Sermon on Psalm 32
You can almost hear the joy in his voice – you can almost see the subtle smile on his face as King David intones the Psalm, “Blessed – happy, privileged – is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
Why? Why does David – why does God call blessed the one whose sins are forgiven? The forgiveness of sins doesn’t put food in the pantry. It doesn’t guarantee you lots of friends or family to spend time with. The one whose sins are forgiven goes through just as many earthly hardships, just as much pain and sickness and suffering as the unforgiven – sometimes more! The one whose sins are forgiven still mourns at the funeral home, and the one whose sins are forgiven will, one day, be mourned at the funeral home by others. King David knew that full well.
So why does David call “blessed” the one whose sins are forgiven? Because the one who is forgiven doesn’t have to try to hide from God anymore – something that’s totally impossible to do anyway, although most people still try. The one who is forgiven has God for a gracious Father, and the Son of God, Jesus Christ, for a Savior, friend, King, and brother. The one who is forgiven has no condemnation to suffer, no wrath of God to endure, no hell to look forward to. The one who is forgiven has the sanctifying Spirit of God dwelling in his or her heart, and the righteousness of Christ covering his or hers sins, and the inheritance of resurrection from the dead and eternal life to look forward to, not to mention the promises of God to make even all things in this life work together for their good. That’s why the one who is forgiven is blessed.
Now the big question – who is that? The answer is, not the one who hides from God, but rather the one who hides in God.
To hide from God is to live a lie. It’s to make up a fake reality for yourself – and maybe for others, too – in which you’re doing just fine, when you aren’t doing just fine. To hide from God is to be constantly looking over your shoulder making sure God isn’t watching. It’s to pretend that you have no sin to confess when you know very well that you do have sin to confess. That’s why David says the man is blessed “in whose spirit there is no deceit,” in other words, who doesn’t pretend before God that he’s doing just fine, that he has no sin, or that his sin isn’t so terrible. That’s what the Apostle John says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
Kind of like Adam and Eve in Garden of Eden, after they ate from the forbidden fruit. What did they do? They hid. First they tried to hide their nakedness with fig leaves. Then they hid behind the bushes and the trees when God came walking into the garden. Did they really think they could hide their sin from God by hiding themselves from God in the Garden?
Do you really think you can hide your sin from God by refusing to confess it? Do you think you can cover it up or whitewash over it so that God will not see?
David puts it this way, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” To keep silent about your sins instead of confessing them to God through his representatives on earth will never end well. Because whether you confess your sins or not, God sees them. But when you try to hide them, when you try to cover them up and put on a happy face or a godly façade, there is no forgiveness there, because you’re hiding from the very God who wants to help you.
And how does he help you? He helps you by giving you a place to hide, a safe place where there is no guilt or shame for the sinner but only help and deliverance. God gives you himself as your hiding place.
“You are a hiding place for me,” David says. Isn’t that something? The very God against whom we have rebelled and sinned, the God whom we have offended offers himself to you as a place of refuge. Very specifically, the hiding place – the forgiving place – is Christ himself who suffered the wrath of God against sin so that now his blood forms a shield over all who take refuge in him.
And how do you enter that refuge, that hiding place? David tells you, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Through confession of sins, through the Absolution both spoken and eaten and drunk in the Sacrament, through the faith in Christ, the divinely appointed hiding place for sinners, you are now the one who is forgiven. By faith in Christ, the LORD no longer counts any iniquity to you, but instead the righteousness of Christ is counted to you. You are now the one who is blessed.
Therefore, David says, let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found. You see, right now, today, as you hear his voice, as you hear the Gospel, God is letting himself be found by you. Right now, as he places his minister before you to hear your confession and announce God’s forgiveness, God is findable. He is findable right here in the ministry of the Word, right here in the Office of the Keys where he breathed his Holy Spirit and authorized his servants to forgive. He doesn’t guarantee that you’ll always have that opportunity in the future, if you should choose to keep hiding your sins from God. Then the day may come when you look for God but won’t be able to find him.
Don’t let that happen to you. God is a hiding place for you now and he can be found today in the preaching of his Word and in the use of the Keys. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you,” says the LORD.
Only “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” Don’t be stubborn. Don’t be like the horse or mule that has to be ruled by bit and bridle, by tragedy and hardship. Many a Christian can tell you how they were living their lives in hiding, in denial, refusing to admit their sin, refusing God’s help through the Church, refusing God’s help in Word and Sacrament, and it took God using a tragedy in their lives to wake them up to the harsh reality that they were hiding from their Helper all along.
Don’t hide from your Helper. Hide in your Helper at all times, in the wounds and the blood of Christ and in his promise of forgiveness to the one who confesses and trusts in him. In him, you don’t have to cover up your sin or live a lie, because in him there is forgiveness. In him there is perfect safety and steadfast love. In him you are counted as righteous. In him you are blessed, not because you have no sin, but because of God’s gift of forgiveness. So be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! Amen.