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A Lenten Reflection on Psalm 32: A Call to Faith

By Michael Roop

This blog is part of a series reflecting on Psalm 32. Read the rest of the series here.

David has called his listeners to follow the path he himself has already walked. He confessed his sin and found the incredible forgiveness of God. So don’t wait! Call out to the LORD now to find the blessed relief of forgiveness. As his poem draws to a close, David summarizes what he’s come to believe and what he has experienced to be true.

8   I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 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.
10   Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.

To understand the significance of verse 10, we have to understand the main aspect of Hebrew poetry: parallelism. Poets would use concepts in connected lines of poetry to explain each other, either by comparison or by contrast.

For instance, in verse 10, David contrasts the weighty and exhausting experience of a multitude of sorrows with the experience of being surrounded by steadfast love. The Hebrew word translated “steadfast love” is chesed, a love characterized by faithfulness to a promise. When a husband or wife is faithful to their vows, their spouse experiences chesed.

The chesed of God has a sorrow-relieving effect. This suggests that the sorrows on David’s mind are sorrows associated with our own sin, guilt, and shame. Certainly other sources of sorrow abound, and other psalms address them, but this particular poem is focused on the relieving experience of forgiveness.

But more important is the second set of contrasting ideas. Who is the one who has many sorrows? The wicked. The one who willfully rejects God’s moral law, along with God’s awesome holiness and right to reign over all creation. This person feels the compounding weight of sorrows, chiefly because they have no real answer to their guilt.

So, by contrast, who gets to be surrounded by chesed? The expected answer would be “the righteous,” which contrasts with “the wicked.” Yet this is not David’s reflection, because this very Psalm is dealing with his own wickedness! No, it is “the one who trusts in the LORD” who experiences the forgiving and relieving experience of His chesed.

This, perhaps, is the pinnacle of David’s reflection. We are not perfect, nor can we be. We cannot deserve God’s chesed. Therefore, coming to God in a spirit of confession and repentance requires great faith. We must trust that we will experience the same forgiveness David did.

Which brings us all the way back to the beginning of the Psalm. David knew this of God’s character and experienced it personally: those who trust in the character of the LORD will find the unspeakable blessing of forgiveness. We can hear this instruction, and receive it, because great David’s Greater Son has purchased our forgiveness and, what’s more, offers us His righteousness as a gift.

Take refuge in Christ, and find yourself surrounded by the chesed of the LORD.