In Psalm 32 David, King of Israel, describes the passage he took from a state of deception in which he had denied his own guilt to the acknowledgement of his sin and forgiveness. The psalm is a powerful acclamation of the blessing of forgiveness and a call for all people to not stubbornly hide from God but to humbly come to God openly and trustingly.
The background to this psalm is given in 2 Samuel 11. David had acted cruelly and wickedly when he took Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, slept with her and then arranged her husband’s death. What is amazing about this story is that David held on to his sin in silence for at least nine months. Let us be reminded that this is the same David who meditated day and night upon God’s law and who delighted in the decrees of God more than anything else in the world (Psalm 19). You would think that such a man as this, in whom the Spirit of God dwelt in a notably new-covenant sense, would immediately be stricken with guilt and would humble himself before God in penitence. But the heart is deceitful and David added this sin to his others ‘ he deceived himself into stillness of conscience. Many a prophet was condemned for deceiving others by saying ‘peace! peace!’ when their was no peace (Jer. 6:14). But here David deceives himself.
The psalm speaks of the agony that David went through as he stubbornly kept his silence, that is, as he kept from confessing his sin to God (vs. 3-4). This suffering even affected his physical state so that such a mighty warrior as he became weak ‘as in the summer heat.’
Finally however he surrendered. God did not allow him to continue in his self deception and the conviction that came with the words of Nathan the prophet was an act of God’s grace. David confessed his sin and received the forgiveness of God (vs. 5). The relief and the joy of this experience was so impacting for David that he can write of this as the supreme state of blessedness in the first part of the psalm (vs. 1-2). Here he marvels afresh at the wonder that God does not take account of the sins of his forgiven saints. If we have become at all stale in our zeal for the central aspects of the ‘good news’ of God’s forgiveness the best way to change this is to ask God to shatter us with a view of our own sins. Biblical joy is not cheap.
From this vantage point David now turns to a universal call for anyone who is Godly, or who thinks himself to be godly, to seek the LORD while he may be found (vs. 6). This indicates that the offer of forgiveness will not extend on forever. One day when the water rises to drowning point (a figure of judgement referring to the flood of Noah’s time) there will be two kinds of people those who took refuge in God and whom God has surrounded with ‘songs of deliverance’ (or ‘redemption songs’) (vs. 7), and those who remained stubborn like mules before God and refused to come to him. Hence the next section implores the listener not to be stubborn ‘like the horse or mule which have no understanding’ (vs. 9) because those who wickedly refuse God will see many ‘woes’, while those trust in God will be surrounded by his covenant love (vs. 10). Those who have been made righteous by God have every reason to rejoice (vs. 11).