The Great Exchange

Kyle McDonald is a Canadian who became famous for an amazing story. He was without a job, essentially had no money, and his girlfriend was floating his rent. Yet he wanted to own a house.

All he had was one red paper clip. He decided to offer the red paper clip on Craigslist in exchange for something else, anything else. A girl in Vancouver offered him a fish pen in exchange for his paper clip. He traded the fish pen for a doorknob and the doorknob for a camping stove, the camping stove for a generator, then the generator for a neon sign. Kyle continued his online exchanges (fourteen in all) and landed a small acting job that he exchanged for a house. He began with one red paper clip and, after fourteen exchanges, received a house.

A paper clip for a house.

That is a great exchange, but it still pales in comparison to what we have received. All we had to offer God was our sin, much less desirable than a paper clip. “The only thing of my own which I can contribute to my own redemption is the sin from which I need to be redeemed.” The only thing we bring to the table is our sin, but He graciously takes it from us. And amazingly in exchange, He gives us all His righteousness.

Psalm 32 is an Old Testament celebration of the Great Exchange.

How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How joyful is the man the Lord does not charge with sin and in whose spirit is no deceit! When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat. Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You took away the guilt of my sin. (Ps. 32:1–5)

Psalm 32 is the sequel to Psalm 51. In 2 Samuel 11–12 we found the story of David’s sin with Bathsheba, the elaborate cover-up, her husband’s death and the confrontation with the prophet Nathan. The forgiveness and restoration David sought with God is recorded in Psalm 51. And in Psalm 32 he celebrates the forgiveness that has been joyfully realized. His shame has been exchanged for God’s joy.

Augustine (a leader of the church in the fourth and fifth centuries) loved the psalm so much that he had it inscribed on the wall next to his deathbed so he could meditate on the beauty of the gospel. Though we may not inscribe the words on the wall, meditating on the reality of the “great exchange” is essential for transformational discipleship.

The same three Hebrew words used in Psalm 51 revealing the comprehensive nature of sin are used in Psalm 32. But there are also three Hebrew words used to show the comprehensive nature of forgiveness. The three words for forgiveness trump the three words for sin, revealing that our forgiveness is even deeper than our sin. Charles Spurgeon wrote of this psalm that “the trinity of grace conquers the trinity of sin.”


Adapted from Transformational Discipleship (B&H Publishing Group, 2012)

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