Psalm 32 (NRSV)
Verse 1Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Verse 2Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Verse 3While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
Verse 4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
Verse 5Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord," and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
Verse 6Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.
Verse 7You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah
Verse 8I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Verse 9Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.
Verse 10Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
Verse 11Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
The psalmist has a keen insight into a truth of daily existence: Happiness and a sense of transgression or guilt do not sit well together. And the psalmist also knows it’s not just a “head” thing. Guilt has a way of attacking us physically—totally. But the psalmist also is wise about the healing, life-restoring rhythm of confession and forgiveness, and knows, too, not where, but in whom, that rhythm is anchored: “Steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.”
A particular beauty of this psalm is that the writer does not hoard such a precious insight, but in rich personal testimony to the experience of the Lord’s forgiving love, goes public, insisting on passing the news around with one great “shout-out.” Though we have perhaps learned to honor this rhythm in our regular practice of Confession and Forgiveness in public worship, maybe we might at times be moved to honor that other part as well: “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice … shout for joy!”
God of steadfast love, help us to trust in you and dare to lay before you all our transgressions, knowing that you will cover our sin and fill us with the joy of life restored in you. Amen.