Read Psalm 32 and we realize that 1) in this text the gospel is clearly proclaimed, for David writes of forgiveness and imputation of sin and righteousness and confession and repentance, and we realize that 2) this psalm and countless other passages in the Old Testament require the death of Jesus on the cross.
As we read the Old Testament and consider the writings of these godly men, it is apparent from the way that they wrote that Old Testament saints knew that they were righteous before the LORD and that the LORD loved them and defended them and forgave them of their sins, but they did not, they could not understand how this could be. By that I mean that they sensed a deep intimacy with the LORD and they enjoyed a close and personal relationship with Him without being able to explain how that intimate relationship had come to be. They could not explain how God forgave them of their transgressions when He did not forgive others. The OT saints could not articulate any reason why they sensed that they were righteous before the Holy One when at the same time they knew of their own sins and iniquities. There must have been at least some tension within the mind of the OT saints as they knew of the evil thoughts and sinful words and acts they had done, while unshakably sensing an acceptance and an intimacy with YHWH. And what is remarkable is that this tension never seems to have created any doubt in the mind of the OT saint. The fact that they could not explain or defend their sense of righteousness before the LORD does not lead to any doubt about that righteousness, even when the saint fell into great sin (David) or was fiercely attacked by his closest acquaintances because of their “unjustified” claim of righteousness (Job). David falls into great sin and there are severe consequences from the LORD for his sins of adultery and murder (2 Samuel 12), but never is there even a hint that David has lost his relationship with the LORD or that the LORD has rejected David. The LORD disciplines those He loves, but He never releases or abandons those He loves. In the example of Job, Job insists on his righteousness even under fierce accusation and rebuke from his three friends. Job cannot explain why he is righteous when he and his three friends all know that all men are sinners, but Job will not let go of his absolute conviction that he is righteous before the LORD and that the LORD has fully accepted him. Taunt, ridicule and character assassination from his friends will not persuade him that he is unrighteous and that now he needs to confess his sin and work his way back to a right standing with God. Job knows that the LORD loves him and nothing will change his mind.
Another observation is that no Old Testament saint ever appeals to the Law for his justification. The saint does not point to their performance of the Law to justify their right standing before God. The reason for this is evident: The Law condemns and only a fool would appeal to the instrument of condemnation for their acquittal. It is interesting that the Pharisees appealed to their law-keeping as the reason for their right standing before God.
The points I am trying to make are these two: 1) the Old Testament saints were completely convinced of their right standing before God and were at the same time aware of their own personal sins and transgressions and were nevertehless confident that God was going to reveal a way that their justification was accomplished; and 2) the fact that God justified the ungodly (Romans 4:5; 5:6) required the death of the sinless Son of God on the cross to provide the necessary atonement for sin. That is, the cross of Christ is necessary if God is going to ever forgive even one sin of one Old Testament saint.
So when David say, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered; How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,” we know that the LORD is going to send Jesus Christ to pay for those sins. When David confesses his sin to Nathan after Nathan has just told him of his heinous sins, his subsequent forgiveness (2 Samuel 12:13) requires the death of the Lord Jesus. When Job claims righteousness and also acknowledges his own sin, the sacrifice of the Son of God is required and thus guaranteed. Every mention of forgiveness in the Old Testament requires the death of Jesus Christ. If there is any mention of any person being forgiven or any person being righteous or good, be assured that these declarations require the death of Jesus.
The salvation of every Old Testament saint requires the agonies and the punishment of Calvary. “Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22) and there is only one pure and sinless blood that will be accepted as atonement for sin, and that is the blood of the Lord Jesus.
SDG rmb 6/24/2018