When I Kept Silent (Psalm 32)
Topic: One Mission: Through Many Tribulations Passage: Psalm 32:1–32:11
I. Everybody Hurts
“When your day is long and the night...the night is yours alone...when you're sure you've had enough of this life, well hang on... Don't let yourself go... Everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes.”
Some of you may recognize that those lines come from the band REM, from their 1992 hit, “Everybody Hurts”. For some reason, as I thought about our this topic, that song came to mind. As title indicates, the song is a simple reminder of the fact that suffering is a universal experience. “Everybody cries... everybody hurts...”. All of us have suffered in some way. Many of us are suffering right now.
But last week, Psalm 22 reminded us that although suffering always tempts us to only 'look around' at our difficult circumstances, God is calling us to 'look up'... He wants us to look to Him in the midst of our suffering... to regularly remind ourselves of and cling to the love and faithfulness of God; even when we're tempted to think he doesn't care.
II. The Passage: “I Will Confess My Transgressions” (32:1-11)
But this morning we move on from Psalm 22, and are camping out in Psalm 32. And next week we will move forward to Psalm 42. All of these psalms teach us something important about the kinds of sufferings we experience in this life. Look with me at Psalm 32:1...
1. Suffering from Silence and Sin (32:1-4)
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.  For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
Now, let me say right from the ‘get-go’ that one of the things that makes this Psalm so easy to break apart for an outline is the presence of the word “selah”. Do you see that? Now, no one knows for sure what “selah” means, but (like “maskil” from the header note above) it’s most likely a musical term that indicates a pause or rest when the psalm was being sung. And here in Psalm 32, it also helps us to see the different parts of this psalm.
But notice from the first two verses that David states, and then reemphasizes, the blessedness of receiving God’s forgiveness. Verse 1: “blessed is the one”…verse 2: “blessed is the man”. And in no less than three different ways, David describes both our failure and God’s forgiveness...failure and forgiveness: “transgression is forgiven…sin is covered…iniquity is not counted”. Do you see that?
More importantly, do you know God’s forgiveness? If you do, are you gushing about how wonderful and amazing and incredible it is? Do you wake up each morning counting yourself blessed beyond measure because your “transgression is forgiven… [your] sin is covered… [your] iniquity is not counted”? That’s what David is doing here.
But this focus on forgiveness is simply laying the ground work for what comes in verses 3 and 4. Now, you may have already noticed that verses 3 and 4 are the verses that connect us back to our topic of suffering. Do you see the descriptions of suffering there? David writes about his bones wasting away, and how he was groaning 24/7, and how his strength was evaporated like a drop of water in Gila Bend in July. Those are pretty vivid descriptions of suffering.
But these verses also represent a departure from our study last week. Last week, Psalm 22 provided us with a picture of the innocent sufferer. But here in Psalm 32, we very clearly see that David is not innocent; that his suffering is a direct result of his own sin. The key phrase is right there at the beginning of verse 3: “When I kept silent…”; that is, David's failure to acknowledge or confess his sin.
So I think we can say that Psalm 32 confirms that there is a kind of suffering that comes into our lives as a direct result of unconfessed sin.
Now, right away, let me give you a couple qualifications to that statement. Please hear these:
Qualification #1: Not all of the suffering that comes into your life is the result of your own sin. If you have gone through or are going through a season of intense suffering, if you are going through painful and difficult times, let me say in no uncertain terms that your suffering may or may not be related to your own sin. We’ll talk more the relationship between suffering and sin, but I want to make sure we keep all of this in perspective. Like Job, sometimes suffering comes in spite of our obedience to God. And as we’ll see next week, sometimes suffering comes because of our obedience to God.
Qualification #2: There is a kind of suffering that you can experience, even after confessing your sin. The Bible is clear in teaching us that God does not normally take away the earthly consequences of our foolish and sinful choices. Therefore, a drug addict can confess her sin, but she still may physically suffer from the consequences of abusing her body. A man who robbed or killed another person can confess his sin and find forgiveness from God, but he may still have to suffer the consequence of incarceration.
But here in Psalm 32, David’s suffering is explicitly a result of his failure to acknowledge his sin. Let’s do this: let’s take a few phrases from verses 3 and 4 and ‘unpack’ them a little more.
First, let’s think about the phrase, “When I kept silent…”. We are not told explicitly why David did NOT confess his sin, but I think the word “kept” is telling. This is not simply a sin that David was unaware of. This was not a situation in which David was not ABLE to confess for some reason. The word “kept” indicates that David deliberately resisted. David chose NOT to confess.
Can you relate to that? I can. I don’t need to be told explicitly why David did not confess his sin. I can guess why. It was either pride or fear or desire. Pride whispers, “How could YOU be wrong?” Fear whispers, “It’s too scary to think about the fact you might be wrong.” Desire whispers, “If you’re wrong, then you’ll have to give up your sin.” Aren’t these all reasons we resist feelings of conviction? Aren’t these all the reasons we keep silent about our sin?
But second, consider where this kind of silence leads as we consider the phrase, in verse 3, “my groaning all day long”. Some have taken the description of David’s suffering and argued that he was physically ill. I think he probably was. But I think in the context, the language is better understood as ultimately describing a mental, emotional, spiritual anguish.
When David says that he was “groaning all day long”, I don’t think he was literally making an audible moaning noise for 24 consecutive hours. I think David is trying to emphasize the unrelenting nature of unconfessed sin; that it's like walking around, trying to operate in the haze of a high fever.
And I think that kind of “groaning” can lead us even deeper into sin. How many people today are medicating themselves with drugs and alcohol or casting blame on everyone around them because they are running from conviction? Our desire to push God away often results in pushing others away. How many people today are failing to take responsibility in their job or in their family or in the church because they will not acknowledge their sin before God?
Brothers and sisters, this can happen to any of us.
A third observation about vs. 3, 4: think about that phrase, “your hand was heavy upon me”. This is such a critical phrase because it reveals a critical point about David’s suffering: David suffered as a direct result of his unconfessed sin... as a direct result of God’s hand.
The Bible tells us that “the hand of the Lord” can be with us, or it can by upon us. Listen to how David, in Psalm 38, describes a similar situation to what we read here in Psalm 32. 38:1-4…
O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!  For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.  There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.  For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
You see, for the follower of Jesus Christ, for the child of God, there is a purpose for ALL of our suffering, even for the suffering that comes from unconfessed sin. God has not laid His hand on David here to destroy David. God’s hand “upon” David was intended to drive him to repentance. I like the way one John Calvin expressed God’s purpose here:
“And this again teaches us, that it is not without cause that the chastisements [the discipline] by which God seems to deal cruelly with us are repeated, and his hand made heavy against us, until our fierce pride, which we know to be untamable, unless subdued with the heaviest stripes, [until our fierce pride] is humbled.” (Calvin)
Brother, sister, friend, could it be that the suffering you are currently experiencing is a direct result of a sin, or of sins you are stubbornly refusing to acknowledge? That might not be the case at all in your situation, but we have to at least consider it in light of God’s word.
2. Breaking Our Stubborn Silence (32:5)
In contrast to 32:1-4, look at what verse 5 tells us about David’s response to God’s heavy hand:
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
When we stubbornly resist the voice of conviction and the call of repentance, God stubbornly pursues us with His gracious hand of suffering. And as we see here, David responded to God’s discipline. He confessed his sin. And what did God do? God forgave him. That’s why the psalm begins with David gushing about the blessedness of walking in God’s forgiveness. That’s exactly what David wants us to know before anything else.
3. Freedom and Deliverance for All (32:6, 7)
And look at how David goes on to encourage and instruct us in verses 6 and 7:
Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.  You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
This is David turning the spotlight on us, isn’t it? This is David saying, “Please learn from my experience.” If God can “be found” in your life because the presence of His disciplining hand is clear, then “offer prayer” to Him, offer a prayer of confession. Acknowledge your sin.
And I love how David adds to this. He tells his listeners in these verses, “God doesn’t want you to run from him because of the suffering of unconfessed sin. No, He wants us to run to Him in all our sufferings. Like David, we can try to hide our sin... or, like David, we can hide in God, the one who forgives our sin and guards us in times of temptation.
4. A Call to Repentance (32:8-11)
[Look at the final four verses of this psalm, 8-11:] I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.  Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.  Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.  Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Now when it comes to verse 8, some commentators believe this is God speaking. Others believe David is continuing to speak to his listeners here. Either way you look at it, this is God’s word. Therefore God is reminding us that we He will instruct us, He will teach us, He will counsel us in “steadfast love”. But are we listening? Or are we being stubborn, like a horse or mule; like an animal that has to be or held or controlled with a “bit and bridle”? If so, only “sorrows” await.
III. Our Direct Connection to Psalm 32
This morning, we need to think carefully about the picture of suffering that David has presented to us here; a very different picture from Psalm 22. Do you know this kind of suffering? The suffering of unconfessed sin? The suffering of trying to run from God?
Brothers and sisters, friends, there is freedom in confession. But there is only freedom in confession because there is freedom in God's forgiveness. If you are suffering right now, and if you realize that your suffering is a direct result of your stubborn refusal to obey God's word, then listen again to verse 5:
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Listen, as I said before, not all of our suffering comes as a result of our own sin. People can hurt us, tornadoes and earthquakes can leave us empty-handed, disease can creep in, we can lose a loved one, we can lose a job... and none of it is a direct result of our sin.
And yet, as we've been reminded of this morning, there is a kind of suffering that comes into our lives as a direct result of unconfessed sin.
But please know this is bigger than a cycle of conviction and confession. We need to remember that we are like chronic drunk drivers. We are repeat offenders. And when it comes to a chronic drunk driver, the ultimate issue is not this or that citation, or this or that incident. The ultimate issue is the drinking problem.
You see, like that chronic drunk driver, our sinning springs from a deeper disorder. And like the drunk driver, our only hope is to acknowledge, not simply that we did something wrong, but that something is wrong with us; not simply that we sin, but that we are sinners.
Consider which psalm the Apostle Paul quotes in Romans 4 as he talks about the blessing of forgiveness through faith alone:
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,  just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:  “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;  blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”... (Romans 4:5-8)
Sound familiar? Paul uses the opening lines of Psalm 32 in order to affirm that you and I, right now, can also know the amazing blessing of forgiveness that David experienced back then. But in Romans 4, Paul's discussion of forgiveness is part of a much bigger presentation that covers the first eight chapters of the book of Romans. And in that presentation we discover that Paul is not simply talking about God forgiving this or that failure. He is talking about the perpetual promise of forgiveness and recovery for repeat offenders like us.
You see, Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross, and He rose from the dead, in order to make the blessing of Psalm 32:1, 2 ours forever. Without Jesus, our suffering under sin will simply continue, even beyond death.
But Jesus IS our direct connection to Psalm 32, and to a fuller experience of forgiveness than even David could understand. But that fuller forgiveness is connected to a fuller confession. Have you come to God through Jesus and said, not just “I did something horribly wrong”, but instead, “there is something horribly wrong with me”?
Remember, our suffering because of unconfessed sin is an example of God's love. He is trying to wake you up to new life. Or He is lovingly correcting you in new life. Are you listening?
Listen to the promise that is ours through Jesus, as expressed by the Apostle John: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:8, 9)
More in Suffering (2020)
February 23, 2020God Meant It for Good (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:15-21)
February 16, 2020When Enemies Taunt (Psalm 42)
February 2, 2020When God Seems Far (Psalm 22)