The Blessedness of Forgiveness and Trust in God.

Opinions on finding happiness are not hard to find. In the Bible, true happiness is an effect, not a cause. It is the product of making God-honoring choices in critical areas of life. Psalm 32 shows the watershed which divides true happiness from unhappiness. The transformative nature of God’s forgiveness sets us firmly on the path of true happiness. The psalmist gives us 4 reasons why.

Forgiveness changes God’s view of me. (verses 1-2)

Three synonyms with different nuances incorporate the range of miserable existence caused by sin. Each of these words is followed by a powerful, liberating truth describing God’s perspective.

“Transgression” emphasizes the fact that my sin offends a personal being, the God of Heaven.

“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 a breach of the constitution of your own nature or even as a crime against your fellows. You have not got to the bottom of the crimson blood-stained guilt of your sin until you see that it is a flat rebellion against God himself.”

–Alexander Maclaren

John Bunyan describes the moment of forgiveness in his allegorical book Pilgrim’s Progress.

I saw in my dream that the highway up which Christian was to go was fenced on either side with a wall that was called Salvation. Up this way, therefore, Christian ran, but with great difficulty because of the load on his back.

Christian ran till he came to a hill; upon it stood a cross, and a little below was a tomb.

So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up to the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the tomb, where it fell in, and I saw it no more. Then said Christian with a happy heart, “He hath given me rest by His sorrow, and life by His death.” Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked, therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the water down his cheeks.

Now, as he stood looking and weeping, behold, three Shining Ones came to him, and saluted him, with “Peace be to thee.” So the first said to him, “Thy sins be forgiven thee”; the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with a change of garments; the third also set a mark on his forehead, and gave him a roll with a seal upon it, which he bade him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the heavenly gate; so they went their way. Then Christian gave three leaps for joy, and went on, singing:

Thus far did I come laden with my sin;
Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,
Till I came hither; what a place it this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss?

Must here the burden fall from off my back?
Must here the strings that bound it to me crack?
Blest cross! blest sepulchre! blest rather be
The Man that was there put to shame for me!

The word “sin” communicates the concept of missing the mark, showing our broken relationship to God’s holy standard. As fallen humans, we consistently and habitually miss the mark. The psalmist’s joy is having his sin covered. The Hebrew reader would readily picture the Day of Atonement. The Greek parallel word carries the idea of satisfaction. God’s wrath is satisfied for us in Jesus’ shed blood.

The word “iniquity” challenges our pride because it exposes our relationship to ourselves in contrast to the God of heaven. This word highlights our twisted and crooked character. In Christ, this is not imputed against us. Romans 4:7-8 uses these verses from the Psalm to develop the doctrine of justification.

This reality gives us a whole new experience; it frees one’s spirit from deceit. Our natural ability to flatter ourselves is stunning. When we have been forgiven, we no longer have to flatter ourselves. We can call sin what it is and enjoy freedom from its corrupting influence in our life. This is true happiness!

Forgiveness changes my view of myself. (verses 3-5)

For one who has been forgiven, physical ailments have the possibility of a new source: discipline from our Heavenly Father. (See Hebrews 12:4-11.) As such, it is proof of love and a relationship with God. To be out of fellowship with our Heavenly Father is a heavy weight that can affect us physiologically.

Self-flattery is replaced by biblical self-assessment. We can “confess," "acknowledge," and "not hide” our sin, because we are convinced that God has forgiven that guilt.

Psalm 32:5 is the heart of the psalm. Confession is made only to the Lord, not through a religious system. The same 3 words are used to cover the full gamut of our offense before God.

Forgiveness changes my strategies for help. (verses 6-7)
Forgiveness changes my message to others. (verses 8-11)

Due to time, you can study these last 2 points out on your own.

It is particularly encouraging that true happiness can still be found in the context of our sin and failure when dealt with before God. There is abundant hope for humans in these verses. Full and free forgiveness is given to us at the very beginning of our spiritual life. There is no waiting until the end, wondering if we will get it or if we have done enough to earn it. When this question has been answered, all that’s left are relational realities. God works on us in Christ to become conformed to His character on the true path to happiness.

Application Points

  • Are you truly happy? Do you know God’s forgiveness in the person of Jesus Christ?
  • Are you filled with wonder at Christ's sacrifice for your forgiveness?
  • Do you flatter yourself as better than other people or excuse your sin? Forgiveness frees your spirit from self-deceit. You no longer have to flatter yourself. Call sin what it is and enjoy freedom from its corrupting influence in your life to find true happiness!
  • If you have accepted God's full and final forgiveness, stop allowing guilt and sin to stunt your growth. Confess it before God and keep growing on the path to true happiness.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Psalm 103:12, Isaiah 43:25 – Forgiveness of our transgression.