Are you happy?
How do we measure happiness? Some people shout and cheer when something happens to bring them great pleasure. Others jump up and down for joy. Others don’t say very much, but their faces glow with delight.
However we might express great happiness, it is something we all seek. We can seek joy in many things: possessions, experiences, relationships – the list is endless. But the places in which we seek it determine whether we will find it or whether it will be a life-long search that results in frustration.
The Bible helps us to assess whether we are seeking the right kind of happiness. One of the biblical words for happiness is ‘blessed’. This word suggests great happiness or extreme joy.
In Psalm 32, King David speaks of a very important source of joy. Let us note the psalm’s first two verses: ‘Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit’.
David begins by speaking in the third person: ‘Blessed is he’. But as he proceeds through the psalm it is clear that he is relating his own experience. David was a happy man and is here describing what brought this joy. We can learn three things.
First, to know that our sins are forgiven brings great joy. It is sad that many actually seek happiness in sin, perhaps in sexual sins, gambling or excessive drinking.
These may bring temporary happiness, but it does not last; and usually those who seek happiness that way find they have to get involved in ever deeper sin and more bizarre ways to satisfy their desires. The person who knows forgiveness of sins is the one who knows true and permanent happiness.
In verse 1 the writer uses two illustrations of forgiveness. When he speaks of transgressions being forgiven, the word used means, literally, ‘picked up and taken away’. Every Wednesday morning we are visited by such agents of ‘forgiveness’. They pick up our garbage and take it away, never to be seen again by us.
We often joke about our garbage being forgiven when the garbage men have been. How wonderful to think that because Jesus died and rose again we can have our sins removed as definitely as our garbage is removed.
The second expression in this verse is that our sins are ‘covered’. They were there, but are now no longer visible. When we use white-out to correct errors in writing or typing, the errant text is still there but no longer seen.
So it is that the Lord does not see our sins when we have confessed them. Of course, in his sovereignty he knows that we sinned, but he does not now take notice of them, for the simple reason that they have already been punished in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Elsewhere the Lord speaks of remembering our sins no more (Jeremiah 31:34). That of course does not suggest a lapse in memory, but a deliberate refusal on the part of the Lord to consider our sins.
Do you know that your sins are forgiven? What a blessed experience to know that though we have sinned greatly and often, those sins are now forgiven and not regarded by God because of the work of our Saviour at Calvary.
Nothing is more important to know than this, and nothing can bring joy like this.
The second great blessing that David notes is that his sins are not counted against him by the Lord. This is a little different from forgiveness. When God forgives sins, he removes the guilt and does not inflict the punishment we deserve for our sins.
Justification actually includes forgiveness, but goes beyond it – our sins are not counted against us. To reverse that, we are seen as if we had not sinned. And there is even more – we are seen as if we had perfectly kept all God’s commands.
If you think I am reading more into the text than is warranted, we should note that Paul, in his great treatise on justification in Romans, uses these verses from Psalm 32 to prove his doctrine.
Note what he says in Romans 4:6-8: ‘David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him”.’
God credits righteousness to us, apart from our works. We can never be righteous in God’s sight by merely keeping his commandments, but when our faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are declared righteous.
How righteous? As righteous as Christ is himself, for it is his righteousness that is imputed to us. Isn’t that a wonderful truth? That should make us jump for joy, or if we are not sufficiently expressive to do that, we should certainly have the joy of the Lord in our hearts.
There is one more thing we should note.
This is different. Forgiveness and justification happen to us. Having ‘no deceit’ is the result and demonstration of a work within us.
One accusation often brought against the doctrine of justification is that it makes things too easy. We can be forgiven and carry on living as we did before. But this is not true. Those whom the Lord forgives and justifies, he also changes.
He takes away our sins, but he also renews our hearts. Many things happen to the believer, but one very important thing is that he or she is made honest.
David speaks in verse 3 about the time when he refused to confess his sin. He was not honest about it, and we are all in that condition before salvation. But when the Lord convicts us of our sin by his grace, we are made honest. We face up to our sin, confess it, and then seek to live for the glory of God.
Are you forgiven? Do you know that God does not count your sins against you? Has he changed you and made you an honest person – with him and with other people? Then you are a happy person, you are blessed. Rejoice in that, and let others know about it.