Friend Or Foe?
Perhaps you’re familiar with the amphibious, charcoal-green monster that haunted the nightmares of young Japanese and American children in the 1950-1970s. He came with radioactive blasts emanating from his mouth, scales that seemed impenetrable, and a tail that caused damage only seen when a 4-year old interacts with carefully constructed Legos. But here’s an odd question for you; is Godzilla a friend or foe?
At first, the answer seems obvious. He’s wrecking the buildings! He’s attacking Japan! How could he not be the enemy? But the narrative is not quite that simple. As we learn more about Godzilla we realize he’s a creation of nuclear bomb tests conducted in the Pacific, and we realize that his initial attack is actually the result of Japanese aggression as they won’t stop disturbing him! In essence, he’s a nightmare of their own creation.
However, something interesting happens throughout the movies. As the Japanese become besieged by other terrifying monsters, chief among them the 3-headed dragon Ghidorah, they realize they’re hopelessly outmatched. In their desperation, they find their only hope is that Godzilla will come and defend his territory! They lay down their arms and stop firing on him and, amazingly! Godzilla comes not as an aggressor and destroyer, but as a protector and friend!
In their moment of near destruction, it turns out that the one the Japanese thought was the king of all monsters was all along their only hope of deliverance. Those devastating, terrifying roars that used to cause children to tremble in sleepless terror had now turned into mighty roars of deliverance being proclaimed over them.
His Roar Is Terror To Some & Deliverance To Others
What changed? How did Godzilla go from foe to friend? Did something about Godzilla change? No! What changed was that the Japanese people realized their own devastating actions had resulted in their alienation from this vengeful, protecting guardian and as they came to understand the nature of this creature they found in him their refuge. They found that his roar could actually be a delightful sound if you knew how to hear it for what it is.
Well, as we turn to our text today — Psalm 32 — we’re going to see that David had similar issues with God. He has sinned against God. He has alienated himself from God, and God’s heavy hand of conviction is upon David. The text shows us though that, as David remembers the character and nature of his God, he realizes God’s hand is only heavy because of David’s own actions and hostile nature towards God. As David lays down his arms, the very roar that had seemed so terrifying to him takes on a tone of joyful deliverance. I want us to be reminded by this Psalm that while God’s roar is terrifying to his enemies, it is a joyful shout of deliverance to those who lay down arms and run to him in hope. Let’s read Psalm 32:
“How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How joyful is a person whom the Lord does not charge with iniquity and in whose spirit is no deceit! When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to you immediately. When great floodwaters come, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance. I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with my eye on you, I will give counsel. Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding, that must be controlled with bit and bridle or else it will not come near you. Many pains come to the wicked, but the one who trusts in the Lord will have faithful love surrounding him. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice you righteous ones; shout for joy, all you upright in heart.”
I think if we want to sum up this Psalm in a sentence it could be something like this:
We delight in the God who forgives us, covers us, and delights in us.
The Nervousness Of Confession
To help us start thinking through this, let’s do a mental exercise. What does confession feel like to you? Imagine trying to confess sin to a brother or sister in Christ. Are you nervous when you think about confessing sin? Do you wonder if it isn’t better to stay silent? Wouldn’t everyone’s life be easier if you didn’t trouble that person with your troubles?
Perhaps you’ve been tempted with those kind of thoughts. Perhaps you’ve even stayed silent and not confessed. I’d wager most of us know exactly what that’s like. If you do, then you surely can remember how knowledge of your sin combined with the decision to stay silent actually made things worse. It alienated you from people. The silence seems palpable and oppressive. Then the next time you wanted to confess, you feel trapped by the lies and decide it’s just easier to sugarcoat the truth again and again and again and again — until eventually you have nothing but lies and silence to offer.
We still feel the Holy Spirit convicting us to confess our sins, but we no longer know how to tell the truth and just grow weary from our lies and deception. Our very bones seem to ache with the knowledge of our deception and sin and our strength seems to drain away as we hide from God and our friends.
The Relief of Confession
But if you can remember that experience, then I also urge you to remember those moments where you found the strength to push past that temptation to silently bear your shame alone, and you actually confess sin as you remember that there is no condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 8:1) and your fellow believers can help refresh you with the Gospel. Aren’t moments of confession infinitely relieving? Haven’t we all felt the pressure drain away as we open our mouths? The ache in our bones starts to immediately release as tension rolls away and we find that the shame of our sin actually has an opponent that is more than a match for it!
It’s hard to confess sin sometimes, but there’s a real liberation that comes when we unzip our mouth and offer up to God the sins we’ve committed in our minds and bodies.
I ran us through that mental exercise because I think this Psalm teaches us a lot about what it means to be forgiven! A proper understanding of what happens as our sins are forgiven should lead to joyful declaration of God’s good deliverance of our souls. So, Christian, are you rejoicing in God’s deliverance today? David seems to be dancing because he’s been saved!
Sin & Silence Oppress Us, Not God
But that’s not actually where he started in this Psalm. He really starts off where verses 3 and 4 are, where his bones are brittle and his strength is draining away as if in a summer’s heat. This is a man having a heat stroke and his bones are too brittle to get up and get to the ER to do anything about it! He’s a goner if he doesn’t get help soon.
I also want to see very clearly that what is causing all of his issues is not any oppression from the world nor is it a host of enemies marching at him. No! He says very clearly in verse 3 that it was “when I kept silent” that put him in this state! While he stays silent, God’s hand is heavy and oppressive to him.
This is a man under conviction from the Holy Spirit and God is squeezing him under the palm of his hand.
You know how a bottle of ketchup sometimes crusts over with old, dried up liquid on top and as you begin to squeeze the bottle it feels like it will explode if nothing nothing starts coming out where it is supposed to? David is kind of like that right now! But inside David is blood not ketchup, and he feels as if he is about to spontaneously combust! The pressure on David is mounting and if he doesn’t find a way to let out what is inside him, he’ll end up as one bloody mess in a very short while.
But what keeps David silent? Why won’t he just confess under such great pressure? It’s the age old narrative of sin. David is trying to hide from God in verse 5! He wants to conceal his sin because he’s afraid of God! He’s afraid of what will happen if he acknowledges his sin to God!
Haven’t we all been here? Where we think that admitting our sin to God will surely only make us more worthy of God’s condemnation? Don’t we worry that if we admit we’re really as sinful as we are, that God’s heavy hand will only increase the pressure he’s applying on us?
But that’s why the rest of this Psalm makes every effort to tell us just the opposite happens! David goes to great pains to make sure we remember along with him that God does something unexpected and delightful! The only reason we think God’s hand will get heavier is that we have missed or forgotten the goodness of the Gospel. What happens when David opens his mouth? He finds joy! He finds forgiveness! Iniquities be gone!
God Covers Sin & Shame
David just forgot the nature of the God he worshipped. He forgot that when we sin, God is not the problem. He forgot God isn’t one to hide from, but the one we desperately need to be near! David simply forgot what had happened back in Genesis 3:6-8 and how God treated our father and mother in the garden:
“The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden…”
Well Adam & Eve see the object of their desires and they decide that God must have been withholding something good from them. They think that they can ultimately satisfy their own desires better than he can and so they forget his words, his love, and they stop being faithful to him! And the moment they enter into sin their “eyes were opened and they knew they were naked.” And this nakedness came with great shame.
So in an attempt to hide their shame they sew fig leaves together to cover themselves. And make no mistake, none of us would walk around in fig leaves today. They’re not exactly going to make for the most appropriate of coverings for those who are trying to be modest. They’re also uncomfortable! They would have had sticky susbtance coming out of them as they were punctured and they would have been rough and caused rashes.
Those of you who are more able to stomach disgusting things can just google “fig leaf rash” and see what I mean about this. In fact, some commentators suggest that they chose fig leafs much like later Israelites chose sackcloth in times of penitent mourning. I think there’s a lot of credibility to the thought that they’re trying to work and earn their way back to right relationship with God through these fig leaf coverings. But you are sensible people and will have to read your Bibles for yourselves on that topic.
But what we do know is that they sew these pathetic coverings for themselves and then hide from God in their shame. And when God comes, do you see how he acts just like he does with David where he squeezes them to see what has happened. He asks them questions, even though he already knows the answer! He asks them, “Who told you that you were naked?” “Did you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?” and “What is this that you have done?”
God could have just told them what they did, condemned them, and history is over, but our God is not that way! He is unchanging and we see that as Adam and Eve confess, however imperfect their confessions are, something wonderful is done for them in Genesis 3:21:
“The Lord God made clothing from skins for the man and his wife, and he clothed them.”
God provides a better covering for them than the fig leaves they had found for themselves!
What David is experiencing in Psalm 32 then is the same pattern we’ve struggled with since we started sinning — so we should be well aware of it! We humans see something we long for, we forget the God who has loved us and break his commands, and then we grow ashamed because we become aware of our haunting imperfection!
As we seek to become gods ourselves, we realize how much we are not God and we grow embarrassed and ashamed. We can’t even live up to our own expectations of ourselves, let alone the expectation that God would demand of us if we really were going to be a god.
And instead of running back to God in desperate hope, we stay silent, make poor fig leaf coverings for ourselves, and hide from God in our shame all while thinking he’s the problem! But as they confess what happened, even in an imperfect fashion, they find something amazing. The shame they had and the imperfect coverings they made are replaced with a better covering that God has provided for them through a sacrifice.
Christ Went Uncovered So We Could Be Covered
This is the Christian God! This is why this Psalm gets quoted in Romans 4:5-8:
“But to the one who does not work, but believes on him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness. Just as David also speaks of the blessing of the person to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those who lawless acts are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the person the Lord will never charge with sin.”
David is an example of the unchanging nature of our God. He has done the same kind of covering for people whether in Genesis with Adam and Eve, to David under the Old Covenant, to us in the New Covenant, all the way until all those saved by God get amazing robes in Revelation 19:8 when we are covered in fine linens of righteousness!
She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.
And all this covering is provided through Jesus Christ! He is the one who went uncovered for our sake. Just see how mankind was found sinful in the garden, alienated from God and running around in their naked shame without hope or knowledge to figure out how to get back to God. But Christ was willing to first of all disrobe himself of his glory and step into the world in the incarnation. He then lived out a perfect life with amazing teaching, mercy, and love while calling people to repentance. And what did he earn for it all? We nailed him to a cross where we did not think it enough that God had left behind his glory, but stripped him even of his physical clothes. We then gambled away his clothes and left him virtually naked on a cross.
And while all this is going on Christ is not only naked, but the shame of sin is being heaped on him as he bears our sin on his shoulders and in his body. The Father made him pay the penalty for every ounce of shame. He knows your shame very personally. And then finally we saw Christ put in a grave with the lowliest of clothing on — the clothes of the grave. He suffered our shame, our nakedness, and our death to enter into suffering with us, even though he had no sin in him that he deserved any of that.
But the good news is that Christ was not left in the grave! After 3 days, those grave clothes were left lying undisturbed as the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit raised the Son, Jesus Christ, away from his lowly estate and gave him a glorified body, wrapped him in his previous majesty and authority, and had him ascend to the right hand of God where he wears a robe now dipped in blood and a crown of majesty that says King of kings! And these robes of righteous authority are the very same ones he gives to his saints in Revelation 19 as he mercifully and graciously clothes his bride with pure linens. This is the hope of the Gospel! That the God of the universe went uncovered for our sake so that, in Christ, we might find our perfect and final covering.
To Be Covered In Christ Is To Be Blessed
If Christ has truly made this kind of covering for us, then we can confess our sins. We don’t put our faith in ourselves and our works, but rather in the character of our unchanging God. We believe that God has credited us with righteousness apart from any works we can bring because of Christ! And the one who receives that which they have not earned is the only one who can put up an Instagram post with #blessed on it. To be covered in Christ’s righteousness is the very definition of what it means to be blessed! The one who takes shelter in the perfect refuge of Christ — that one will never be charged with sin by the Lord, even if that would be the rightful verdict based on their works! We find rest from the aching of our bones and the draining toil against sin only when we rest in Christ.
Hopping back into our Psalm, this is what David means to suggest when he says that that when the floodwaters of judgment come for us, it’s actually God who is hiding us in verse 7! Just like the ark kept carrying Noah and his family above and beyond any waters that reached for them, (Genesis 7) so our God carries us in his bosom safely until the tides have faded and we step out into a new world freshly refined by God’s judgment. (Revelation 17-22)
God Not Only Saves, He Delights To Do It
But the final thing I really want to focus on is that God does more than just protect us! He does not save us with somber silence, but actually delivers us with joyful shouts! This is what David means in verse 7 when he says God “surround[s] me with joyful shouts of deliverance.” That’s a really cool image! Just meditate on that for a second. The same idea can be seen as well in Luke 15:10:
“I tell you, in the same way, there is a joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”
Some people use this verse to say that angels rejoice in us when we are saved. But that’s not what happens here. The rejoicing is happening in the presence of the angels. Well what are the angels witnessing. What, or whom, is in their presence? It’s God himself!
When we come, fall on our knees with bowed head, beat our breast, and say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner,” (Luke 18:13) we don’t have a God who sits there for a moment, picks up the gavel, and goes “Hmm, okay, I guess I can do that for you.” No, our God swings the gavel with every ounce of energy he has, says, “Justified!,” and then promptly throws the gavel away as he springs out of his throne to joyfully embrace the sinner who has come to the throne of deliverance.
This is why after Luke 15:10, Jesus promptly begins to teach on the parable of the prodigal son who has come home to his father who receives him with great love, affection, and mercy. There is no accident here. We are being told what kind of God we have and how he welcomes sinners who come repentant to the throne of their Heavenly Father.
And because this is how God reacted to David’s repentance, David is staring at this in wonder until it starts to rub off on David. David is so amazed by the shouts of joyful deliverance meeting him that he amazingly starts off the Psalm with the same shouts of joyful deliverance that his Father in Heaven has first proclaimed over him! David has remembered that his God is the God who welcomes sinners home with a large feast and shouts of deliverance! So David can’t help but get caught up in the joy of his Father’s rejoicing and starts shouting how joyful it is to be the one whose transgression is forgiven and to be the one whose sin is covered!
So when you think about repentance and God, is this the image you have in mind? Do you think God is some kind of somber judge whom you hope will just be merciful one more time? Or do you remember that God’s character is such that he joyfully dances and rejoices in those he delivers? Our God is a loving God, and he has no reservations in demonstrating the abundant goodness of his love.
So let’s move on to some applications if we hold those things to all be true.
Confess Sin Without Any Shame Or Deceit
One thing we can learn from this is that we don’t have to confess sin with any deceit. Notice how David says that the one who has no deceit in his spirit in verse 1 is the blessed one? Practice this spirit of honesty with other believers. How often have we held back a small portion of sin when we talk to others? Why? Why are we doing this? Isn’t it because we worry about the shame that we’ll find if we admit that we’re struggling?
If you struggle to confess sin to other believers, it suggests that you think your shame is greater than the covering offered to you in Christ’s sacrifice. If you cannot see past your shame with other Christians, you will never see yourself as you properly should in the presence of God, who rejoices to deliver his people because his covering is good and perfect. So rejoice in the full covering that is offered to us in Christ and see that no amount of sin is greater than that and so we can confess sin freely and honestly as we seek to put it to death.
Also, just as an encouragement to those who listen to confessions — if someone voluntarily offers up sin to you, you need to make it a point of emphasis to reflect the God we see here in Psalm 32. That doesn’t mean you just excuse confessed sin or that we just brush it off quickly. But it does mean that we must lead each other back into the Gospel and remind ourselves of the covering we have in Christ. Because being reminded of the Gospel and the goodness of our God is the best way to start having our sinful desires transformed. We need to remind each other that we have a God who surrounds us with faithful love and joyful shouts of deliverance, and our shame is drowned out by the blood that was spilled on Calvary!
Confess Sin Voluntarily
Another implication of this text is that when we confess sin, we shouldn’t be like a horse or mule that needs a bridle to come forth and draw near. They have no understanding because they do not trust their master. So run to confess your sin. When that oppression of God’s conviction through the Holy Spirit sits upon you, don’t suppress it. Don’t silence yourself and groan out as you resist the Spirit. God is capable of handling your sin in a most amazing way!
True believers stand ready to receive anyone who confesses and seeks after Christ. The thing that actually will stretch out your misery and oppression of sin is your own silence. I encourage you to go study the silence of Achan in Joshua 6-7 to see that one who is forced to confess finds no solace or deliverance in their confession. There is coming a day where every knee will bow and confess Jesus as Lord. (Philippians 2:10-11) Don’t wait for that day. Come now. Come willingly. Come understanding the kind of God you have and the nature of the reception you can and will receive because of who he is.
One easy thing to overlook in this Psalm is that it encourages us to make new disciples and/or disciple other believers. See how David writes this Psalm partly with the intent to “show [them] the way to go” in verse 8? David has experienced the joy of confession, the shouts of joyful deliverance, and freedom from the tyranny of sin and silence. Now he wants others to know about it!
So be honest with yourself. Are you seriously striving to find others who need to know God in a better way and teach them how God has delivered you from sin and shame through Christ’s covering? If you don’t have those kind of relationships, you need to think seriously about what that would look like. You can invite them to a Bible study. You can invite them into your homes. But David wrote this Psalm with the hope that people would come to know the same God he had come to know and that he might instruct them in the way to go about coming to this God with willing hearts rather than being stubborn mules who do not understand their God. We should imitate David’s heart here.
Shout For Joy All The Earth!
Finally, I think one thing this Psalm begs us to put into practice is to remember to shout for joy. This Psalm has a lot of confession, yes. But that’s not at all the tone of the Psalm. It’s a Psalm that sees it’s way through confession and ends in joyful deliverance. It sees the bubbling, flowing love of God and cannot help but move from a posture of kneeling confession to exuberant dancing as the God David didn’t dare would save him not only saves him, but does so in a joyful way!
Do you pray to this God? Is this the God you know? Do you only know some frightening judge? Or do you see the beautiful Father you have in Heaven who saves his people with a glad heart and with a sincere joy?
Don’t make the same mistake our Japanese friends did with Godzilla, my friends. They shot their weapons at him and created a monster where there was only ever a savior. In his roar, they only heard the terror of destruction where they should have heard the comforting shout of their deliverer arriving. God is only a God who has to be feared if we alienate ourselves from him and treat him with hostility, which is what we naturally are inclined to do. (Romans 3) But if we see him as he is, we can shout for joy! Because sin has left us in silent groaning, with our strength wasting away as if in a summer’s heat. It has left our bones feeling brittle as if burdened with old age and certain death. But our God has delivered us from sin and shame, and his perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18)
Let us see once more that love of God so that we may remember that it is not God’s nature to condemn those who fall before him and confess their sins. He will not come in anger forever. He will not charge us with our iniquity. For Christ has carried our debt and because God’s wrath is satisfied in Christ, all we have left to look forward to is a day when we will experience the full, unbridled, uninhibited love of the Father once more. Bask in this hope. Bathe in it. Bellow it out at the top of your lungs so all may know of your deliverance. But do not stay silent, friends. Your God — our God — is too good to keep all this in. Praise God!