David truly was a man after God’s own heart. This distinction he received—not because of his perfect life but because of his willingness to correct his imperfections and seek forgiveness. We see this on three different major occasions in David’s life: when he brought the ark up to Jerusalem on a cart (2 Sam. 6:1-11; 1 Chr. 13:1-14), when he sinned with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:1-12:25), and when he numbered the people (2 Sam. 24:1-25). Each time the Bible records not only David’s sin but also his repentance. On one of these occasions, and I believe it is the first, following the granting of forgiveness by God, David penned Psalm 32. It is a stirring reflection on the meaning of forgiveness, and why it should never be taken for granted.
Forgiveness makes an amazing difference in our lives. It provides the difference between just understanding the reality of our sin and taking responsibility for that sin. It makes the difference between recognizing the consequence of that sin and God eliminating the consequence of that sin (Psa. 32:1-2). Forgiveness makes the difference between wallowing in guilt, anger, and despair and seeking the LORD’s compassion, acknowledging our transgressions, and moving past them in feeling and in life (Psa. 32:3-5). Forgiveness is the beginning of hope and the promise of grace that makes God the first one we turn to when we have failed, precisely because we know He wants us back—if we take the opportunity afforded us (Psa. 32:6). Forgiveness makes the difference between hiding in God’s care and hiding from God’s wrath (Psa. 32:7)—a difference that should not be lost on anyone who has reflected seriously on his own sin. Forgiveness paves the way for us to keep learning and growing. It shows that God has not given up on us but desires to show us a better way (Psa. 32:8). However, with deep sincerity, appreciation, and love, we should approach our LORD ever desiring to learn and do better instead of constantly defying him. This indeed is the penitent heart he requires for forgiveness (Psa. 32:9). Forgiveness is the difference between experiencing constant consequences and multitudes of mercy. It is the why trusting the LORD is always better than trusting yourself (Psa. 32:10). God’s offer of forgiveness is what makes joy possible in the moment, in life, and in eternity because it is built on the foundation of righteousness—both the LORD’s and ours (Psa. 32:11). Forgiveness is not some emotion we enjoy; it is not a right we reach out and grab. Indeed, some people “feel” like they are forgiven when they have not sought God’s forgiveness as God requires (Acts 22:16; 1 Jn. 1:8-10). However, once we, like David, have sought God’s forgiveness and received it in faith, we should allow ourselves to bask in the glow of joy and hope that forgiveness makes possible. Feeling forgiven, when we are truly forgiven, is the best feeling in the world—because it is the only thing that can prepare us for heaven.