Of David, a contemplation. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Psalm 32:1
Blessed Is – So, now you know that this is a maskil. That means it is an insight for action. But immediately following the word maskil, we come to what appears to be a passive verb, blessed is. If this is about purposeful, prudent action, why does it seem as if we are the passive recipients here? After all, most Christians would read this verse as if it said, “You are blessed when God (the active agent) forgives you (the passive recipient).” But that changes the context of a maskil. Something is wrong.
What’s wrong is our English translation of the Hebrew word ‘esher (translated “blessed is”). You see, the problem is that this isn’t a verb! It’s a noun. It doesn’t say, “Blessed is.” That’s a verb. It says, “A state of bliss the man whose . . .” In other words, it does not describe some action that happens to us. It simply describes what it is like to be forgiven. By the way, this word is never used of God. That’s another clue. Why? This word describes a state of bliss that comes about through some action that we perform. It is not the result of God’s direct action toward us. It is something we cause to happen in ourselves. We come into a state of bliss as a result of certain actions.
‘esher is the Tanakh (Hebrew Scripture) “beatitude” word. It is the equivalent of the Greek makarios, the word that begins each of the Beatitudes in Matthew. Knowing that it is not a verb is very important. By the way, in Greek the word makarios is also not a verb. We will have to translate those Beatitudes all over again. Not a single one begins with “blessed are.” Just like this maskil, they are all descriptions of the inner state of bliss that accompanies a certain result of actions.
So, what does this verse (and all the other “beatitudes”) tell us about the state of bliss? This verse tells us that the inner state of a man whose transgression has been forgiven is an experience of bliss. It does not tell us how that process happens. It simply says that when it happens, it’s wonderful. This maskil opens by commenting on what it is like to be forgiven. It is marvelous! And since we all want to feel marvelous, this state of bliss is something we all desire. In exactly the same way, the opening Beatitude of Matthew 5:3 tells us that it is marvelous to experience the kingdom of heaven at hand. Yeshua simply uses an Old Testament pattern to elaborate the description of bliss.
Of course, neither David nor Yeshua leave us hanging. Yeshua tells us that the state of bliss associated with the experience of the kingdom is connected to being poor in spirit (there is a lot more to this too). David tells us that experiencing the bliss of forgiveness is connected to confession. Yes, it is connected to something that we do. Go ahead. Read verses 3 to 5. If you want the bliss of forgiveness, you have to do something. You don’t wait for God to show up with the forgiveness pill. You acknowledge your sin. You proclaim it before the Holy One of Israel. You stop hiding the truth about yourself. And then you wait for God. The state of bliss is something you control.
Isn’t that nice to know? The insight of this maskil is this. God is ready to forgive whenever you are ready to confess. It isn’t necessary to appease Him. It is only necessary to be ruthlessly honest about yourself.
Topical Index: beatitude, maskil, ‘esher, blessed, Psalm 32:1