Psalm 32:1-11 How to Experience the Joy of Forgiveness

Psalm 32:1-11 How to Experience the Joy of Forgiveness October 30, 2016

Psalm 32:1-11 How to Experience The Joy of Forgiveness

John Stott wrote about Marghanita Laski, one of England’s best-known secular humanists and novelists. Just before she died in 1988, she said in a television interview, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.” Psalm 32 shows God’s blessings for those who are forgiven. This psalm gives us the forgotten secret of happiness, telling us that sin brings sorrow, but confession brings forgiveness and forgiveness brings joy. 1


How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How joyful is the man the Lord does not charge with sin and in whose spirit is no deceit!” (Psalm 32:1–2, HCSB)

The psalmist uses three words for sin in verses 1 and 2. “Transgression” means breaking loose or tearing away from God. “Sin” means that which is not pleasing to God or misses the mark of his will. “Iniquity” means perversion or distortion. He then uses three words for forgiveness. “Forgiven” means lifted-away. “Covered” means hidden or invisible. “Not imputed” means erased or not recorded.2

This is such a fantastic truth that Paul plucked it out of the pages of the Old Testament and incorporated it into his glorious epistle to the Romans (Romans 4:7-8). Happy indeed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.3


A study conducted by clinical neuroscientist Roland Zahn of the University of Manchester has identified how the brain links knowledge about social behavior with moral sentiment. Of particular interest to Zahn was the connection between guilt and depression. He explains, “The most distinctive feature of depressive disorders is an exaggerated negative attitude to oneself, which is typically accompanied by feelings of guilt.”4 In Psalm 32:3–4, David expresses the emotional pain associated with guilt. For those who have struggled with depression, David’s description will sound familiar. But there is good news. God has dealt with our deep need of forgiveness through the atoning death of Jesus on the cross!5

Psalm 32 describes in part the anguish of body and soul that David went through while concealing his sin. Here, David Jeremiah explains three different emotionally painful experiences that come with the agony of guilt.6

Silence (32:3)

When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long.” (Psalm 32:3, HCSB)

David couldn’t talk to the Lord about his sin, and therefore he couldn’t talk to the Lord about anything.

If I had been aware of malice in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18, HCSB)

Remember that sin brings about its own silence between you and God. Like David, our hearts can become silent. David cut off communication with God. Guilt started to eat him up physically and emotionally. He said that his bones grew old through his groaning all the day long. He apparently became physically incapacitated from carrying the guilt of what he had done.

Sorrow (32:4)

For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat. Selah” (Psalm 32:4, HCSB)

King David was still commanding all of his subjects as the king, but he could not command his own conscience. He was filled with agony. His freshness of life was gone, replaced with bitterness and anguish. His conscience was filled with disgust, breaking his communion with God. His life was a mess.


Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You took away the guilt of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:5, HCSB)

For a time, David hid his sin from God. He didn’t want to admit that he sinned. One reason he suffered so much was there was no one to whom he could convey his pain. Nobody knew what David had done except Bathsheba and Joab—and each of them only knew the half of it. His sin with Bathsheba may not have been planned, but his sin against Uriah was planned and premeditated. For over a year David tried to live with his secret guilt.

Can you imagine that? He couldn’t talk to anyone about it – not God, not his friends. He could only talk to himself, but he kept getting only condemnation from his own conscience. Guilt was wearing him away. Then the Lord sent someone to help David with his problem—which brings us to the accusation of guilt.

If you are weighed down by guilt because of your sin, there is hope.

The joy of forgiveness means that there is joy for the one who receives forgiveness for their sins. A man receives real joy because God does not charge him with sin. The psalm shares the fact that someone who receives forgiveness for sin has joy (Psalm 32:1-2).

How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How joyful is the man the Lord does not charge with sin and in whose spirit is no deceit!” (Psalm 32:1–2, HCSB)

There is joy in forgiveness because God is faithful to forgive, and I don’t have to keep feeling guilty about what I have done wrong. God is there to help me. I don’t have to worry about my mistakes. I can take joy in knowing that God has covered my sin. Through the act of Jesus’ death on the cross, my sin was not only covered but bought and paid for, and completely eliminated. This sacrifice means that I don’t have to groan all day and night and worry about my sins. I don’t have to feel guilty. God has taken care of my sin problem.7

I can leave sin and its guilty associations. The way to do that is open another door in my life. If forgiveness is the door and joy is the room that I can enter, then confession is the key that opens the door.


“Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You took away the guilt of my sin. Selah Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to You at a time that You may be found. When great floodwaters come, they will not reach him.” (Psalm 32:5–6, HCSB)

What does it mean to confess our sins? It means to agree with God about them. Before David came to the point of confession, he and God were on opposite sides of the fence. God was condemning his sin, and he was defending himself by rationalizing and excusing his sin.8

If you want the joy of forgiveness, then you need to ask for it. You have to pray and confess your sin. I know what you are thinking. I can’t tell God about everything bad in my life. But confessing to God about my sin is like going to a special hiding place.


You are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance. Selah” (Psalm 32:7, HCSB)

Do you remember your favorite hiding place? Can you think of a place you could go to and feel the most secure? I remember that I could hide from anyone out in the small set of woods at the end of our street. We lived on a dead-end street when I was a kid. Across the street and down a bit were some patches of forest. I would walk across to that place to “hide” when I played with my friends. I hid there because it was fun and my friends and I enjoyed the game.

Yet hiding is a necessary skill for survival. Corrie Ten Boom learned this. Ten Boom, a Christian, provided a place for Jews to hide from Nazi Stormtroopers during the regime of Adolf Hitler. (She wrote about these experiences in her book, The Hiding Place). She learned to hide others from their enemies during a difficult time for survival’s sake.

When times feel tough, I find that I can retreat to the pages of God’s Word. The Bible is like that hiding place because I can hide myself in the pages of God’s Word. At the same time, God Himself becomes my Hiding Place. He can be a Person who I can confide in and receive comfort from during my time of trial and difficulty. He becomes my security and comfort when I feel trapped or discouraged. When I feel like everything is falling apart, God Himself provides a place where I feel protected.

God wants to be that Hiding Place for you as well. He wants you to take refuge in Him. He wants you to look to Him for protection and care when life is hard.9

Jesus said to go into your prayer closet and talk to God in private.

““Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5–6, HCSB)

What is that reward that God will give you when you come to Him in secret? Not just forgiveness.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, HCSB)

The joy that comes with forgiveness is the reward. How do I know this?

Because this psalm is related to another psalm that David wrote. Psalm 32 is when David is struggling with the guilt of his sin and how he overcomes it with forgiveness. Psalm 51 is David after he has confessed his sin.

Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:12, HCSB)

Psalm 32 shifts from a cry about guilt to the joy of forgiveness.

You are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance. Selah” (Psalm 32:7, HCSB)

Do you see the change that happens in this psalm. David goes from guilt to glory, from frustration to forgiveness, from silence to shouts of joy. It changes his outlook and the way he approaches God. God never changed. It’s David that changes. God never changes. It’s us that changes.


1. I listen better

I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with My eye on you, I will give counsel.” (Psalm 32:8, HCSB)

In his book Hearing God in Conversation, Samuel Williamson writes that God does speak and that He wants to talk to us.10 The point is that God doesn’t want us to hide from Him. God wants to confide in Him. If we quit avoiding God, confess our sins, and listen to Him, God will be there for us. He won’t hurt us. Instead, He will help us.

2. I respond better

Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding, that must be controlled with bit and bridle or else it will not come near you.” (Psalm 32:9, HCSB)

John Olgivie, former chaplain of the Senate once stated: “We are to be responsive to God, obedient to His word, and anxious to walk in His ways. Then we will not be like a rebellious, dumb animal which must be forced to do the will of its owner.”11

Charles Spurgeon once wrote: “God does not want to bit and bridle you; He wants to guide you with His eye. If you refuse this gentle guidance, then it will come stronger from the bridle and the bit. If one severe trial does not sanctify you, expect another more rigorous.” 12

3. I experience love better

Many pains come to the wicked, but the one who trusts in the Lord will have faithful love surrounding him.” (Psalm 32:10, HCSB)

When I am forgiven, I am freely able to love better. Forgiveness releases the guilt and I can openly receive love better. I will be able to experience God’s love on a more personal level because I have been freed from the guilt of sin.

4. I praise God better

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; shout for joy, all you upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:11, HCSB)

Don’t you worship God better when you have been forgiven?

5. I pray better

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; shout for joy, all you upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:11, HCSB)

The last statement in this psalm is about the condition of for those who follow Christ.

So the psalm is about forgiven sinners, not about perfect people. Then at the end of the psalm, the wicked are distinguished from the righteous and upright.13

The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.” (Proverbs 15:8, HCSB)

In this proverb, which is similar to Psalm 32:10-11, we see that God enjoys the prayers of His people. The point is that God desires to listen to our prayers. These five results can only come from asking for and receiving forgiveness. Do you want to listen better, to respond better, to experience love better, to praise God better, and to pray better? Then get on your knees today. Go to your hiding place. Ask God to wipe away the guilt, to forgive your sin, and to bring about the joy that comes from His forgiveness.

1 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook, 2004 Edition. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004), 281-282.

2 Russell H. Dilday Jr. and J. Hardee Kennedy, “Psalms,” in The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, ed. H. Franklin Paschall and Herschel H. Hobbs (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1972), 306.

3 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume Two: Psalms-Malachi (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 38.

4 Rick Nauert, “Brain Scans Show Depression’s Link to Guilt,” PsychCentral, August 26, 2008,

5 C. Hassell Bullock, Psalms 1–72, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, vol. 1, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015), 242.

6 David Jeremiah, Facing the Giants in Your Life: Study Guide (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 48–49.

7 Jim Erwin, “The Joy of Forgiveness,” Psalm 32:1-5, 21 February 2015, Lectionary Reflections Year B (2014-2015), Logos Bible Software Notes,, accessed on 28 October 2016.

8 Roger Ellsworth, Opening up Psalms, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), 98–99.

9 Jim Erwin, “You Are My Hiding Place,” Psalm 32:7, 9 June 2016, Lectionary Reflections Year C (2015-2016), Logos Bible Software Notes,, accessed on 28 October 2016.

10 Samuel C. Williamson, Hearing God in Conversation, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2016), 40-41. You can read my review of this book here:

11 Donald Williams and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Psalms 1–72, vol. 13, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1986), 259.

12 Charles H. Spurgeon, Beside Still Waters, ed. Roy H. Clarke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1999), 72.

13 John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God, Rev. and expanded. (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2000), 214.

Browse Our Archives