1. Three words for sin. The first word for sin is “transgression” (Hebrew, peshah), which literally means "a going away" or "departure" or, in this case, "a rebellion" against God and his authority. This is what makes sin so dreadful, of course—that it is transgression, not only against other people, whom we hurt by our sin, but at its root also against God. It is why Psalm 51 contains the words "against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight" (v. 4).

Psalm 32 is the second of the so-called penitential psalms. The others are Psalms 6, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143. But the psalm might better be called "a psalm of instruction" from the title word maskil, which means "the giving of instruction."1 It is the first of twelve psalms that bear this title.2

Yesterday we concluded by looking at the first two contrasts between God’s secret and manifest goodness. Today we begin by considering the last one.

In verses 19 and 20 we reach the crest of the wave again. But I want you to notice something interesting. Up to this point the psalm has followed a regular and therefore nearly a predictable pattern. It began with a prayer; that was the first section. It expressed personal trust in God, section two. Section three was the lament. Section four once again expressed trust in God, a section almost identical in tone and meaning to section two. With that pattern established, what should we expect in this last section? The answer is: the same thing we had in section one, a prayer.

The emotional heart of the psalm is the lament found in verses 9-13, in which David tells the Lord of his present distress and danger. In studying an earlier psalm I pointed out that language expressing acute physical affliction sometimes refers to actual sickness and sometimes not. In Psalm 30 it did. There David was so sick he was on the point of dying. In Psalm 31 the problem does not seem to be illness but rather the danger created by his enemies. For that reason the language used to describe bodily affliction should be seen primarily as metaphorical or at least as being poetically exaggerated.