Psalm 32: When Sin Is Bitter, Christ Is Sweet
There are a thousand reasons we try to make sin less than sinful. Shame causes us to hide it; fear causes us to manage it; selfishness causes us to redefine it; pleasure causes us to desire it; pride causes us to revel in it. But what we don’t realize is that when we minimize sin we also disparage grace and forfeit true joy in life—the joy of experiencing God’s forgiveness. As the Puritan preacher and author, Thomas Watson, once said, “Till sin be bitter; Christ will not be sweet.” Such is the testimony of Psalm 32.
Psalm 32 picks up on a theme introduced at the beginning of the book of Psalms—the shape of a “blessed” or full and meaningful life (cf. Ps. 1:1; 2:12). In Psalm 1, a rewarding life this side of eternity was one shaped by the Word of God; in Psalm 2, it was one surrendered to the Son of God. Here, a full and rewarding life is one marked by the forgiveness of God, having had our sins dealt with through his eternal Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 3:21-26; 4:4-8).
But we cannot know this joy unless we first taste and acknowledge the bitterness of the sin we’ve committed against God, understand what it cost him to rescue us from our sin and cancel the debt we owed, and respond in personal faith (cf. John 3:36). This is what the cross is all about (cf. Col. 2:13-15). And when we minimize sin, we minimize the cross, and the glorious scope of God’s kindness and grace shown to us in sending his eternal Son to take our place and receive the punishment for sin that we deserved. Similarly, when we minimize sin, we forfeit true joy in life, choosing the misery that comes with trying to make a name for ourselves over the joy and freedom of living for the sake of God’s name and glory as his redeemed and forgiven people.
Psalm 32 invites us to deal honestly with sin, that we might revel in the grace we have received in Christ.
Join us this Sunday (Aug. 1) at Westgate Church in Boston’s MetroWest, where we will explore this passage more fully from the pulpit and celebrate its truth at the Lord’s Table.
Update: You can find the sermon manuscript here: Psalm 32 Westgate 8.7.11