32:1 Blessed is the one. The word “blessed” (’ashre) begins the whole Psalter (see the comments on Ps. 1:1). This is the person who is favored by God’s forgiveness, which is preceded by repentance (32:5). Verses 1 and 2 are a general benediction on the repentant and forgiven life. The crisis that led to this “blessed” life is described in 32:3–4.
1. “Blessed.” Like the sermon on the mount, this Psalm begins with beatitudes. This is the second Psalm of benediction. The first Psalm describes the result of holy blessedness, the thirty-second details the cause of it. The first pictures the tree in full growth, this depicts it in its first planting and watering. He who in the first Psalm is a reader of God’s book, is here a suppliant at God’s throne accepted and heard. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven.” He is now blessed, and ever shall be. Be he ever so poor, or sick, or sorrowful, he is blessed in very deed. Pardoning mercy is of all things in the world most to be prized, for it is the only and sure way to happiness. To hear from God’s own Spirit the words, “absolvo te” is joy unspeakable. Blessedness is not in this case ascribed to the man who has been a diligent lawkeeper, for then it would never come to us, but rather to a lawbreaker, who by grace most rich and free has been forgiven. Self-righteous Pharisees have no portion in this blessedness. Over the returning prodigal, the word of welcome is here pronounced, and the music and dancing begin. A full, instantaneous, irreversible pardon of transgression turns the poor sinner’s hell into heaven, and makes the heir of wrath a partaker in blessing. The word rendered forgiven is in the original taken off, or taken away, as a burden is lifted or a barrier removed. What a lift is here! It cost our Saviour a sweat of blood to bear our load, yea, it cost him his life to bear it quite away. Samson carried the gates of Gaza, but what was that to the weight which Jesus bore on our behalf? “Whose sin is covered.” Covered by God, as the ark was covered by the mercy-seat, as Noah was covered from the flood, as the Egyptians were covered by the depths of the sea. What a cover must that be which hides away for ever from the sight of the all-seeing God all the filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit! He who has once seen sin in its horrible deformity, will appreciate the happiness of seeing it no more for ever. Christ’s atonement is the propitiation, the covering, the making an end of sin; where this is seen and trusted in, the soul knows itself to be now accepted in the Beloved, and therefore enjoys a conscious blessedness which is the antepast of heaven. It is clear from the text that a man may know that he is pardoned: where would be the blessedness of an unknown forgiveness? Clearly it is a matter of knowledge, for it is the ground of comfort.
32:1 Blessed, the word that begins the Book of Psalms (1:1), means “to be happy.” It is appropriate that this term is used of both the righteous person of the first psalm and the confessed sinner in this psalm. sin is covered: The poet describes God’s dealing with sin in various ways. Sin can be taken away, the basic meaning of the word forgiven, and covered, the basic meaning of atonement.