Sometimes a paraphrase hits a homerun. Sometimes a paraphrase hits a foul ball. Here’s an example on one such foul ball.
Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—
you get a fresh start,
your slate’s wiped clean.
2 Count yourself lucky—
God holds nothing against you
and you’re holding nothing back from him.
Now consider this passage from a literal translation of the Bible:
How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
2 How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!
I trust you noticed the difference. For some unfortunate reason, Eugene Peterson choose to employ the word “lucky” for the more accurate rendering “blessed.”*
That decision makes a world of difference!
Luck (as if it existed) “just happens” to someone. Blessing indicates that an outside force provided relief or reward to an individual.
Now meditate on the context of this psalm. David is rejoicing that this heinous sins had been forgiven. His transgression had been covered. God had been gracious. Luck was nowhere to be found in the equation.
As I studied this today, I found the following helpful article written by Stephen J. Cole. He hit a homerun with these words:
Psalm 32 begins just as Psalm 1 does‑‑with a plural which might be rendered: “Oh the happinesses ….” The Living Bible puts it: “What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record.”
There are many blessings or happinesses for the person who experiences God’s forgiveness. Here are four:
A. The blessing of a clean conscience (32:1‑2).
David uses four Hebrew words for sin and three words for forgiveness which help us understand what it means to have a clean conscience before God.
Words for sin:
(1) “Transgression” = Rebellion, refusing to submit to rightful authority. God has ordained certain limits for human behavior for our good and the good of society. When we go against those limits, we transgress; we refuse to be subject to God’s rightful authority in our lives.
(2) “Sin” = To miss the mark. While transgression looks at the violation of a known law, sin looks at a coming short of that aim which God intended for us to reach.
(3) “Iniquity” (NIV, “sin”) = from a word meaning bent or twisted. It has the nuance of perverting that which is right, of erring from the way. Any time you have done something crooked you have committed iniquity.
(4) “Deceit” = deliberate cover‑up, falsehood, hypocrisy. Trying to present a false front so that you look good even when you know you’re not.
Those words for sin condemn us all as guilty before God. But David’s words for forgiveness show us what it means to have a clean conscience before God.
Words for forgiveness:
(1) “Forgiven” = To bear, carry off, or take away a burden. Our sin is a burden which God Himself bears or takes away. You are all familiar with the term “scapegoat.” A scapegoat takes the blame and everyone else goes free. The term comes from the Hebrew sacrificial system. The high priest would select a goat, lay his hands on its head and confess the sins of the people, thereby, in ceremonial fashion, putting their sins on the goat. The animal was then sent into the wilderness as a picture of how God carried their sins away from Himself.
The sacrificial system pointed ahead to Jesus Christ. He was the perfect and final scapegoat for sins. He bore our sins away once for all, so that when we put our trust in what Jesus did on the cross, our sins are gone.
(2) “Covered” = Out of sight. God puts our sins out of His sight, which means He will never bring up our sins as a matter of judgment between Him and us. If we’re in Christ, our sins are covered by His blood!
(3) “Not counted” (“impute,” NASB) = Not charged to our account. This is the verb used of God’s dealings with Abraham: “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned (credited) it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). As Paul argues, this is the righteousness which comes from faith alone, not from works (Rom. 4:5‑8).
It’s as if I had run up a million dollar charge account bill at a department store and I didn’t have $10 to my name. There is no way I can pay the debt. But the store informs me that the charge number on my card actually charged the debt to another man’s account, and that he was a multi‑millionaire and was willing to pay it on my behalf. That’s what God has done for us in Christ. We owed an unpayable debt for our sin. But Christ paid it on the cross. When we trust in what He did, God credits our account paid in full and even adds the righteousness of Christ to our account!
Martin Luther said, “Sin has but two places where it may be; either it may be with you, so that it lies upon your neck, or upon Christ, the Lamb of God. If now it lies upon your neck, you are lost; if, however, it lies upon Christ, you are free and will be saved.” If your sin is upon Christ, you enjoy the blessing of a clean conscience.
[Stephen J. Cole, Psalm 32: The Blessings of Forgiveness, 1993, Bible.org, Reprinted with permission.]
As I meditate upon those words, I, like David, find myself blessed. I am happy. God did for me what I could not do for myself. The Lord accomplished for me what He alone could do and I am blessed today and for an eternity. I am a recipient of His amazing grace. Luck was nowhere to be found in the equation.
*If you follow my blog, you will find I often praise Peterson for his choice of passage renderings. The Message has often encouraged me in my walk with the Lord and I would strongly encourage you to purchase a copy or read it on a website such as http://www.biblegateway.com.