The Parable Of Prayers
9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
In this section Jesus tells a story of a Pharisee and a tax collector. Both were sincere and devout. As a matter of fact, one kept the law seriously, or thought he did. The other was in a profession in which extortion and dishonesty were expected. It seems unfair that the prayer of a man of such exemplary behavior is not acceptable, while the prayer of the one with a questionable job is. The Pharisee had everything, except the one essential thing. The tax collector had nothing but the one essential quality, which is a sense of his own unworthiness and his need for God's grace.
The parable is about the honest prayer of a sinner verses the self-justifying prayer of the self-righteous. The main focus is humility in prayer out of a realization that righteousness cannot be reached by means of our own efforts. Prayers are heard and answered because of God's mercy not because of our self-justifying merits (v. 14). Jesus therefore rebukes the self-righteous and demonstrates the kind of attitude necessary for God's acceptance (justification)
The purposes of the Parable Prayers is given in verse 9, that one cannot trust in himself for righteousness and should not view others with contempt. "And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt."
A great danger of pride is noted right at the start. First, we come to trust our own abilities rather that trusting God. Second, we come to regard other people with contempt and disrespect rather that seeing others as being created in the image of God. Pride of self and contempt for others go hand in hand.
Those who trust in themselves that they were righteous refers to those who view their righteousness or acceptance by God from their personal goodness or their adherence to the law or religious rituals. Jesus' will show that they are self-deceived and then give an example of a disrespected person who is justified in God's sight.
In verse 10 we find two personalities taking center stage. "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.”
The parable takes place in the temple. We are introduced to two attenders of religious services who are on opposite ends of the religious and social spectrum. The first personality we are introduced to is a Pharisee or a religious man who knew all the rules. Pharisees were revered religious figures in Jesus' day. However, at several points throughout His ministry, Jesus criticizes some of the Pharisees for their hypocrisy.
The other personality is a tax collector (Mt 5:46). Despised as traitors who had sold themselves out to the Roman captors for the privilege of collecting taxes from their own people. Jesus has a propensity for using the marginalized and ostracized people groups (such as Samaritans) and professions (such as tax gathers and shepherds) for the sake of contrasting genuine faith with Jewish unbelief and self-righteousness. This serves as a not-so-subtle rebuke on certain Jews and Jewish concepts of His day.
II. SELF-SATISFIED, 10-12.
The content of the Pharisees prayer is given in verses 11 & 12. Verse 11 begins the teaching on the wrong way to approach God. “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.”
Notice the content of heart that leads him to say, “I am not like other men." His estimation of his own righteousness is greatly exaggerated for he assumes that he is acceptable to God. Self-righteousness is really self-delusion (according to 11:39-54).
Our opinion of ourselves reflects much about who we think God is. The man who said, "I am not like other men; I fast; I give tithes" thought himself superior to others, especially this tax collector. The tax collector is grouped with robbers, swindlers, the unethical, and adulterers. The religious man felt God owed him. He gave all the credit for his good life to himself and gave none to God. He praised himself even in the place build for the praise of God. Notice the Pharisee was praying to himself, instead of to God.
In 1906 sea Captain E. J. Smith publicly boasted that no real danger existed any more in SEA TRAVEL. He could imagine no way that the great ships then steaming across the oceans could ever founder or even experience any life-threatening problems. Six years later he stood on the bridge of the Titanic, the greatest liner of her time, while its builder told him it couldn't stay afloat. Captain Smith fell prey to the most human of mistakes, boastfulness.
The Pharisee's prayer reeks of it. Others simply didn't measure up to him. He was proud of his life and of his accomplishments, especially his religious ones. He wasn't bad like other men, he had fulfilled the requirements of the law. He experienced no conviction of any wrong in his life. He was self-satisfied with his own righteousness and looked down on others. When he thanked God, it was only for his own goodness, not for God's grace and mercy toward him.
How easy it is to compare ourselves favorably with others, for we almost… always look at others from our viewpoint instead of from God’s point of view. God's ideal though in behavior and action remains His Son, not us nor our contemporaries, nor our works. We will not see others clearly until we have developed Christ-like eyes and character. When we do, we will understand how far short of the perfect glory of God we fall.
Since salvation is by grace, we should not feel superior to another. Grace doesn't express itself in/by despising others. Spiritual/religious arrogance is presumption, assuming one stands in God’s place acting as judge and jury over others.
His religious routines continue in verse 12. "I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get." Not only would a religious Jew pray three times a day, but he would fast twice a week Fasting twice a week goes beyond that which was prescribed in the law (Lev 16:29, 31; 23:27, 29, 32; Num 29:7). Mondays and Thursdays were fast days. Not accidentally, they were also market days in Jerusalem, which meant that some had opportunity to demonstrate their piety. With long faces they made their way into the temple to pray so everyone could see their spirituality. Fasting should be done as an act of contrition, brokenness, humility or sorrow. Instead it became another point of pride.
Paying tithes on "all that I get", also goes beyond what the law required as only certain items were tithed (Deut 14:22–23).
The Pharisee’s prayer was concerned with telling God what a good man he was, for not only did he keep the Law by fasting and tithing (v. 12), but also… he considered himself better than other people (v. 11). He was using other people as his standard for measuring righteousness.
Jesus teaches next the correct way to approach God. In verse 13 the tax collector prays a completely different kind of prayer than the previous prayer. "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!"
"Standing far away", probably in the court of the Gentiles or possibly the court of Israel if, because he was a Roman sympathizer (Mt 5:46), he was permitted that far… he bows first his life, then his eyes and head before God. The tax collector respected the holiness of God and therefore saw himself as sinful and in need of grace and forgiveness.
The tax collector even "beats his breast" as a sign of mourning and contrition. In such contrition the acknowledge sinner throws Himself upon the mercy of God. He then cries out "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" His location, posture, and speech reveal his humility and a proper understanding of his sinfulness, in sharp contrast to the self-righteous Pharisee.
The difference seems to be that the tax collector used God as his standard for measuring. The prayer of tax collector therefore expresses humility, dependence and desperation. The pharisee was proud and boastful, the tax collector grieved over his own sinful condition. The pharisee described his righteousness, the tax collector begged for mercy to escape the judgment his sin deserved. Which one of them truly prayed?
Evangelist D. L. Moody once visited a PRISON called "The Tombs" to preach to the inmates. After he had finished speaking, Moody talked with a number of men in their cells. He asked each prisoner this question, "What brought you here?" Again and again he received replies like these: "I don't deserve to be here." "I was framed." "I was falsely accused." "I was not given a fair trial." "The judge or a witness took a bribe." Not one inmate would admit he was guilty.
Moody finally found a man with his face buried in his hands, weeping. "What's wrong, my friend?" he inquired. The prisoner responded, "My sins are more than I can bear." Relieved to find at least one man who would recognize his guilt and need of forgiveness, the evangelist exclaimed, "Thank God for that!" Moody then joyfully led him to a saving knowledge of Christ-a knowledge that released him from the shackles of his sin.
As long as the sinner claims innocence and denies his sin before the Lord, he cannot receive the blessings of redemption. But when he/she pleads guilty and cries out, "God, be merciful to me a sinner," he/she is forgiven. In order to be found, you must first recognize that you are lost. To find salvation you must admit you are lost.
When we confess to being a sinner and cast ourselves upon God's mercy, we are traveling the road to true righteousness. We deserve justice but need mercy. That need is met only in response to humble confession and earnest petition. Jesus said the tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home justified.
In verse 14 Jesus states which one was justified before God. I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalt" s himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Jesus' closing declaration uplifts the tax collector as an example to us. The application of the parable is that it is necessary for people to humble themselves before God to gain forgiveness (13:30). God only justifies the repentant.
The Pharisee left the temple confident he had fulfilled his religious duties but still bearing his sin and guilt before God. He had not sought forgiveness through confession and repentance and thus had not found forgiveness.
God justified the tax collector and not the Pharisee is a shocking role reversal. (Note Jesus’ familiar role reversal, Luke 14:11; Mt. 18:4; 23:12.) The Pharisee, who was perceived as righteous in the eyes of the people, was not accepted by God whereas the hated but truly penitent tax collector was. No doubt this enraged the pharisees in His audience (v. 9) and gave them further cause to seek Jesus’ death in Jerusalem a short time later.
With His closing advise in the last part of verse 14 Jesus once again (14:11) warns us not to exalt ourselves above others. "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled." Those who are proud are exalting themselves will one day be brought low (humbled) by God. Conceit and pride warp the thinking process. As we fill ourselves with the true knowledge of God we will humble ourselves before Him. Then if we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, He will lift us up when, where, and as He desires (which may well be when He examines us at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10)
Becoming the new person we are in Christ means reversing our natural tendencies toward pride and looking down on others. We instead are to be mindful of our sins so that we can confess them in repentance. We have a tendency to judge other people by their actions and our self by our intentions rather than our actions. If we would reverse that, it would change our life. If we judge others not by what they do, but by what they meant to do. Then judge our self not by what we meant, but by what we did, we would be much humbler people.
Jesus showed the way to God by contrasting the attitudes and actions of a publican with those of a Pharisee. The despised publican had sold himself out to the Roman captors for the privilege of collecting taxes from his own people. The zealous religious leader was known for his meticulous observance of the law, but his approach to God and to righteousness was wrong.
The Pharisee sought to establish right relationships with God by human achievement and self-trust. The outcast publican aware of his shortcomings, sought and received forgiveness. The publican realized he had nothing of which to boast before God. His only plea was, "God, be merciful to me a sinner." Jesus placed his approval on this kind of repentant humility. The tax collector thus improved his spiritual health having found acceptance before God through humble repentance and mercy.
It's much the same way with salvation. As long as a person makes excuses for his/her sinful behavior, he/she will never experience deliverance. It's only when he/she admits, "I am a sinner and cannot save myself," that the Lord will rescue from sin & its eternal consequences. The proud & boastful Pharisee was lost. The tax collector, however, acknowledged his sinfulness & "went down to his house justified"
I invite you at this time to admit your guilt & receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior. Come & ask God to save you from pretentiousness & self-deception lest you deprive yourself of His mercy. Remember, salvation is for sinners only. Does that mean you?
Once we understand that answered prayer is based solely upon mercy, prayer becomes a total pleasure. And when the answers come and the blessings are released and things begin to happen, guess who gets the glory. You can't take credit because of your spirituality or discipline. You simply glorify God with humility and great appreciation as you stand in awe of His answer to your prayer and His work in your life.
Neither prayer nor salvation is not based upon merit. They're based upon mercy. That's what this sinner discovered, and once we learn this lesson, prayer will become a joy to you as well..
A Prayer For Forgiveness
And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
Good afternoon church. This is a continuation from last weeks message about forgiveness. If you remember the last verse that we read in Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
After all…that is what this prayer is about. We are asking our Heavenly Father for forgiveness for our sins, while at the same time…praying to forgive those that had sinned against us.
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. This is the only petition with a human response and the only one that Jesus actually elaborates on. The first part of this verse is incredible news. The second part is terrifying.
Before we begin, let me point out something that you will notice immediately. Some of your translations use the word “debt” and some of them use the word “trespasses.” Which word is correct? In verse 12, Matthew uses the Greek word for debt. In verse 14-15, he uses the Greek word for trespasses. They both are conveying the same idea, but “debts” is more true to the Greek.
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
When we ask for forgiveness, we are acknowledging that we owe a debt to God. It’s not accidental. Our sin is active rebellion again a holy and righteous God. God’s standard is perfection and we cannot jump high enough for His holiness. We fall short. We miss the mark. We need forgiveness. We need to seek it daily.
But, wait, aren’t we forgiven of our sin when we become a Christian? Yes. When you place your full faith and trust in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross in your place to pay the sin debt you owe, you are justified. That means you are declared “not guilty” but, even more than that, Jesus trades His righteousness for your sin.
2 Corinthians 5:21
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Jesus paid it all/ all to Him I owe / sin had left a crimson stain / He washed it white as snow.
But…even after we have become Christians, we still sin. We still fall short. We still miss the mark. There are some churches that teach that after your conversion you don’t sin anymore.
Even after we are born again, we still sin because our sin nature is still with us until we experience glorification in heaven. We don’t become sinless, but because of the Holy Spirit’s work in our new heart, we will sin less.
Jesus directs us to pray daily for the forgiveness of our sins. And John gave us this absolutely amazing promise wedged in-between the two verses in I John:
1 John 1:9
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Confession means to agree with Him/Jesus, that sin is sin. God says that He will forgive you your sins not based on anything you have done because Jesus paid it all. He not only will forgive you, but He will cleanse you. He will make you clean and restore the broken bridge of relationship. Jesus calls us to confess our sins and repent, which simple means a change of mind that leads to a change in direction.
This is not good news but great news! But there is another part of this verse that is terrifying. “Forgive us our debts/sins as we forgive our debtors/sin against us.”
The way we forgive others will be the standard that God applies to our requests for forgiveness.
In Matthew 18, Jesus told his disciples to help them understand forgiveness. Jesus was teaching on forgiveness and Peter asked a question that was probably on everyone’s mind.
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Peter was looking for a loophole. How many times do I have to forgive? When it reaches eight can I then punch them in the throat?
Jesus told Peter that he was looking at forgiveness entirely wrong. When He/Jesus said 70X7, Jesus didn’t mean literally 490 times. That expression basically means infinity. We are to live in a posture of heart that radiates forgiveness. “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:15)
Jesus tells them a parable to help them understand:
23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
In the Roman Empire, most prisoners were executed quickly so they didn’t stay in prison long. But there were a lot of prisons filled with people who couldn’t pay their debts.
The king calls one of his debtors before him. He owed something like $10 million dollars. Did he make a bad investment deal? Did he have a gambling problem? We aren’t told. We are simply told that he owed more money than he could ever pay back in twenty lifetimes. The king ordered that all he had, including his wife and children, be sold to repay the debt. This wouldn’t come close to paying off this debt, but it was the King’s decision.
The man was overwhelmed by the verdict and fell on his knees and begged the king for mercy and time to pay back the debt. The king was moved with compassion and extended mercy to him. He cancelled the debt and set him free. So far, so good?
We owed a debt far greater than ten million dollars. We were rebels against a holy God. We couldn’t pay for our sin debt. It takes perfect blood to pay that debt. We fall short. We miss the mark. We were completely hopeless and helpless and headed to hell.
So, like the man in the parable, we fall on our knees and beg for mercy. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. We all have fallen short of the glory of God and deserve hell. We deserved to die for our sins but, instead, out of pure mercy, grace, and love, Jesus died in our place. He lived a perfect life, never sinned, and was the only human ever, who was good enough to go to heaven. He went to the cross in our place to pay the penalty of our sins. God the Father turned His back on God the Son on the cross and all of His wrath for our sins was poured out on Jesus.
But we don’t just get mercy, we get amazing grace – which means getting something you don’t deserve. And by that sacrificial, substitutionary death on the cross, Jesus opened the way to heaven and a relationship with God. On the cross, as He took has last breath, Jesus yelled, “It is finished!” The Greek work literally pays a debt that has been paid in full.
So far, the parable is pretty straightforward. Jesus continues…
28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.
As he is leaving, he runs into a fellow servant who owed him about $10. He became violent with him, attacking him physically and demanded that he pay him back immediately. This fellow servant did exactly what he had done and fell to his knees and begged for mercy.
But there was no mercy given to the fellow servant. He had the man thrown into prison until he could pay off his debt. By the way, this kind of a way of holding the person for ransom because the family would have to come up with the money to get them out.
This didn’t happen in a vacuum. There were people watching this and they were mortified. Why? Because of the unbelievable hypocrisy of the man who had been forgiven so much. It bothered them to the point that they went to the King and told him what happened.
32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
The king was in rage. He had extended amazing grace to the man who, in turn, refused to extend that same grace to someone who owed him far less. He then was handed over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay the impossible debt back.
Jesus ends with these haunting words…
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Is God’s Love Conditional? You may be thinking to yourself…does that mean that our forgiveness is conditional? Is Jesus really saying that if we refuse to forgive others we will not be forgiven? In a word – Yes!
But we need to make sure we understand what He is teaching here. It’s so important that it is the only part of the prayer that we elaborates on… “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Jesus is saying that if you refuse to forgive someone else after you have been forgiven of much more, you are proving that you don’t understand the depths of your sin and that you are not yet a believer and are in danger of being handed over the torturers…which is hell.
The Apostle Paul had this to say…
32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
God has forgiven a debt so huge that we could have never paid it off. But if we turn around and refuse to extend that same mercy and grace to others, there is something deeply sick about our faith. Those that have been forgiven much will love much. Anyone convicted yet? Forgiven Much? Do you truly understand the depth of our sin? Do you see ourselves as spiritually bankrupt? Do we understand that the only thing we are entitled to is hell?
But let’s just be honest…for you and I, forgiveness isn’t always easy. What if they really hurt you? What if they aren’t sorry? Isn’t there a loophole? Nope. 70X7. That’s the command!
First, forgiveness is a one-time decision of the will. You choose to forgive. You choose not to hold it over their heads. Then, God will take you on the journey of forgiveness that may take years. What are the consequences of an unforgiving spirit?
* Fellowship with the Father is blocked.
* Your prayers will not be answered.
* The devil gets a foothold through your bitterness.
* You waste time nursing a grudge.
* You become enslaved to the people you hate – they live rent free inside your head.
It’s been said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
“Forgive us of our sins AS we forgive those that sin against us”. Do we feel the weight of that little word “as”, God will forgive you and I, based on our willingness to forgive others.
Let me ask you some questions and yes…this was of me as well!
Are you up to date on your forgiveness? Are you keeping short accounts? Are you holding a grudge against anyone? Let it go… Do you harbor bitterness against anyone? Let it go.
Are you talking too much about what others have done to you? (Remember, from Matthew 18, if someone hurts you, you go directly to him or her) Let it go.
Are we living out Romans 12:18?
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you aspire to reflect the kindness of God and to stand ready to forgive. Let me end with this short story:
On May 11, 2002, Megan Napier and her friend Lisa, both 20 years old, were coming back from a day at the beach when they were t-boned by a drunk driver named Eric Smallridge. They both died in the wreck. Eric was sentenced to 22 years in prison, 11 years for each girl.
Megan’s mom knew she had a decision to make. She could live in hate and bitterness the rest of her life or she could choose to forgive Eric. Eleven members of the family petitioned the court to reduce his sentence in half. The judge couldn’t believe it and Eric didn’t understand it. Through this experience, he committed his life to Christ. Then Renee asked the court if he could have several leaves from the prison so he could come and tell his story with her, which to everyone’s amazing, they granted.
Eric would travel from the prison in cuffs and speak with her and then go back to his cell that night. After nine and half years, he was released and Eric and Renee have spoken in every county in Florida.
Renee is a big fan of the Christian music artist Matthew West. She wrote him a letter detailing this story. He was so moved by the email that he printed it out and kept it in his guitar case for two years. He finally pulled it out and wrote a song “Forgiveness” about their story.
Show me how to love the unlovable? / Show me how to reach the unreachable / ?Help me now to do the impossible? / Forgiveness, forgiveness / ?Help me now to do the impossible? / Forgiveness.
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not [b]impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit. 3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah 5 I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah 6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You In a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters. They shall not come near him. 7 You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. 9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle,
Else they will not come near you. 10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him. 11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
How do you stabilize your life when you experience more ups and downs than the stock market? Where do you go when you’ve failed? Where do you turn when you’ve hurt those closest to you? Do you grab some rope and hitch it up to your sin pile and start dragging? Or, is there something better?
Before we look at Psalm 32 this morning, let me list a few things that guilt does to us.
While many of us wrestle with false guilt, too few of us take our real guilt seriously. Instead of confessing our sins, we often bury them or just try to ignore them. The Bible calls us back to the truth that we are sinners who have missed the mark of God’s perfection. Our own death warrants have been written into our birth certificates. In short, we struggle with guilt because we’re guilty. Ecclesiastes 7:20: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”
From our text, David is the author. While he was a great king and walked with God for much of his life, we also know that he committed adultery and murder. When David speaks, he does so as a sinner who has been forgiven. The particular sin that David refers to is not important because there are plenty to choose from. He wrote this psalm to help us know that we can be fully restored and completely forgiven no matter what we’ve done.
Psalm 32 has also been referred to as one of “Paul’s Psalms” because it is quoted extensively in Romans 4:6-8 to help establish that we are declared righteous not because of what we’ve done, but because of what Christ has done on the Cross.
6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”
If you look at the very beginning of Psalm 32, right before verse 1, you’ll see the phrase, “A maskil.” This was a literary or musical term to indicate that the words to follow are very important. In other words, this is a “preaching psalm” given to us so that we can learn from the experiences of another. David wants us to pay particular attention to this inspired instruction so that we’ll understand and embrace our need for forgiveness.
This is likely one of the psalms that Paul had in mind in Colossians 3:16…
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
With that in mind, let’s see what we can learn about the fruit of forgiveness as we follow this simple outline:
1.The happiness of forgiveness (1-2) 2. The heaviness of sin (3-5) 3. The help of God (6-11)
1.The happiness of forgiveness.
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit.
The very first word of Psalm 32 is “blessed.” This has a very rich meaning that cannot be defined with just one word. We could say, “How happy!” or “Congratulations to,” or, “Good for the one who,” or “Oh, the bliss of!” In addition, this word is in the plural so we could say, “Oh, the multiple happiness, the bundles of blessings to the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”
This is the second Psalm that begins with the word “blessed.” The first use is found in Psalm 1:1: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” We are to be congratulated when we avoid sin and refuse to follow those who are a bad influence in our life. We are blessed when we do right and yet when we do sin and mess up and have our sins forgiven, Psalm 32 says we are blessed as well. This is cool. It’s much better to avoid sin and experience the blessings that come from making right choices. But when we blow it, we can still be called blessed if we ask for forgiveness.
David provides a threefold description of sin in these first two verses. Charles Spurgeon calls this the three-headed dog barking at the gates of hell. “Transgression” depicts a defiant disobedience toward God, a revolt against the Almighty. “Sin” means to miss the mark of God’s perfection either through acts of commission or omission. The word translated “sin” in verse 2 is actually the word “iniquity,” which represents a crookedness, deformity, or perversion. The image is of a tree that is gnarled and twisted.
The point of using these three different words is to remind us that all types of sin and wrongdoing can be forgiven. We defiantly disobey, we miss the mark, and we’re inherently crooked. Our “little” sins are an affront to the Almighty and those “big” acts of rebellion offend our Holy God. But no matter what we’ve done, we can be restored.
David also uses a triad of words to express the fullness of our forgiveness. The word “forgiven” means, “to lift a heavy burden and carry it away.” Our transgressions are taken away. Instead of trying to tug them along with us, we allow the Lord to lift them from us. The word “covered” refers to that which is concealed. What is offensive to God is put out of sight. The idea is that our sins are so covered that they will never appear again.
The third phrase, “not count against” is rich in meaning. We get the words “reckon” or “impute” from this term. This is the same word used in Genesis 15:6,where God “reckoned” righteousness to Abraham. God does not count our sins against us and in their place, He has imputed the righteousness of another. God erases our sin-debt from the books as if it never happened. Romans 4 establishes that Christ’s right standing before God is ours and our sin is His.
No wonder David refers to the blessings of forgiven transgressions, the covering of sins, and the erasing of our iniquities. Isaiah 1:18: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” And, according to Isaiah 43:25, when God forgives, He no longer remembers our sins: “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
This reminds me of a story about a man who was telling his friend about an argument he had with his wife. “Every time we have an argument, she gets historical.” The friend corrected him and said, “You mean hysterical, don’t you?” “No, I mean historical. Every time we fight she drags up stuff from the past and holds it against me!” Church, God will not get “historical” with you if you have confessed your sins to Him. Psalm 103:12: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” I love Micah 7:19: “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
In the last part of Psalm 32:2, David says that God does all this for the one in “whose spirit is no deceit.” That doesn’t mean someone who has no faults but rather refers to those who readily admit their sins. It’s the idea of authenticity. It means that we are not deceitful in acknowledging our sin. Listen carefully. The key to the Christian life is not our personal holiness, but our repentance. It’s not a matter of trying to be perfect but recognizing that we’re not. We need to fully admit that we are twisted transgressors and selfish sinners. Far too many of us are dishonest about our sins.
2. The Heaviness of Sin.
3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old. Through my groaning all the day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah 5 I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Look at verse 3: “When I kept silent, my bones grew old. Through my groaning all day long.” David is reflecting upon those times when he chose to keep quiet about his sins. When he tried to ignore his iniquities, his bones felt like they were decaying.
David tells us that his groaning went on all day long, or continuously, without intermission. When we don’t own our sins, our bodies revolt. Instead of happiness, we experience heartache. When we keep our mouths shut, our conscience screams. When we bottle up evil our bones waste away. Proverbs 28:13: “He who conceals his sins does not prosper.”
He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
We could put it this way: we are only as sick as our secrets. When you hide your sins, you will be unhealthy and when you share your secret with God and with someone else, you’ll stop feeling sick. The secret you want most to conceal is the one you most need to reveal.
Verse 4 continues, “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me.” Even at night David could not rest from the cries of his conscience and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The word “heavy” means, “to grievously afflict.” God’s hand can bring blessings but can also bear down on us. It’s because He cares so much for us. He loves us just the way we are but loves us too much to let us keep living the way we are. As Hebrews 12:10 says, “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.”
10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness.
David recalls feeling like his strength was sapped, his energy evaporated as in the heat of the summer. Guilt is really a divine implant graciously designed to bring the sinner back to God.
These verses remind us that when we don’t fully confess, we will experience emotional and physical distress. Anger and bitterness can come as a result of unconfessed sin and will eat your insides out.
David is suggesting here in verse 4 that we could be dry spiritually because of some specific disobedience in our life. After describing his spiritual drought and distress, David then writes the word, “Selah” immediately following this verse. This is a word that beckons us to pause and think about what has just been said. David doesn’t want us to miss the point. Only confession will bring restoration.
Verse 5 gives us the right approach. When David could find relief in no other way, he said, “Then, I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ -- and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Instead of concealing, David is now confessing. He first acknowledged his sin by stating the obvious. Then he stopped trying to cover it up. By the way, we can’t expect God to cover what we’re not willing to uncover.
Notice that he takes personal responsibility by the use of personal pronouns my sin, my iniquity, my transgressions. David repeats the three words for sins mentioned in verse 1: he acknowledges his sin, he does not cover up his iniquity, and he confesses his transgressions to the Lord. Notice that he doesn’t deny, minimize, or blame someone else. He simply calls his sin, “sin.” It’s not an error, a mistake, or a lapse in judgment. He doesn’t argue about what the meaning of “is” is. The greatest holdout to the healing of my hang-ups is me.
Confession is more than merely informing God that we’ve sinned. It also involves a turning away. It’s only when we stop being quiet about our specific sins, when we refuse to hide our transgressions and admit to God what we can barely admit to ourselves, that we will experience the fruit of forgiveness. Instead of just confessing our sins wholesale, it’s time to own up for the specifics.
Here’s a helpful phrase to keep in mind, when you make a mess, confess! When you recognize your sin and reject it, God will remove it, “And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
We don’t have to beg God to forgive us because He wants to forgive more than we want to be forgiven. We don’t have to bargain with Him, and we don’t have to bribe Him by promising to do a bunch of good things, and we don’t have to do penance for the bad things we’ve done. Another pause is needed here Selah so that we don’t rush past the beauty of having all of our sins forgiven.
Lastly…3. The Help of God.
Psalms 32:6 -11
6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You In a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters. They shall not come near him. 7 You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. 9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you. 10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him. 11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
1.His protection (6-7). David urges those who are “godly” to pray. That doesn’t mean those who are perfect but those who are “inclined” to be godly. It’s not someone who is holy, but refers to the person who belongs to a holy God. There’s a sense of urgency attached to this call to prayer. Pray now while you can. When we seek Him he will protect us from the deluge of mighty waters. Verse 7 says… “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance”. It’s interesting that in the beginning of this psalm, David is hiding his sins from God; now he is hiding himself in God. Whenever we confess our sins and find forgiveness, we will want to seek shelter under His wings.
2. His instruction (8-10). God promises to instruct us and teach us in the way we should go. The blessing of protection is wonderful, but it would be incomplete if it were not accompanied by His direction. What good would it be if He guarded us from destruction but didn’t tell us which way to go?
Verse 9 warns us about not being stubborn and stupid when it comes to following God: “Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you.” By nature, most of us are wild and unwilling to obey. When David acted like a mule, God put the bridle of suffering on him and pulled him to repentance. Is God humbling you right now? Is He trying to break you with the bit and bridle? He only does this so we will see our need and come back to Him.
3.His joy (11). When we stay close to the Lord by cultivating a spirit of surrender and submission, and when we practice regular confession, we can’t help but break out into joy, “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” The word, “rejoice” means to “spin around with glee.” And the phrase “be glad” literally means, “to brighten up!” When we have our sins forgiven, we can’t help but break out into spontaneous expressions of joy. David put it this way in Psalm 92:4: “You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done.”
Those who are forgiven much love much. Those who have their sins covered can leap for joy. Conversely, if you don’t have much joy in your life today it may be because you’ve been carrying around a burden of guilt. Sin may be sucking the life out of you. It may be strangling your joy. If you want to truly be happy and stop living with so much distress, then learn to confess!
13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Pastor Richard Santos
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