February 29: Psalm 32
Second Penitential Psalm
Common meter double Kingsfold (I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say), p. 60
Morning Song, p. 30
Llangloffan, p. 69
(the last two are well worth learning for their plaintive quality and expressive ethos—listen online!)
What blessedness for him whose guilt has all forgiven been!
When his transgressions pardoned are, and covered is his sin.
O blessed the man ‘gainst whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is not deceit or treachery.
When I kept silent, my bones aged; my groaning filled each day.
Your hand oppressed me day and night; my strength was sapped away.
Then I to You admitted sin, hid not my guiltiness;
I said, “I will before the Lord transgressions now confess.”
Then You did all my sin forgive and take my guilt away.
For this when You are near at hand let all the godly pray.
The rising floods will harm him not. You are my hiding place.
And you will comfort me with songs of victory and grace.
Instruction I will give to you and teach you as you go.
My watchful eye will guide your steps; my counsel you will know.
Be not like senseless horse or mule which if you would subdue
You must with bit and bridle hold to bring him close to you.
The wicked many pangs endure, but steadfast cov’nant love
Encircles ev’ry one whose trust is in the Lord above.
Be glad and shout, you righteous ones, and in the Lord rejoice!
And all whose hearts are just and true sing out with joyful voice.
Psalm 32 is the second of the traditional “penitential psalms,” which express the themes of sin, repentance, mercy and forgiveness. Psalm 32 begins: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity.” Paul explicitly quotes these lines near the beginning of Romans 4 to illustrate “the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works” (Rom. 4:6-8). Psalm 32, then, is the prayer of those who, standing at the foot of the Cross and forswearing all righteousness of their own, commit their lives and entrust their destinies entirely to God’s forgiving mercy richly and abundantly poured out in the saving, sacrificial blood of His Son, because “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them” (2 Cor. 5:19). Such is the key to the proper understanding of Psalm 32; such is the correct context for praying the rest of the psalm. Those who are justified in Christ will live quite differently, for Christ is our Lord and Teacher as well as our Savior. We are not to take this responsibility lightly: “Be not like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle…” Above all, the forgiveness that God grants us for Christ’s sake is the source of our ongoing confidence, for this same God will never abandon us: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Thus, our psalm, a canticle celebrating the divine forgiveness of our sins, closes on the theme of godly exultation: “Be glad and rejoice, you righteous; shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Reardon, p.61-62)
Kyrie eleison; Christe eleison; Kyrie eleison