Psalm 32 - The test of true repentance
Updated: Feb 26, 2022
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1 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, *
and whose sin is put away!
2 Happy are they to whom Yahweh imputes no guilt, *
and in whose spirit there is no guile!
3 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, *
because of my groaning all day long.
4 For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; *
my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer. Selah
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, *
and did not conceal my guilt.
6  I said," I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh." *
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin. Selah
7  Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble; *
when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.
8  You are my hiding-place; you preserve me from trouble; *
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
9  "I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; *
I will guide you with my eye.
10  Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding; *
who must be fitted with bit and bridle, or else they will not stay near you."
11  Great are the tribulations of the wicked; *
but mercy embraces those who trust in Yahweh.
12  Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in Yahweh; *
shout for joy, all who are true of heart.
This is the Psalm to be read aloud in unison or sung by a cantor on the fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. It will follow an Old Testament reading from Joshua, where it is written: “The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the sons of Israel no longer had manna”. That pair will precede the Epistle selection from Second Corinthians, where Paul wrote: “From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.” All will accompany the Gospel choice from Luke, where we read, “All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” That led to Jesus telling them the parable known as “The Prodigal Son.”
This is a psalm of repentance and thanks for the sincerity of one’s heart being acknowledged by Yahweh, granting one the blessing of marriage to Him. Following a reading from Joshua, where the ritual recognition of the sorrows of past lives have been shed, with eternal life granted those ‘firstborn’ wives of Yahweh, the festival of Passover symbolizes repentance. The freedom from bondage, where “Egypt” means “Married To Tragedy,” says confession and repentance have granted one’s soul a divorce from the addictions to a sinful world. It is then that cleansing that prepares one to be tested (forty days or forty years), before one’s soul agrees to the marriage vows (the Covenant) that brings about a Marriage To Happiness. This should be understood while singing this song during the season called Lent.
One will note that I have made some changes in the text above, which the NRSV has produced for the Episcopal Church to recite. The Episcopal Church has made amendments to the NRSV translation, such that David three times wrote the word “Selah” at the end of verses. The NRSV recognizes that presence, but the Episcopal Church rejects that word. Also, the NRSV shows this psalm to be eleven verses in length; but the Episcopal Church has divided verse five into two verses, which changes the numbering of all verses after, making this song appear to be twelve verses. In all cases, I have returned “Selah” in bold type, as well as correct the verse numbering in bold type, within brackets. Finally, four times the NRSV and the Episcopal Church have denigrated the name “Yahweh” to a generalized “Lord,” which is not what David wrote. If one does not know the name “Yahweh,” then one’s “Lord” is one’s lonely soul or some demonic “god.” To help readers come to know “Yahweh,” I have restored His name in bold type.
I prefer a literal translation, taking the Hebrew and translating that into English, over the flowery greeting card translations that are so popular, but largely missing the depth of insight David intended one’s soul to intuit when singing his divinely inspired songs. Therefore, I will present these verses in a literal translation and then interpret the meaning that comes from those words written.
Verse one is identified in the introduction as a “contemplation.” The NRSV calls this a “Maskil.” The Hebrew root used is “maskiyl,” which means “a hedge.” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance says the word comes from “sakal,” which means “instructive.” Anther source says “maschil” refers to “a poem, song, which enforces intelligence, wisdom, piety, q. d. didactic; which is true of every sacred song, not excepting Psalm 45, where everything is referred to the goodness of God.” [McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia] There are several psalms that are identified as “contemplative,” where other sources are sited as the influence of David. This song is “contemplative of David” [a name meaning “Beloved”], so a literal translation is best (in my opinion) to “contemplate,” rather than some translation service's paraphrases.
Following the introduction, verse one literally translates into English to say: “blessed carried away transgression , covered sin .” In this, “blessed” states the presence of “happiness,” where one should intuit this usage is not focusing on a human state of emotions, but one that is spiritual. This means one’s “happiness” comes from Yahweh, which is the true way one becomes “blessed.” This joy is then said to be “carried away” or “lifted off of” or “taken from,” with that Hebrew word combined with the following word that says “transgression” or “rebellion.” Because the Hebrew word “pe·ša‘” is in the singular number, this sings of one’s own direction that leads to “transgression” or “rebellion” having been removed. Because one’s soul is the “transgressor” or the “rebel,” that which has been “carried away” is the inability to cease from kneejerk reactions to outer (worldly) influences, which cause one’s soul to allow one’s body of flesh to act out irresponsibly. When the second set of words says “covered sin,” where that can also mean “hidden or concealed sin,” this is not burying one’s past sins. Instead, it means the influences to sin have been made so they are no longer an influence. Once those motivations to “sin” are “covered,” then they will have no effect or affect on one’s soul; so, one’s body of flesh is no longer led to act sinfully. That ability to no longer see external lures is the spiritually “blessed” state that David was celebrating.
Verse two then repeats a beginning that says “blessed,” with the English translation following adding, “man , not he thinks Yahweh he who punishment for iniquity ; and nothing in whose breath treachery .” Here, “blessed adam” needs to be read from the Hebrew “’aš·rê ’ā·ḏām”. While “adam” can be read physically as “man” or “mankind” (to satisfy the egos of women), the word “blessed” must still be seen as a spiritual presence, coming from Yahweh to sincerely repentant souls. Thus, “adam” becomes the inner source of the “happiness,” as that is stating how marriage to Yahweh has brought the soul of His Son (a.k.a. Adam-Jesus) into one’s soul. This then connects to the Hebrew word “ruach,” meaning “spirit, breath, wind,” which is not the basic “spirit” of a soul breathed into a body of flesh at birth, but the divine “Spirit” that comes with “Adam’s soul.” It is then that inner presence that “conceals sin,” because this divine Son will not be swayed by anything treacherous [“nothing in whose soul has this Spirit will fall prey to treachery”]. When David sang, “not he thinks,” this is how “sin” is “covered,” as the Big Brain is what always leads a soul to follow sin, so the flesh of a brain leads a soul astray. Therefore, “Yahweh” takes control over “he who punishment for iniquity.” That sings of a debt that is due from past “transgressions; and, those sins can only be avoided through sincere repentance, begging Yahweh for forgiveness.
Verse three then begins with the statement, “because I kept silent wore out myself”. In that, the Hebrew root word “charash” can imply “silence,” but the core meaning is “devise,” as well as “to cut in, plow, engrave.” Again, realizing the need to “contemplate” these words of wisdom from a spiritual perspective, David is channeling the soul of someone whose sins have been “covered over,” for some extended period of time. While the same words written can be read as “silence grew old my bones,” this becomes a physical image that does not meet the spiritual meaning needs. This means the truth is the way a soul will “devise” ways to justify one’s sins, so there would be no need to confess any wrongs, by making wrongs right, through semantics. This begins a series of lies that eventually keep one from remembering what lies have been told, so one does not expose oneself as a liar, by lying about a lie. It is this deception that “wears out oneself,” with the Hebrew word “estem” meaning “bone,” but also “substance” and “self.” To then see a “self” as a basic “soul,” the lies bring the “soul” to the point when death seems much closer than ever before; and, that leads one to feel the weight of guilt that leads to repentance.
In the remainder of verse three, David wrote: “through my groaning , all the day long .” This says the “self-soul” felt the guilt more and more, day by day. It was “crying” that it had dug a pit too deep to ever be able to escape. The aspect of “day” means the light of truth was exposing all of one’s lies to one’s soul. The light of “day” would not stop, causing the guilt to mount daily. This, again, is the guilt one must feel, before one can sincerely repent.
Verse four then continues this begun in verse three, singing: “that by day and night was to be heavy upon , it overturned my moistness ; into the drought of summer .” This is then followed by the word “selah,” which means “to lift up, exalt.” This then sings of the weight of guilt that was the light of truth exposing one’s transgressions, which turned into the darkness that knew no way to escape the trap one had set for one’s own soul. To have one’s “moisture overturned,” that says dryness set in and one’s soul became without spiritual drink. The “drought of summer” is when no spiritual rain has fallen to wash the sins away.
Verse five is then the long verse the Episcopal Church decided to make into two verses. It also ends with David writing “selah.” Verse four sings of the burden and dryness of sin. To conclude that with a word that places emphasis on a musical pause means to reduce one’s “contemplation” to a physical understanding only. To see this in spiritual terms means to see the only escape from such a ‘weighty” misery is through Yahweh, where one is “lifted up” and “exalted.”
In that regard, verse five then literally translates into English singing, “my sin I acknowledged to you and my guilt not I have covered , I called , I shall cast above my transgressions Yahweh ; and you carried away the guilt of my sin . selah .” This is David singing of one’s heart being fully exposed to Yahweh, so all guilts felt have been admitted and laid before Him for judgment. When the separated word says, “I called,” this amounts to willful confession. A voice from heaven did not come booming down, telling anyone to confess or be destroyed. This is an important element to realize, as each individual must sincerely confess before Yahweh [not a priest or other human, as no humans can absolve or forgive sins of the soul]. This means “casting above” means not telling someone on the same human level of existence. All confessions must be made to Yahweh, as only He can “carry away guilt;” and, that is done by the presence of His Son resurrected in one’s soul, which is the fulfillment of an “exalted” state of being. Thus, verse four prayed for “exaltation” and verse five answered that prayer.
Verse six then explains this double “selah” by singing, “above this it shall mediate all who is pious ׀ towards you in a time when you may be found at the least , in a flood of waters great ; it near , not they shall touch .” Here, the Hebrew word “palal” has been translated as “mediate,” but means “to intervene, interpose,” implying “prayer” and “supplication.” Again, the directional preposition used says “above,” where that “cast above” in verse five has been received “above,” where “this [cast]” is considered, relative to one’s sincerity [“pious,” from “chasid,” implying “godly”]. At that point a vertical bar is used, which says there is a pause between the time a prayer is “offered up” [“cast above”], when “mediation” takes place. This will then bring an answer to the prayer “in a time when you may be found” truly repentant. When David wrote “at the least” [variation of “raq,” which means “howsoever” also], this says one has reached the lowest level of self-importance, when the truth is fully exposed because all else has failed. It is at this time when a “great flood” of emotion has overcome one’s soul, where the Spirit of Yahweh is poured out upon one’s soul. When that is “near,” one with one’s soul, then is when no influence of iniquity will have effect or affect on one’s being.
Verse seven then finds the third use of “selah” ending a verse. One also finds a second vertical bar coming after the first word, which states “you.” The vertical bar indicates a pause being stated, where “not that shall touch” is now connected to “you,” which is the presence of Yahweh within one’s soul. As such, “you” is protected by one having become married divinely to Yahweh’s Spirit. The attacking worldly influences do not come after Yahweh, but oneself. When oneself has united with Yahweh’s Spirit, “you” becomes oneself, as a Yahweh elohim.
The whole of verse seven then is shown to literally sing, “you ׀ covering myself from distress you shall guard me with cries of deliverance , you shall surround me . selah .” Seeing this verse as a separate verse of song, “you” … followed by the vertical bar … sings of oneself knowing Yahweh. This knowledge is from being “covered” by His Spirit, which not only “guards” one’s soul from the attacks of worldly influence, but it also leads one’s soul to “shriek” with joy from having been “delivered.” In that salvation from Yahweh, the name “Jesus” means “Yah Saves.” Thus, one is “surrounded” by the ever present Christ Spirit; and, that is reason to state one has been “exalted.”
Verse eight then sings literally in English, “I will give you prudence ׀ and instruct you , in the manner that you should walk ; I will counsel above with my eye .” Here, another vertical bar separates what the presence of Yahweh will bring. After stating, “I will give you prudence,” where one’s soul will no longer be reacting willy-nilly to external influences and stimuli, there comes a period of pause. That pause become a time of reflection on one’s newfound “prudence.” One will be able to see how one had previously acted with haste or a lack of forethought. So, following the vertical bar, Yahweh “will teach” one how to recognize how Satan trains his minions to approach souls. It is then from those lessons that one’s soul will be led to live righteously. The final segment of words say Yahweh will remain “above,” but His “eye” will be His Spirit, which will remain one with one’s soul; and, that is the Adam-Jesus resurrection within that soul, which is the “eye” of Yahweh in one’s flesh.
Verse nine then sings, “not to come to pass ׀ like the swift like the mule has no understanding from bit and bridle whose mouth must be held in check ; cannot , they will come into you .” Here, David is making it clear what is “not” to expect by the “prudence” and the “teaching” that “will be given,” so one will live righteously. This will “not” make one be transformed “swiftly.” While the inner angel [Yahweh elohim – Adam-Jesus] will become immediately the wings that cover and protect, that presence will “not” make one become like a cavalry soldier, ready to make counter attacks on sinful influences. To act so rashly would be like a ”mule” (stubbornly ignorant), which is not known for being the smartest of the animals on earth. Their movements must be controlled by a “bit and bridle,” to lead them ignorantly where the rider knows to go. It “cannot” be expected to be like that. When “they will come into you,” then one will act naturally, but with “prudence.” That will not be motivated by emotions – like anger, lust, or revenge – but whispers that let one know where to tread carefully.
Verse ten then literally sings in English, “many pains , to the wicked but he who trusts Yahweh ; goodness , shall surround him .” The initial focus being put on “many pains” says the ending of verse nine foretold of the attacks that will come to test a soul’s commitment to Yahweh. These attacks will bring “many pains” that a soul will have to endure. These can be seen as withdrawal pains from giving up old addictions. It can be physical attacks because one refuses to do evil acts like one’s old friends expect from one. They will come from “the wicked” and “the criminal,” where religion means attacks by those who say the righteous make them look bad (when it is they who are bad), striking out in anger against their own souls. The exception (“but”) says those “pains” will be endured, when one’s faith in Yahweh is secured by His presence. One will experience the benefits of His “goodness.” One will know His loving “kindness surrounds” one’s soul.
The last verse then sings literally (in English): “be glad Yahweh and rejoice you righteous ; and give a ringing cry , wholly upright in heart .” This refers to the “selah” that ended verse seven, where David sang, “with cries of deliverance , you shall surround me”. That exalted state of being brings out cries of joy, coming from the soul. The Hebrew translating as “heart” also means “inner man, mind, and will.” All of this constitutes as one’s soul, because the presence of Yahweh is spiritual. The “heart” is a physical organ; but it is the symbol of courage and inner fortitude. We now know that truly comes from the spiritual presence of Yahweh having become one’s savior.
As a Psalm chosen to be sung aloud on the fourth Sunday in Lent, when one’s test of commitment to Yahweh is the focus, this song clearly sings of repentance being the key to success in that testing. To truly reach the point of repentance, one must have sinned and reached a depth of remorse that one truly seeks forgiveness. Here, it is important to get a firm grasp of the parable Jesus told, known as the Prodigal Son. Yahweh has two forms of human sons, both sinners in some way. Only those who reach a depth of knowing the end with guilt can change and welcome Yahweh (and Adam-Jesus) into their souls. Some think they are blessed by birth and do not need to repent or pray for forgiveness. Those are the ones who cause the repentant “many pains."