What does Psalm chapter 32 mean?When David committed sin with Bathsheba, then sinned further trying to cover up his crimes, God brought intense misery into his life. It was not until Nathan, a prophet, rebuked David that he finally admitted his guilt before the Lord and found forgiveness (2 Samuel 11—12). This psalm corresponds to Psalm 51, which was David's initial response to Nathan's righteous accusation. In Psalm 32, David reflects on the blessing of divine forgiveness. That self-examination is likely part of the meaning of the Hebrew term Maskiyl, likely referring to a specific type of musical arrangement.
The psalm begins with David expressing the relief which comes with being forgiven of sin. This can only come when a person confesses to God and accepts that their actions were wrong. Resisting that admission cost David intense emotional and physical distress. God's conviction is unpleasant, but it's part of His mercy (Hebrews 12:6). Forcing a person to confront their own sin leads to repentance, restoration, and growth (1 John 1:8–10). When there is no admission of sin, that relationship remains strained (Psalm 32:1–4).
Confession before God leads to relief. Those who sincerely seek God (John 3:36) can anticipate being forgiven when they acknowledge sin and repent. David encourages others to do the same as he has done (Psalm 32:5–7).
The advice offered next is subject to some level of debate. Interpreters disagree as to whether verses 8 and 9 are "spoken" from the perspective of David, or as God. Neither option changes the truth, meaning, or application of the verses. True wisdom starts with an acknowledgement of God's truth (Proverbs 1:7). Reacting negatively to good counsel is foolish and leads to even more suffering. Those who trust in God's knowledge are not free from all troubles (John 16:33), but they can be assured of His loving care amid those circumstances (Psalm 32:8–9).
The psalm concludes with an encouragement for praise. Compared to those who stubbornly refuse to admit their sin, humble and godly people have every reason to rejoice in God. Receiving forgiveness of sin not only results in an immediate restoration of our relationship with God, but it also gives reasons for us to celebrate (Psalm 32:10–11).