The Refuge of Repentance

You are my hiding place
You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid

I will trust in You
I will trust in You
Let the weak say
I am strong
In the strength of the Lord1

These lyrics, made famous by the group Selah, are based on Psalm 32:7:

 You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.

Surprisingly, though, the context of those words is not deliverance from an enemy, but confession.

Psalm 32, likely a companion to 51, which David wrote in response to Nathan’s confronting him about his sin with Bathsheba (see 2 Sam. 11-12), is a psalm of repentance. However, rather than displaying what repentance looks like, David gives the results of bringing sin out of darkness and confessing it to God. He begins by showing his hand and telling us the theme of the psalm right up front with these bold declarations:

How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered! 
How joyful is a person whom the LORD does not charge with iniquity
and in whose spirit is no deceit!
  (Psa 32:1-2)

Or, to paraphrase, David wants to show his audience that the good life is the forgiven life.

God’s Heavy Hand

But David knows firsthand the opposite of the good life. After committing adultery with Bathsheba and arranging for her husband’s murder (2 Samuel 11), David hid his sin for at least a year. Enough time had passed for Bathsheba to have delivered the baby she conceived with David (2 Sam 11:5; 12:14-15). Perhaps the “baby” was not a newborn, but a year old, which would mean David hid his sin even longer. Regardless, he walked in darkness a long time.

He tells about this experience in vv. 3-4 of Psalm 32, describing God’s “heavy hand” upon him:

When I kept silent,
my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. 
For day and night your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat.  Selah

David finishes those lines with a call to pause and reflect on what’s he’s just told us. He invites us to meditate on the fact that refusing to repent brings unintended consequence on all parts of our being: the spiritual, emotional, and physical.

Hiding sin may promise refuge and safety, but it will never deliver on the promise.

The Hinge: Confession

David’s entire experience flips in verse 5 when he decides to come out of hiding and acknowledge his sin, an idea he repeats three times in one verse:

 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not conceal my iniquity.
 I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
 

David again calls the readers to stop and ponder what he’s just told them. After at least a year of running and trying to ignore the heavy hand of God upon him, David finally (with a little help from his prophet friend Nathan) confesses his guilt. But that’s not really what this verse is all about.

It’s about what happened next.

In just eight words, David gives hope to all of us hiding in the shadows with fig leaves for clothes. “And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” David confessed. God forgave. It really is that simple.

But the most beautiful part is what comes next.

The Refuge of Repentance

David covered up his sin because he didn’t want to face the consequences. He knew that the Law demanded that he be put to death for sleeping with another man’s wife (Lev. 20:10), and that if he received clemency on that account (he was the king, after all), he had killed another man. Again, he deserved the death penalty (Ex. 21:14). And even if he was able to pull some royal strings to avoid execution, he knew that his transgressions had displeased God. How would the God whom he had loved and served so faithfully ever look upon him again?

David knew that he deserved the same penalty as Adam, Eve, and Cain—banishment.

So, he ran. And he hid.

But when he confessed, God didn’t banish David. He forgave him. And, better yet, God became a refuge for David. Instead of the heavy hand of God and the wasting away of his vitality, David found comfort, security, and solace.

Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to you immediately.
 When great floodwaters come, they will not reach him. 
You are my hiding place;
you protect me from trouble.
You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance. Selah

Saved from the Floodwaters

The repentant person finds protection, first, from the floodwaters. David probably uses this image to describe trouble and trials, or, perhaps the consequences that his sin brought. Though God didn’t demand David’s life for his sins, He did take the life of the baby boy. And that was just the beginning of the flood. The sword never departed from David’s house. Trouble would follow David and his sons for the rest of their lives. But, in the refuge of repentance, David would not be drowned by this deluge.

Protection from Trouble

The next verse, then, can seem like a contradiction. How did God protect David from trouble? From 2 Samuel 12 to the end of the book, David encounters one trouble after another. God didn’t take trouble away from David, but provided the fortress to endure it—the house built upon the rock that did not collapse with the crashing of the waves. David took refuge from God (and His wrath) in God.2

Surrounded with the Song of Deliverance

David was no stranger to songs of deliverance—he wrote quite a few of them—and was in more than a few tight spots where he saw God’s mighty hand of deliverance. But the song of deliverance that God sings over us in none other than the sweet song of the Gospel.

Songs such as Romans 8:1 and 38-39:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. . .For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And Hebrews 7:25,

Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.

And the “joyful shout” of Christ from the cross:

“It is finished” (John 19:20).

If you’re hiding sin and wasting away in the darkness. Listen to the invitation of the shepherd king, who knew all about hiding. I’ll give him the final word:

Many pains come to the wicked,
but the one who trusts in the LORD will have faithful love surrounding him. 
 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones;
shout for joy, all you upright in heart. (Ps. 32:10-11)


1 You Are My Hiding Place lyrics © Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publ., Cccm Music, Carol Joy Music, Word Music, Llc

2 A.W. Tozer. The Knowledge of the Holy. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1961), 107.

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