Psalm 32

Has anyone experienced any joy lately? I began helping my daughter Sarah by taking her daughter Kate to Kindergarten. Sarah has to drop her off an hour before school so we get to hang out. After I took her for a couple of days, Sarah called to say she was working from home and that she would take her. And then later called to say that Kate was crying when they went by our house because she wanted her papa to take her to school.

O what joy for those who have grandchildren who love them to pieces. In fact, is there any greater joy than to be loved by your grandchildren?

Verse 1 “O, what joy . . . for those who whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight.”

Joy, happiness, and peace are three things most people are looking for. Most people, not all, (we’ve all met that person who for whatever reason prefers to be a grump) but most folks prefer to be happy, to enjoy life, to experience blessed peace.

One thing the Psalmist wants us to know is that sin and its consequent negative feelings interferes with our being happy, joyful and peaceful. Feeling ashamed for some action taken in the past is downright discouraging.

One Christian author writes, “Psychiatrists and doctors say that unresolved guilt is the number one cause of mental illness and suicide. It prompts millions of Americans to gulp down pills to tranquilize their anxiety.” 1

Pastor and author Gordon McDonald writes, “We cannot expect to live healthy in the future when the baggage of our past keeps banging away at the trap door of our minds demanding attention.” 2

But “O, what joy for those who whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight.”

Verse 2 “Yes, what joy . . . for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”

A new study has found that the average person is holding onto thirteen secrets, five of which they’ve never told a living soul, and that includes the Living God.

Michael Slepian, a professor at Columbia Business School, and his team examined 13,000 real life secrets to figure out what people are keeping secrets about. “telling a lie, harming someone, drug use, theft, violating someone’s trust, sexual infidelity, or a secret hobby.” 3

Dale Larson, of Santa Clara University found that “secretive people are more depressed, shame-prone, anxious, and sensitive to judgment, which makes them both tight-lipped and vulnerable to illness. Denial, pain, and addictions are common among those who keep secrets.” 4

But “what joy . . . for those whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”

Complete honesty . . . complete honesty; the context makes it clear we’re talking complete honesty with God. Which begs the question, do any of us have any secrets from God? Or should I say, “Do any of us have any secrets that we think we are hiding from God?” Isn’t it foolish when Christian people like you and I think that we can pull the wool over the eyes of God?

Every once in a while, we all need to be reminded of Hebrews 4:13: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the One to whom we are accountable.”

We cannot hide from God. We cannot hide our sin from God. So we might as well come clean and be honest with God. For if we do not, verses 3 and 4 result.

“When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. Day and night Your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.”

David’s conscience ‘groaned all day long.’ David could not get the wrong out of his mind. It woke up with him in the morning; it followed him throughout his daily activities; it gnawed at him as he tried to sleep.

If we don’t deal with our guilty feelings, then our guilty feelings will deal with us.

New research shows that some people actually feel physically heavier when they’re burdened with a secret sin. Michael Slepian, (the 13,000 secret guy) wrote, “We found that when people were thinking about their secret sins, they actually acted as if they were burdened by physical weight. When participants were asked to judge the slope of a hill or the length of a distance, those who were preoccupied with keeping secrets judged the hills as steeper and the distances longer than they really were.” 5

Of course, not all people, not all Christians are psychologically weighed down so heavily by secrets sins. I was reading in Reader’s Digest about a man who had lost his wallet. A few days later he got a letter: “Sir, I found your wallet. I’m feeling a little guilty so I am returning some of your money. If these guilty feelings weigh me down any more, I’ll send the rest.’

But my guess is there are some among us today, perhaps many who have and currently are experiencing what those people in Slepian’s study and David felt as recorded in verses 3 and 4:

When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. Day and night Your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

Former Maryland poet laureate Lucille Clifton wrote a poem in which she pictures herself trying to keep her eyes closed, ignoring the truth. But then she finishes the poem with a voice telling her, “You might as well answer the door child, the truth is furiously knocking.” 6

That’s what David finally did.

Verse 5 “Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself,’ I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.”

Now I want us to notice that thus far the feelings described sound like ‘guilt’ but the word ‘guilt’ hasn’t appeared till this verse when he proclaims, “All my guilt is gone.”
This is because the Hebrew word for guilt was not a feeling, but rather it was objective guilt that resulted as the consequence of some sin.

Many people today feel guilty for one simple reason: they are guilty. The Bible says we are all guilty before a holy God. And all the psychological counseling in the world cannot relieve a person of that guilt. You can pretend it’s not there or find someone else to blame for your problems, but the only real and effective way to remove guilt is to get to the root of the problem, which plainly is sin.

David stopped trying to hide his sin and came clean with God by Him telling like it is. Confession is not telling God something He doesn’t already know. In fact, the word confession means “to agree with.” When we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with Him that we have rebelled against His authority. We agree that something twisted in us needs straightened out.

When we confess our sin to the Lord, He promises to forgive (v.1). This means that He takes the sin away. He hides it from His sight (vs 1). The debt is paid or cancelled. And the objective guilt that was ascribed to us as a result of sin against God, David says, “is gone”

But wait a minute. I am a Christian; I have confessed to God that I was a sinner and still am a sinner. I have asked for and received His forgiveness through the merits of Jesus death on the cross. So why do I still feel guilty? Perhaps I am not really a Christian at all. I don’t know if I have ever experienced the Blessed Assurance Fanny Crosby was writing about.

If that’s you, then listen up. God gave us a memory that for the most part works pretty well. Most of us remember things that we have done in the past that we are not proud of.
Being relieved of objective guilt is not going to remove those memories or the negative feelings we have about our self.

That’s why I am suggesting that we follow the Hebrew way of thinking and substitute some other word for the guilty feelings we have. For although our guilt has been removed we still have feelings of regret, feelings of remorse, feelings of shame.

I believe those feelings will follow us to our grave. And I believe God gave us those feelings for a purpose. He hopes that those negative feelings will spur us on to better behavior in the future. If we didn’t experience those negative feelings about our sinful past we would be much more likely to sin again and again in the future.

So, are we sinners? Absolutely. Can we be forgiven? Of course we can. Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin. “In Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins through the riches of His grace.” The death sentence of guilt has been removed.

Is there any way to minimize feelings of remorse and regret that linger from sin committed in the past? I don’t know that there is. I think those feelings are part of the human condition for as long as we live. Now when we go to heaven, that will be a different story. That’s when we will be healed of these painful memories.

But don’t miss the main point of this Psalm: “O, what joy for those who whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight.”

What joy for those who have decided that it is futile to keep secrets from God!
What joy for those who have agreed with God about who they really are!
What joy for those who have confessed their sin to God!
What joy for those who have embraced Jesus as Savior!
What joy for those who have placed their faith in the power of the cross!
What joy for those who know that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
What joy for those who look forward to eternal life through Jesus!
What joy for those who come to the table knowing that because of what Jesus has done for us, we are accepted.

1 Ridulph, Charles. The Impact: Upon Secondary Victims. [Bloomington, Indiana: Balboa Press, © 2016] page 39.

2 MacDonald, Gordon. Rebuilding Your Broken World. [Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson © 1988] page 139.

3 David Finch, Elk Grove, California; source: Bec Crew, “Science Predicts You’re Hiding 13 Secrets – And Nearly Half of Those You’ve Never Told a Soul,” ScienceAlert.Com (5-29-17)

4 Carlin Flora, “Unlocking the Vault,” Psychology Today (3-7-17); submitted by Jerry De Luca, Montreal West, Montreal, Canada

5 David Finch, Elk Grove, California; source: Bec Crew, “Science Predicts You’re Hiding 13 Secrets – And Nearly Half of Those You’ve Never Told a Soul,” ScienceAlert.Com (5-29-17)

6 Hilary Holladay, Wild Blessings: The Poetry of Lucille Clifton (Louisiana State University Press, 2012), page 39