“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.”
For some of you, these words of the Psalmist may be quite familiar. Lutherans have spoken them at the beginning of the Divine Service for centuries, as the introduction to the Preparatory Rite. It is then that guilt is admitted and absolution is received. Such an activity is needed, and it is the theme of this psalm of David and this Lenten Season.
The 32nd Psalm explains the importance of confessing sin and being restored by the forgiveness of the Lord God. This is seen in the first two verses: “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.” David equates forgiveness with blessedness: a true statement, indeed. For those who have no unrighteousness receive the full blessing of the Lord God. Throughout the Scriptures, that concept is made clear.
But note what those two verses also indicated. The Psalmist does not say that there was an absence of sin in the one blessed by the Lord God. Without doubt, there was sin present, since David says: “transgression is forgiven, sin is covered.” There was a violation of the Divine Law, but for that blessed one, “the Lord counts no iniquity.” This is a description of what forgiveness is: the Lord God conceals your sins, so that He does not see them; the Lord God blots out His ledger book, so that the accounts payable lines are illegible.
The acts of forgiveness are divine: the Lord God is One doing the work. And when He does, the effects are great. But note how different that is when compared to the human actions you heard read from the Genesis Account. That Adam and Eve sinned is without doubt. The Divine Command was clear: “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, lest you die.” But eat they did.
But how did the man and woman react to what they had done? “They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” Their actions were an attempt to cover their sin and by deceit avoid the gaze of God. But such attempts failed. Blessedness was not theirs, because the Lord God had not covered their sins and had not cleared their accounts.
What Adam and Eve did is not an example to follow. It is a failed attempt to do what only the Lord God could accomplish. What was need is the act that David’s psalm describes: “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.” For then the Lord God acts, and His work restores the sinner to blessedness.
Eventually that is seen taking place in the Genesis Account. The admission of guilt takes a while, but it is finally made: “The man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ . . . The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” It takes a divine interrogation—“What is this that you have done?”—but the confession does come from Adam and Eve’s mouths. Their sin has consequences—literally grave consequences—but they are forgiven. Though they are banished from
Even at the ruin of perfect creation, the Lord God acts as the psalmist describes. Sin is admitted and covered. Transgressions are forgiven. Iniquity is not counted against them. And their honest admission of what they had done is answered by the true words of absolution. All this is possible because there would be a Blessed Man in whom there was no sin, no transgression, no iniquity, and no deceit. The One who endures the temptations of Satan, who does not fall victim but rather victimizes that Serpent, delivers the forgiveness that is promised.
The work of Christ, the One who dies on a tree in the midst of a wasteland and becomes the fruit of eternal life, brings restoration to fallen sinners. He delivers the promised absolution to those who are penitent. So the Psalmist writes: “Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to You at a time when You may be found.” Now is the time when the grace and mercy of Christ can be found, when His salvation is available to you, when His forgiveness can be freely given, when His blessedness can be made yours.
And so the Psalmist’s words deserved and needed to be heard by you and acted upon. For they truly are the presentation of the Lord God’s will for you: “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.” The Eternal Father desires to call you His blessed ones, His saints. And through the death and resurrection of His Son, it can be so for you, as you do what David, the sinning psalmist did: “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.”
T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.