the blessing of forgiveness

A Maskil of David.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Psalm 32:1-2

We're in the season of Lent, which is the 40 day countdown to Easter. This is a good time to begin reflecting on what was accomplished by Christ on the cross. David's words in this psalm are applicable to a meditation on the forgiveness of one's sins. In fact, Paul quotes this psalm in Romans 4, when he's laying out justification by faith.

To have your sins forgiven or covered by God is a blessed thing, a good thing, a positive thing. Adam Clarke provides some good notes on these four aspects of sin described here: transgression, sin, iniquity, and deceit.


Adam Clarke:

True blessedness consists in remission of sin, and purification of the heart, 1,2. What the psalmist felt in seeking these blessings, 3-5. How they should be sought, 6,7. The necessity of humility and teachableness, 8,9. The misery of the wicked, 10. The blessedness of the righteous, 11.


The title of this Psalm is significant, ledavid maskil, A Psalm of David, giving instruction, an instructive Psalm; so called by way of eminence, because it is calculated to give the highest instruction relative to the guilt of sin, and the blessedness of pardon and holiness or justification and sanctification. It is supposed to have been composed after David's transgression with Bath-sheba, and subsequently to his obtaining pardon. The Syriac entitles it, "A Psalm of David concerning the sin of Adam, who dared and transgressed; and a prophecy concerning Christ, because through him we are to be delivered from hell." The Arabic says, "David spoke this Psalm prophetically concerning the redemption." The Vulgate, Septuagint, and AEthiopic, are the same in meaning as the Hebrew.

Verse 1. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven
In this and the following verse four evils are mentioned: 1. Transgression, pesha. 2. Sin, chataah. 3. Iniquity, avon. 4. Guile, remiyah. The first signifies the passing over a boundary, doing what is prohibited. The second signifies the missing of a mark, not doing what was commanded; but is often taken to express sinfulness, or sin in the future, producing transgression in the life. The third signifies what is turned out of its proper course or situation; any thing morally distorted or perverted. Iniquity, what is contrary to equity or justice. The fourth signifies fraud, deceit, guile, three acts are mentioned: forgiving, covering, and not imputing. 1. TRANSGRESSION, pesha, must be forgiven, nesui, borne away, i.e., by a vicarious sacrifice; for bearing sin, or bearing away sin, always implies this. 2. SIN, chataah, must be covered, kesui, hidden from the sight. It is odious and abominable, and must be put out of sight. 3. INIQUITY, anon, which is perverse or distorted, must not be imputed, lo yachshob, must not be reckoned to his account. 4. GUILE, remiyah, must be annihilated from the soul: In whose spirit there is no GUILE. The man whose transgression is forgiven; whose sin is hidden, God having cast it as a millstone into the depths of the sea; whose iniquity and perversion is not reckoned to his account; and whose guile, the deceitful and desperately wicked heart, is annihilated, being emptied of sin and filled with righteousness, is necessarily a happy man.

The old Psalter translates these two verses thus: Blissid qwas wikednes es for gyven, and qwas synnes is hyled (covered.) Blisful man til qwam Lord retted (reckoneth) noght Syn: ne na treson es in his gast (spirit.) In vain does any man look for or expect happiness while the power of sin remains, its guilt unpardoned, and its impurity not purged away. To the person who has got such blessings, we may say as the psalmist said, ashrey, O the blessedness of that man, whose transgression is forgiven!

St. Paul quotes this passage, Romans 4:6,7, to illustrate the doctrine of justification by faith; where see the notes.

6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;