ask you to look secondly at the blessed picture drawn here of the removal of the sin.

There are three words here for forgiveness, each of which adds its quota to the general thought. It is ‘forgiven,’ ‘covered,’ ‘not imputed.’ The accumulation of synonyms not only sets forth various aspects of pardon, but triumphantly celebrates the completeness and certainty of the gift.

As to the first, it means literally to lift and bear away a load or burden. As to the second, it means, plainly enough, to cover over, as one might do some foul thing, that it may no longer offend the eye or smell rank to Heaven. Bees in their hives, when there is anything corrupt and too large for them to remove, fling a covering of wax over it, and hermetically seal it, and no foul odour comes from it. And so a man’s sin is covered over and ceases to be in evidence, as it were before the divine Eye that sees all things. He Himself casts a merciful veil over it and hides it from Himself. A similar idea, though with a modification in metaphor, is included in that last word, the sin is not reckoned. God does not write it down in His Great Book on the debit side of the man’s account. And these three things, the lifting up and carrying away of the load, the covering over of the obscene and ugly thing, the non-reckoning in the account of the evil deed; these three things taken together do set forth before us the great and blessed truth that a man’s transgressions may become, in so far as the divine heart and the divine dealings with him are concerned, as if nonexistent.

Men tell us that that is not possible and that it is immoral to preach a doctrine of forgiveness. O dear brethren! there is no gospel to preach that will touch a man’s heart except the gospel that begins with this-God bears away, covers over, does not reckon to a man, his rebellions, his errors, his departures from the law of right. Sin is capable of forgiveness, and, blessed be God! every sin He is ready to forgive. I should be ashamed of myself to stand here, and not preach a gospel of pardon. I know not anything else that will touch consciences and draw hearts except this gospel, which I am trying in my poor way to lay upon your hearts.

Notice how my text includes also a glance at the condition on our part on which this absolute and utter annihilation of our wicked past is possible. That last clause of my text, ‘In whose spirit there is no guile,’ seems to me to refer to the frank sincerity of a confession, which does not try to tell lies to God, and, attempting to deceive Him, really deceives only the self-righteous sinner. Whosoever opens his heart to God, makes a clean breast of it, and without equivocation or self-deception or the palliations which self-love teaches, says, ‘I have played the fool and erred exceedingly,’ to that man the Psalmist thinks pardon is sure to come.

Now remember that the very heart and centre of that Jewish system was an altar, and that on that altar was sacrificed the expiatory victim. I am not going to insist upon any theory of an atonement, but I do want to urge this, that Christianity is nothing, if it have not explained and taken up into itself that which was symbolised in that old ritual. The very first words from human lips which proclaimed Christ’s advent to man were, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,’ and amongst the last words which Christ spoke upon earth, in the way of teaching His disciples, were these, ‘This is My blood, shed for many for the remission of sins.’ The Cross of Christ explains my psalm, the Cross of Christ answers the confidence of the Psalmist, which was fed upon the shadow of the good things to come. He has died, the Just for the unjust, that the sins which were laid upon Him might be taken away, covered, and not reckoned to us.

Brethren! unless my sins are taken away by the Lamb of God they remain. Unless they are laid upon Christ, they crush me. Unless they are covered by His expiation, they lie there before the Throne of God, and cry for punishment. Unless His blood has wiped out the record that is against us, the black page stands for ever. And to you and me there will be said one day, in a voice which we dare not dispute, ‘Pay Me that thou owest!’ The blacker the sin the brighter the Christ. I would that I could lay upon all your hearts this belief, ‘the blood of Jesus Christ,’ and nothing else, ‘cleanses from all sin!’

III. I will touch in a word only upon the last thought suggested by the text, and that is the blessedness of this removal of sin.

As I said, my text is really an exclamation, a gush of rapture from a heart that is tasting the fresh-drawn blessedness of pardon. And the rest of the psalm is little more than an explanation of the various aspects and phases of that blessedness. Let me just run over them in the briefest possible manner.

If we receive this forgiveness through Jesus Christ and our faith in Him, then we have manifold blessedness in one. There is the blessedness of deliverance from sullen remorse and of the dreadful pangs of an accusing conscience. How vividly, and evidently as a transcript from a page in his own autobiography, the Psalmist describes that condition, ‘When I kept silence my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long’! When a man’s heart is locked against confession he hears a tumult of accusing voices within himself, and remorse and dread creep over his heart. The pains of sullen remorse were never described more truly and more dreadfully than in this context. ‘Day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me, my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.’ Some of us may know something of that. But there is a worse state than that, and one or other of the two states belongs to us. If we have not found our way into the liberty of confession and forgiveness, we have but a choice between the pains of an awakened conscience and the desolation of a dead one. It is worse to have no voice within than to have an accusing one. It is worse to feel no pressure of a divine Hand than to feel it. And they whose consciences are seared as with a hot iron have sounded the lowest depths. They are perfectly comfortable, quite happy; they say all these feelings that I am trying to suggest to you seem to them to be folly. ‘They make a solitude and call it peace.’ It is an awful thing when a man has come to this point, that he has got past the accusations of conscience, and can swallow down the fiercest draughts without feeling them burn. Dear brethren! there is only one deliverance from an accusing conscience which does not murder the conscience, and that is that we should find our way into the peace of God which is through Christ Jesus and His atoning death.

Then, again, my psalm goes on to speak about the blessedness of a close clinging to God in peaceful trust, which will ensure security in the midst of all trials, and a hiding-place against every storm. The Psalmist uses a magnificent figure. God is to him as some rocky island, steadfast and dry, in the midst of a widespread inundation; and taking refuge there in the clefts of the rock, he looks down upon the tossing, shoreless sea of troubles and sorrows that breaks upon the rocky barriers of his Patmos, and stands safe and dry. Only through forgiveness do we come into that close communion with God which ensures safety in all disasters.

And then there follows the blessedness of a gentle guidance and of a loving obedience. ‘Thou shalt guide me with Thine eye.’ No need for force, no need for bit and bridle, no need for anything but the glance of the Father, which the child delights to obey. Docility, glad obedience unprompted by fear, based upon love, are the fruits of pardon through the blood of Christ.

And, lastly, there is the blessedness of exuberant gladness; the joy that comes from the sorrow according to God is a joy that will last. All other delights, in their nature, are perishable; all other raptures, by the very necessity of their being and of ours, die down, sometimes into vanity, always into commonplace or indifference. But the joy that springs in the pardoned heart, and is fed by closeness of communion with God, and by continual obedience to His blessed guidance, has in it nothing that can fade, nothing that can burn out, nothing that can be disturbed. The deeper the penitence the surer the rebound into gladness. The more a man goes down into the depths of his own heart and learns his own evil, the more will he, trusting in Christ, rise into the serene heights of thankfulness, and live, if not in rapture, at least in the calm joy of conscious communion and unending fellowship. Every tear may be crystallised into a diamond that shall flash in the light. And they, and only they, who begin in the valley of weeping, confessing their sins and imploring forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord, will rise to heights of a joy that remains, and remaining, is full.Psalm 32:1. Blessed is the man, &c. — We are here taught wherein true happiness consists, and what is the cause and foundation of it. It consists not in the possession of the wealth or honours of the world, or in the enjoyment of its pleasures, but in those spiritual blessings which flow from the favour and grace of God; whose transgression is forgiven — He does not say, Blessed is the man who never transgressed. For he knew no such man could be found; all having sinned and come short of the glory of God, and consequently of that happiness conferred on man at his first creation. But he lays the foundation of fallen and sinful man’s happiness on the only foundation on which it can be laid, and that is on the pardon of sin. For as all our misery came in by sin, so it is not likely, nay, it is not possible, it should be removed, or even alleviated, without the forgiveness of sin. It is true that, in the first Psalm, David pronounces the man blessed who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, &c., but delights in, and meditates on, God’s law: and that, Psalm 119:1, he terms the undefiled in the way blessed who walk in the law of the Lord. But it must be observed that in these and such like passages he is describing the character of the truly blessed man, and it is certain he that has not that character cannot be happy. But here he is showing the ground of the righteous man’s blessedness, the fundamental privilege from which all the other ingredients of this blessedness flow. Sin is here termed transgression, for it is the transgression of the law, 1 John 3:4; and when it is forgiven, the obligation to punishment which we lay under, by virtue of the sentence of the law: is vacated and cancelled. It is lifted off, as נשׂוי, nasui, may be rendered; so that the pardoned sinner is eased of a burden, a heavy burden which lay on his conscience, and of the weight of which he began to be sensible when he began to be awakened out of his spiritual lethargy, and to be truly convinced of his sinfulness and guilt, and of the sentence of condemnation gone out against him. The remission of his sins gives rest and relief to his weary and heavy-laden soul, Matthew 11:28. Whose sin is covered — Namely, by God, and not by man; who ought to confess, and not to hide it, Psalm 32:5. Sin makes us loathsome, filthy, and abominable in the sight of God, and utterly unfit for communion with him; and when our consciences are truly enlightened and awakened, it makes us loathsome and abominable in our own sight. But when it is pardoned, it is covered, as it were, by the mantle of the divine mercy, in and through the sacrifice and intercession of Him who is made of God to believers righteousness; who is the true propitiatory, or mercy-seat, where mercy may be found in a way consistent with justice, Romans 3:24. Our sins, when forgiven, are covered, not from ourselves, no: my sin, says David, is ever before me: not from God’s omniscience, but from his vindictive justice; when he pardons sin he remembers it no more; he casts it behind his back, it shall be sought for, and not found. And the sinner, being reconciled to God, begins to be reconciled to himself. The metaphor, Dr. Dodd thinks, is taken from writers who obliterate what is faulty in their writing.32:1,2 Sin is the cause of our misery; but the true believer's transgressions of the Divine law are all forgiven, being covered with the atonement. Christ bare his sins, therefore they are not imputed to him. The righteousness of Christ being reckoned to us, and we being made the righteousness of God in him, our iniquity is not imputed, God having laid upon him the iniquity of us all, and made him a sin-offering for us. Not to impute sin, is God's act, for he is the Judge. It is God that justifies. Notice the character of him whose sins are pardoned; he is sincere, and seeks sanctification by the power of the Holy Ghost. He does not profess to repent, with an intention to indulge in sin, because the Lord is ready to forgive. He will not abuse the doctrine of free grace. And to the man whose iniquity is forgiven, all manner of blessings are promised.Blessed is he ... - On the meaning of the word "blessed," see the notes at Psalm 1:1. See the passage explained in the notes at Romans 4:7-8. The word "blessed" here is equivalent to "happy." "Happy is the man;" or "happy is the condition - the state of mind - happy are the prospects, of one whose sins are forgiven." His condition is happy or blessed:

(a) as compared with his former state, when he was pressed or bowed down under a sense of guilt;

(b) in his real condition, as that of a pardoned man - a man who has nothing now to fear as the result of his guilt, or who feels that he is at peace with God;

(c) in his hopes and prospects, as now a child of God and an heir of heaven.

Whose transgression is forgiven - The word rendered "forgiven" means properly to lift up, to bear, to carry, to carry away; and sin which is forgiven is referred to here "as if" it were borne away - perhaps as the scapegoat bore off sin into the wilderness. Compare Psalm 85:2; Job 7:21; Genesis 50:17; Numbers 14:19; Isaiah 2:9.

Whose sin is covered - As it were "covered over;" that is, concealed or hidden; or, in other words, so covered that it will not appear. This is the idea in the Hebrew word which is commonly used to denote the atonement, - כפר kâphar - meaning "to cover over;" then, to overlook, to forgive; Genesis 6:14; Psalm 65:3; Psalm 78:38; Daniel 9:24. The original word here, however, is different - כסה kâsâh - though meaning the same - "to cover." The idea is, that the sin would be, as it were, covered over, hidden, concealed, so that it would no longer come into the view of either God or man; that is, the offender would be regarded and treated as if he had not sinned, or as if he had no sin.

PSALM 32

Ps 32:1-11. Maschil—literally, "giving instruction." The Psalmist describes the blessings of His forgiveness, succeeding the pains of conviction, and deduces from his own experience instruction and exhortation to others.

1, 2. (Compare Ro 4:6).

forgiven—literally, "taken away," opposed to retain (Joh 20:23).

covered—so that God no longer regards the sin (Ps 85:3).

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

2 Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity and in whose spirit there is no guile.

Psalm 32:1

"Blessed." Like the sermon on the mount, this Psalm begins with beatitudes. This is the second Psalm of benediction. The Psalm 1:1-6describes the result of holy blessedness, the Psalm 32:1-11details the cause of it. The first pictures the tree in full growth, this depicts it in its first planting and watering. He who in thePsa 1:1-6 is a reader of God's book, is here a suppliant at God's throne accepted and heard. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven." He is now blessed, and ever shall be. Be he ever so poor, or sick, or sorrowful, he is blessed in very deed. Pardoning mercy is of all things in the world most to be prized, for it is the only and sure way to happiness. To hear from God's own Spirit the words, "absolvo te" is joy unspeakable. Blessedness is not in this case ascribed to the man who has been a diligent lawkeeper, for then it would never come to us, but rather to a lawbreaker, who by grace most rich and free has been forgiven. Self-righteous Pharisees have no portion in this blessedness. Over the returning prodigal, the word of welcome is here pronounced, and the music and dancing begin. A full, instantaneous, irreversible pardon of transgression turns the poor sinner's hell into heaven, and makes the heir of wrath a partaker in blessing. The word rendered forgiven is in the original taken off, or taken away, as a burden is lifted or a barrier removed. What a lift is here! It cost our Saviour a sweat of blood to bear our load, yea, it cost him his life to bear it quite away. Samson carried the gates of Gaza, but what was that to the weight which Jesus bore on our behalf? "Whose sin is covered." Covered by God, as the ark was covered by the mercy-seat, as Noah was covered from the flood, as the Egyptians were covered by the depths of the sea. What a cover must that be which hides away for ever from the sight of the all-seeing God all the filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit! He who has once seen sin in its horrible deformity, will appreciate the happiness of seeing it no more for ever. Christ's atonement is the propitiation, the covering, the making an end of sin; where this is seen and trusted in, the soul knows itself to be now accepted in the Beloved, and therefore enjoys a conscious blessedness which is the antepast of heaven. It is clear from the text that a man may know that he is pardoned: where would be the blessedness of an unknown forgiveness? Clearly it is a matter of knowledge, for it is the ground of comfort.

Psalm 32:2

"Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity." The word blessed is in the plural, oh, the blessednesses! the double joys, the bundles of happiness, the mountains of delight! Note the three words so often used to denote our disobedience: transgression, sin, and iniquity, are the three-headed dog at the gates of hell, but our glorious Lord has silenced its barkings for ever against his own believing ones. The trinity of sin is overcome by the Trinity of heaven. Non-imputation is of the very essence of pardon: the believer sins, but his sin is not reckoned, not accounted to him. Certain divines froth at the mouth with rage against imputed righteousness, be it ours to see our sin not imputed, and to us may there be as Paul words it, "Righteousness imputed without works." He is blessed indeed who has a substitute to stand for him to whose account all his debts may be set down. "And in whose spirit there is no guile." He who is pardoned, has in every case been taught to deal honestly with himself, his sin, and his God. Forgiveness is no sham, and the peace which it brings is not caused by playing tricks with conscience. Self-deception and hypocrisy bring no blessedness, they may drug the soul into hell with pleasant dreams, but into the heaven of true peace they cannot conduct their victim. Free from guilt, free from guile. Those who are justified from fault are sanctified from falsehood. A liar is not a forgiven soul. Treachery, double-dealing, chicanery, dissimulation, are lineaments of the devil's children, but he who is washed from sin is truthful, honest, simple, and childlike. There can be no blessedness to tricksters with their plans, and tricks, and shuffling, and pretending: they are too much afraid of discovery to be at ease; their house is built on the volcano's brink, and eternal destruction must be their portion. Observe the three words to describe sin, and the three words to represent pardon, weigh them well, and note their meanings. (See note at the end.) Maschil; or, an instructor. This Psalm is most fitly so called, because it was composed for the information of the church, in that most important doctrine, concerning the way to true blessedness.

They are blessed whose sins are forgiven, Psalm 32:1,2. Confession of sins giveth ease to the conscience, Psalm 32:3-7. God’s promise to them that trust in him, Psalm 32:8-11.

I did indeed say that they, and they only, were blessed, that did

not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, & c., but did delight in and meditate on God’s law, Psalm 1:1,2. And it is true, this is the only way to blessedness. But if inquiry be made into the cause of man’s blessedness, we must seek that elsewhere. All men having sinned and made themselves guilty before God, and fallen short of the glory of God, and of that happiness which was conferred upon their first parents, now there is no way to recover this lost felicity, but by seeking and obtaining the favour of God, and the pardon of our sins; which is the very doctrine of the gospel; to the confirmation whereof this text is justly alleged, Romans 4:6,7. Our sins are debts, and they need forgiving; they are filthy and abominable in God’s sight, and need covering.

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,.... Or "lifted up" (m); bore and carried away: sin is a transgression of the law; the guilt of it charged upon the conscience of a sinner is a heavy burden, too heavy for him to bear, and the punishment of it is intolerable: forgiveness is a removal of sin, guilt, and punishment. Sin was first taken off, and transferred from the sinner to Christ, the surety; and who laid upon him really and judicially, as the sins of the people of Israel were put upon the scapegoat typically; and was bore by him, both guilt and punishment, and taken away, finished, and made an end of; and by the application of his blood and sacrifice it is taken away from the sinner's conscience; it is caused to pass from him, and is removed afar off, as far as the east is from the west; it is so lifted off from him as to give him ease and peace, and so as never to return to the destruction of him; wherefore such a man is a happy man; he has much peace, comfort, calmness, and serenity of mind now can appear before God with intrepidity, and serve him without fear; no bill of indictment can hereafter be found against him; no charge will be exhibited, and so no condemnation to him. The same is expressed, though in different words, in the next clause;

whose sin is covered; not by himself, by any works of righteousness done by him; for these are a covering too narrow; nor by excuses and extenuations; for prosperity and happiness do not attend such a conduct, Proverbs 28:13; but by Christ; he is the mercy seat, the covering of the law; who is the covert of his people from the curses of it, and from the storm of divine wrath and vengeance, due to the transgressions of it; his blood is the purple covering of the chariot, under which the saints ride safe to heaven; the lines of his blood are drawn over crimson and scarlet sins, by which they are blotted out, and are not legible; and being clothed with the robe of Christ's righteousness, all their sins are covered from the eye of divine Justice; not from the eye of God's omniscience, which sees the sins of all men, and beholds those of his own people; and which he takes notice of, and corrects for, in a fatherly way; but from vindictive justice, they are so hid as not to be imputed and charged, nor the saints to be condemned for them; such are unblamable and unreproveable in the sight of God, and are all fair in the eyes of Christ; and their sins are caused to pass away from themselves, and they have no more sight and conscience of them; and though sought for at the last day, they will not be found and brought to light, nor be seen by men or angels. There is something unseemly, impure, nauseous, abominable, and provoking in sin; which will not bear to be seen by the Lord, and therefore must be covered, or the sinner can never stand in his presence and be happy.

(m) Verbum "elevavit quaudoque idem est ac condonavit", Gejerus; "ablata est", Piscator, Cocceius.

<<A Psalm of David, {a} Maschil.>> Blessed is he whose transgression is {b} forgiven, whose sin is covered.

(a) Concerning the free remission of sins, which is the chief point of our faith.

(b) To be justified by faith, is to have our sins freely remitted, and to be declared just, Ro 4:6.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1, 2. The blessedness of forgiveness. See Romans 4:6 ff. for St Paul’s use of these verses.

Blessed] Or, Happy. Cp. Psalm 1:1. The first beatitude of the Psalter is pronounced on an upright life; but since “there is no man that sinneth not” (1 Kings 8:46), there is another beatitude reserved for true penitence.

transgression—sin—iniquity] The words thus rendered describe sin in different aspects (1) as rebellion, or breaking away from God: (2) as wandering from the way, or missing the mark: (3) as depravity, or moral distortion. Cp. Psalm 32:5; Psalm 51:1-3; Exodus 34:7. Forgiveness is also triply described (1) as the taking away of a burden; cp. John 1:29, and the expression ‘to bear iniquity’: (2) as covering, so that the foulness of sin no longer meets the eye of the judge and calls for punishment; (3) as the cancelling of a debt, which is no longer reckoned against the offender: cp. 2 Samuel 19:19.

and in whose spirit there is no guile] No deceitfulness. The condition of forgiveness on man’s part is absolute sincerity. There must be no attempt to deceive self or God. Cp. 1 John 1:8.Verse 1. - Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. There are three aspects under which sin is viewed in Holy Scripture:

1. As an offence against God's Law. This is "transgression" - ἀνομία.

2. As an offence against the eternal and immutable rule of right. This is "sin" - ἁμαρτία.

3. As an internal depravation and defilement of the sinner's soul. This is "iniquity " - ἀδικία (comp. Exodus 34:7). Each aspect of sin has its own especial remedy, or manner of removal. The "transgression" is "lifted up," "taken away,"- αἵρεται ἀφαίρεται - more vaguely ἀφίεται. The "sin" is "covered, .... hidden" - καλύπτετα ἐπικαλύπτεται. The "iniquity" is "not imputed" - οὐ λογίζεται. The union of all three, as here in vers. 1, 2, is complete remission or forgiveness. (Heb.: 31:20-25) In this part well-grounded hope expands to triumphant certainty; and this breaks forth into grateful praise of the goodness of God to His own, and an exhortation to all to wait with steadfast faith on Jahve. The thought: how gracious hath Jahve been to me, takes a more universal form in Psalm 31:20. It is an exclamation (מה, as in Psalm 36:8) of adoring admiration. טוּב יהוה is the sum of the good which God has treasured up for the constant and ever increasing use and enjoyment of His saints. צפן is used in the same sense as in Psalm 17:14; cf. τὸ μάννα τὸ κεκρυμμένον, Revelation 2:17. Instead of פּעלתּ it ought strictly to be נתתּ; for we can say פּעל טּוב, but not פּעל טוּב. What is meant is, the doing or manifesting of טּוב springing from this טוּב, which is the treasure of grace. Jahve thus makes Himself known to His saints for the confounding of their enemies and in defiance of all the world besides, Psalm 23:5. He takes those who are His under His protection from the רכסי אישׁ, confederations of men (from רכס, Arab. rks, magna copia), from the wrangling, i.e., the slanderous scourging, of tongues. Elsewhere it is said, that God hides one in סתר אהלו (Psalm 27:5), or in סתר כּנפיו (Psalm 61:5), or in His shadow (צל, Psalm 91:1); in this passage it is: in the defence and protection of His countenance, i.e., in the region of the unapproachable light that emanates from His presence. The סכּה is the safe and comfortable protection of the Almighty which spans over the persecuted one like an arbour or rich foliage. With בּרוּך ה David again passes over to his own personal experience. The unity of the Psalm requires us to refer the praise to the fact of the deliverance which is anticipated by faith. Jahve has shown him wondrous favour, inasmuch as He has given him a עיר מצור as a place of abode. מצור, from צוּר to shut in (Arabic misr with the denominative verb maṣṣara, to found a fortified city), signifies both a siege, i.e., a shutting in by siege-works, and a fortifying (cf. Psalm 60:11 with Psalm 108:11), i.e., a shutting in by fortified works against the attack of the enemy, 2 Chronicles 8:5. The fenced city is mostly interpreted as God Himself and His powerful and gracious protection. We might then compare Isaiah 33:21 and other passages. But why may not an actual city be intended, viz., Ziklag? The fact, that after long and troublous days David there found a strong and sure resting-place, he here celebrates beforehand, and unconsciously prophetically, as a wondrous token of divine favour. To him Ziklag was indeed the turning-point between his degradation and exaltation. He had already said in his trepidation (חפז, trepidare), cf. Psalm 116:11 : I am cut away from the range of Thine eyes. נגרזתּי is explained according to גּרזן, an axe; Lamentations 3:54, נגרזתּי, and Jonah 2:5, נגרשׁתּי, favour this interpretation. He thought in his fear and despair, that God would never more care about him. אכן, verum enim vero, but Jahve heard the cry of his entreaty, when he cried unto Him (the same words as in Psalm 28:2). On the ground of these experiences he calls upon all the godly to love the God who has done such gracious things, i.e., to love Love itself. On the one hand, He preserves the faithful (אמוּנים, from אמוּן equals אמוּן, πιστοί, as in Psalm 12:2), who keep faith with Him, by also proving to them His faithfulness by protection in every danger; on the other hand, not scantily, but plentifully (על as in Isaiah 60:7; Jeremiah 6:14 : κατὰ περισσείαν) He rewardeth those that practise pride-in the sight of God, the Lord, the sin of sins. An animating appeal to the godly (metamorphosed out of the usual form of the expression חזק ואמץ, macte esto), resembling the animating call to his own heart in Psalm 27:14, closes the Psalm. The godly and faithful are here called "those who wait upon Jahve." They are to wait patiently, for this waiting has a glorious end; the bright, spring sun at length breaks through the dark, angry aspect of the heavens, and the esto mihi is changed into halleluja. This eye of hope patiently directed towards Jahve is the characteristic of the Old Testament faith. The substantial unity, however, of the Old Testament order of grace, or mercy, with that of the New Testament, is set before us in Psalm 32:1-11, which, in its New Testament and Pauline character, is the counterpart of Psalm 19:1-14.
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