In the last post from Transformational Discipleship, I discussed how 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 find 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.
This great exchange can be applied in our lives today in three specific ways:
1 – Our carrying is exchanged with His carrying away.
When David carried his own sin, he was miserable. He was plagued with guilt, burdened with the pain of his choices, and filled with anguish because he was not in close communion with God. His sin hijacked the abundant life that is offered to those of us who know God. His joy and peace in God were drained because of what he was carrying (v. 4).
Part of David’s misery came from God. Because David belonged to God, God did not allow David to be satisfied in his sin. Out of loving discipline to woo David back to Himself, God placed His heavy hand on David’s life.
In His great mercy God carried away all of David’s sin and guilt. David’s carrying of his sin and shame was exchanged for God’s carrying away his sin and shame. The word for “forgiven” in verse 1 is the Hebrew word naw-saw, and it means “to lift or carry away.” When God forgives us, He carries away our sins and separates them infinitely from us.
2 – Our covering is exchanged with His covering.
Like many of us, David initially attempted to hide his sin. Like a dog that foolishly thinks kicking some grass backwards will cover up his mess, David thought that with Bathsheba’s husband dead and Bathsheba now as his wife, his sin was covered. But he was wrong, as God sees everything. His covering was woefully insufficient. When David finally gave up the futile attempt to cover his own sin, God stepped in with His covering. The word for “covered” in verse 1 is the Hebrew word kaw-saw, and it means much more than covering your bed with a sheet or your pancakes with syrup. Kawsaw means “to hide without any possibility of finding, to bury out of sight forever.” He does not merely sprinkle His grace on top of our sin. He covers our sin completely. Humanity has always attempted to cover sins. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they realized they were naked and attempted to cover themselves with fig leaves. Their covering was insufficient. So God, in His mercy, fashioned clothes for them in the garden of Eden by sacrificing an animal and using its skin. Immediately after the first sin came the first sacrifice, which foreshadows the all-sufficient sacrifice of Jesus.
3 – Our recounting is exchanged with His not counting.
David recounted and confessed his sins to God, and God did not count David’s sins against him. The Hebrew phase for “does not count” or “does not charge” is lo-chasab, and it means there is absolutely no counting, remembering, or reckoning of sin. Sin is wiped away. The debt is paid. The counting of our sins and the just charge against us because of our sin has completely and utterly ceased.
The apostle Paul quotes Psalm 32 in the book of Romans to show that our sin is not counted because the Lord credits His righteousness to us. Our sin is not counted because all of His righteousness is counted (Rom. 4:5–8).
David’s celebration of the great exchange ultimately points to the cross. Jesus can carry away our sin because He carried the cross. He can cover our sin because His blood is the atoning (covering) sacrifice. He does not count our sin because all our sin was counted on Him on the cross.
Transformational discipleship occurs when we view the process through the lens of the gospel. By the gospel and the whole counsel of God in the Scriptures, we come to understand how God works for us and in us. Constant awe and appreciation of the gospel leads to a transformed disciple.
Adapted from Transformational Discipleship (B&H Publishing Group, 2012)