A sermon on Psalm 32, published in the Baptist Times on December 17th 2009

The sermon outline 

Every week there are people you would rather not be.  Newspapers and television reports feed our insatiable appetite to see what others are up to, and there is plenty of scope for what the Germans call “schadenfreude” – rejoicing in the guilt of others.  The thing is, it would be ok if guilt were only a problem we had to deal with ‘out there’.  Instead it creeps into our own lives, into our very bones.  In this Psalm, David the courageous giant killer and soldier is reduced to an aching, quivering wreck by his guilt.  Doctors and psychologists confirm that the effects of guilt can be physical as well as mental.

 The only thing he can do about it is to confess.  In order for this to be effective he must search deep down, beneath the actions and words on the surface.  We should not equate simply saying ‘I’m sorry’, like a sulky child, with confession.  Confession means delving into the deep places of our beings where resentments breed and motivations are born.  Here, as in other Psalms, David’s honesty with God will be his only saving grace.

 And what does God do about it?  God’s response appears to be out of all proportion.  He not only gives forgiveness and cleansing, but lends David his ongoing protection and support.  No wonder David is rejoicing by the end of the Psalm.  Guilt, like death and taxation, is inevitable.  However, being crushed by it is not.

Scriptural issues 

  • Read Psalm 51 in conjunction with 2 Samuel 11 in order to see what David knows about painfully honest confession.


  • Psalm 139 v. 23 – 24 also has something to say about the ‘deep cleansing’ of real confession.


  • Though variously translated, the word ‘selah’ which appears next to the text definitely implies that we should pause and think whilst reading a Psalm such as this.


Current issues

  •  Check up this week to see whether you are joining in with the ‘schadenfreude’ – enjoying the misfortune of others in the spotlight


  •  As non-conformists we get very nervous about confessing sins to any other person.  Can there ever be a place for it?

 “If we seriously want to deal with our crippling guilt, it will require some earnest confession.  We must confess the obvious things, near the surface, but also the motivations hidden deeper down.  Time spent in the presence of God as the searchlight of his spirit plays across the darkened waters of our soul, will pick out those lurking boulders which jut out and shipwreck  our good intentions”