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Psalm 32

Amazing Grace

A David psalm.

1 How fortunate the person
whose rebellion is forgiven—
whited right out of God’s ledger!
2 How blessed the person
whose guilt Yahveh doesn’t count against them!
With no reason to hide
their spirit is open and unafraid before him.

3 When I bottled my sins up inside me
they gnawed on my bones
through the endless groan of each long day.
4 Your hand lay heavy on me day and night
sapping my strength like summer’s searing heat.
5 Then I gave up trying to cover up my sin
and said to myself
“It’s time to confess my rebellion to Yahveh.”
So, I blurted everything out
and you instantly took all my sins away.

6 That’s why everyone committed to you
should pray to you while they can.
Then when all hell breaks lose
the tsunami won’t reach them.
7 You’re my shelter
protecting me till all danger is past
and filling my ears with joyful cries of rescue.

 8 “I’ll teach you and show you the way to take.
I’ll lovingly counsel you
keeping my eye on you.”

9 So don’t be a senseless horse or mule
that won’t come near and submit
without bit and bridle.”
10 What troubles await
those who rebel against God!
But unflinching love
surrounds all who trust in Yahveh.
11 So rejoice in Yahveh
you who trust and obey him!
Shout for joy
all you who seek to live right!

God created us as not automatons to obey him perfectly, but rather individuals to know the freedom essential to loving him. He never forces either himself or true freedom on anyone. God’s people—prophets included—often fail him. This psalm, St. Augustine’s favorite,[1] presents the right way and the wrong way to manage guilt.

Sin’s false freedom brings guilt, which we instinctively repress, only then for it to eat away at us. David finally abandons the false freedom of his tragic Bathsheba-Uriah episode by confessing his sins freely to God and casting himself on his mercy. God instantly restores him to true freedom by removing his guilt and covering his sins.[2]

True freedom comes with a readiness to listen, trust and obey that complements God’s promise to guide and protect us in the path of submission. David urges us not to be asinine, obeying only when made to. Such rebellion leads to endless trouble, while freely embracing God and his way leads to his unfailing love (v. 10). The forgiveness and guidance that love brings are cause for joyful celebration, no less than the divine rescue from the external enemies so many of David’s other psalms celebrate.

More than correct behavior, Lord, you want my heart. How amazing that you’d risk losing me to false freedom in order to win my love, and then so freely forgive when I return to you. How can I withhold my love from so gracious a God? O, help me to listen, trust and obey you always! Amen.


[1] Craigie (1983) 268.

[2] 2 Sam. 12:13. Contrasting the two ways of covering sins, David uses the same word for “cover” (kacah), rendered “whited out” and “cover up” in verses 1 and 5. God’s covering sin suggests the atonement so central to Israel’s worship.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.