Psalm 32: Gimme Shelter

Christ Covenant Church
Rev. Marq Toombs
6 January 2019

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[ sketch notes ]


Mini-series on the Gospel according to Psalms.

devoted to prayer = devotional in the psalms

Eugene Peterson — “The psalms are necessary because they are prayer masters. When we apprentice ourselves to these masters, we acquire facility and proficiency in using the tools of prayer. If we are willfully ignorant of the Psalms, we are not thereby excluded from praying, but we will have to hack our way through the formidable country by trial and error and with inferior tools. If we dismiss the Psalms, preferring a more up-to-date and less demanding school of prayer, we will not be without grace, but we will miss the center where Christ worked in his praying. Christ prayed the Psalms — traditionally, the Christian community was convinced early on that he continues praying them through us as we pray them: we recite this prayer of the Psalm in Him, and he recites it in us.” (Answering God, p. 4)

As I mentioned to you last month when we gathered for prayers, we want our congregation to learn to devote herself to the prayers, and that means devoting ourselves to praying — and eventually singing! — the psalms.

Remember the Latin phrase I taught you — Lex orandi, lex credendi  — loosely translated means “the rule of prayer [is] the rule of faith”.

Sermon Text – Psalm 32

TEC Bible exam — list a few messianic psalms.

Matthew Henry — “This psalm, though it speaks not of Christ, as many of the psalms we have hitherto met with have done, has yet a great deal of gospel in it.” Wrong! All due respect, but if the psalm doesn’t speak of Christ, it cannot have any of the gospel in it. As we will see, it is all about the gospel.

This is a psalm of David. We don’t know the context of the psalm — when and where he composed it. Since it is context-free it may be more accessible to you and me — and applicable to our life.

David starts with a benediction.

1 Blessed [ = happy / lit. O happy man!] is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered [ = hidden cp vs 5].
Blessed [ = happy / lit. O happy man!] is the man against whom the Lord counts [ = imputes, charges] no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

According to God’s word, the happiest of all people are not those who have it all (so to speak), but those whose sins have been forgiven. A word which here means “lifted up, carried away, taken off”.

We will come back to this benediction at the end of the sermon. Keep in mind that David is contemplating the sacred happiness of a sinner.


The psalmist shows us that a little navel-gazing, soul-searching, personal inventory goes a long way.

The natural response to sin is concealment: Keep it secret, keep it “safe,” keep it hidden.

For when I kept silent [Hiphil — plotted evil, kept silent], my bones wasted away [Qal. wore out] through my groaning [Qal. roaring, crying] all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy [ = grievous related to glorious] upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

The consequences are devastating. It leads to the anguish of soul, deep sorrow, depression, pain, inward groaning, quiet desperation.

Take some time to look inward, but don’t stop there. After you have seen your sin, turn away from yourself and look outward to Christ.


The spiritual response to sin is confession: acknowledging your sin as sin, and uncovering it before the Lord.

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover [ = hide] my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave [ lifted up, carried away, taken off] the iniquity of my sin. Selah

When we confess, we are not informing God of anything he does not already know; we are simply conceding that we are sinners and we have fallen short of God’s glory.

We are also confessing our need of grace and mercy and conceding that God alone can deal with us gently and mercifully.

Notice the contrast between you hiding your sin (vs. 5) and God hiding your sin (vs 1). When you hide your sin, it rots and reeks and ruins you. When God hides your sin, it rescues and relieves and restores you.

Confession experiences — Bad and Good

Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters [ = judgment figure],
they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place [ = shelter, secret refuge] for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround [ = enclose, envelop] me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

Confessor? I’ve always wanted a confessor, and like the idea of a confessor (but not the idea of works of penance).

Yes, we may confess our sins to each other (James 5), but we must confess our sins to God (1 John 1). He is our true and better Confessor.

The psalmist urges us to confess our sins to God early and often — don’t put it off until a better time and place. Don’t wait until the next Lord’s day service. As soon as you are aware of your sin, confess it to the Lord.

We often play hide and seek with the Lord, but he never plays hide and seeks with us. If you seek him, if you look outward for him, you will find him.

This is true whether you have fallen into sin, or feel tempted to sin.

In the midst of your temptations and troubles, seek refuge in the Lord, take shelter in the grace and truth of God.

Confession is a way of saying to the Lord, “Gimme Shelter.”

As the Rolling Stones sang in their song Gimme Shelter,

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away

Shelter is not just a shot away, not just a kiss away — it is a prayer away. Seek the Lord while he may be found!


At this point in the psalm, God speaks to the penitent sinner who has confessed his sins and confessed his faith in God.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near [ lit. draw near (in a hostile sense)] you.

God forgives sinners, and God forges them into saints.

God works by grace and truth to transform us — to help us change and conform to the image of Christ.

The Psalmist ends on a happy note:

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love [ hesed = mercy, kindness, goodness ] surrounds [ = enclose, envelop] the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad [ = rejoice ] in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy [גִּיל gîyl, gheel = go in a circle; to spin round (under the influence of any violent emotion); leap for joy, tremble with (fear or joy)], all you upright in heart!

The only differences between the wicked and the righteous are that one acknowledges his sin and cries out to God for mercy and the other does not; one lives by faith in God, the other by faith in something or someone else.

Both might feel sorrow for their sin and its consequences — one expresses worldly sorrow that leads to regret and death; the other expresses godly sorrow that produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.

The one who receives mercy in his time of need responds with doxology, praise, and worship. It takes hold of his whole life, body, and soul.

Note: shout for joy [ = see above], all you upright in heart!

The psalmist encourages us to do a happy dance! (see Psalm 2:11; 118:24)

Note: This imagery reminds us of David dancing before the ark of the Lord. (2 Sam. 6:14)


I told we would come back to the benediction at the end of the sermon. Here we go.

1 Blessed [ = happy / lit. O happy man!] is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered [ = hidden cp vs 5].
Blessed [ = happy / lit. O happy man!] is the man against whom the Lord counts [ = imputes, charges] no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

The pursuit of happiness is at the top of everyone’s To-Do list.

According to God’s words, the happiest of all people are not those who have it all (so to speak), rather, the happiest people of all are those whose sins have been forgiven.

The question of how sinners get happy — how they get their sins forgiven — is (perhaps) the most important question anyone can ask.

It’s really about getting right with God.

If all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, if all are guilty of sin and under God’s wrath, who then can be saved? And how can anyone get right with God?!

Paul used Psalm 32 to answer that question in the Book of Romans.

Romans 4:4-8, 20-25; 5:1-2

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” …

But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for the sake of our forefathers alone, but for ours also.

It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him, we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

MS – How can I get right with God?

Not long ago I met a man who was suffering from a terminal illness. From the first day we met until the last time we spoke, he wanted to know one thing: How to get right with God.

He wanted to make sure that when he passed from this life to next, that when he appeared before God to give account for his life, that he could do so in good faith with a clean conscience.

To that end, I pointed him to Jesus Christ who came into the world to save sinners. Jesus came to deliver us from sin, death, and evil and to destroy the devil who is our enemy.

A couple of weeks before he fell asleep in the Lord, I sat at his bedside and read the scriptures to him and asked him if he believed the good news that Jesus Christ came into the world and laid down his life at the cross to save him. He said Amen! Then I asked him if he believed God raised Jesus from the dead. He said Yes. Finally, I said, if you believe these things, then you are right with God because of what Jesus did for you. God will count all the sins of your life to Christ, and God will count all his sinless life to you.

Whatever happens next, you may rest in peace knowing that you are right with God. For no one who puts their trust in Jesus Christ will ever be put to shame.

A few tears of joy trickled from his eyes and he raised his hands and smiled.

He did many important things in this life, but getting right with God was far and away the most important thing he ever did in life. Although this was not his own work, but the grace of God at work in him and for him. For the gospel says that God helps those who cannot help themselves.

At the end of every visit, I would look him in the eye and say, “Don’t be afraid. When the time comes, trust in the Lord. Go in peace.”

I say the same to you who have turned from your sins and trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Pastoral Prayer

Happy is the man whose sin is not charged against him.

Happier is the man who knows none of his sin is charged against him.

Happiest is the man who knows and believes none of his sin is charged against him — and not one of his sins will ever be charged against him.