HE’S WILLING TO FORGIVE
Psalms 130:1-8 NET
1 From the deep water I cry out to you, O LORD. 2 O Lord, listen to me! Pay attention to my plea for mercy! 3 If you, O LORD, were to keep track of sins, O Lord, who could stand before you? 4 But you are willing to forgive, so that you might be honored. 5 I rely on the LORD, I rely on him with my whole being; I wait for his assuring word. 6 I yearn for the Lord, more than watchmen do for the morning, yes, more than watchmen do for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD, for the LORD exhibits loyal love, and is more than willing to deliver. 8 He will deliver Israel from all the consequences of their sins.
I want to talk about forgiveness for a little while. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them to ask God for forgiveness. Once he healed a man who was paralyzed, and he told that man that he was forgiven. His point was that he has the same right to release people from sins as he does to release them from physical problems (Mark 2:1-12).
Jesus also explained why God can forgive us. During the first communion celebration — the night before his crucifixion — Jesus took a cup, gave thanks for it, and then said “this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). The shed blood of Christ is the basis of God’s forgiveness.
Also, proclaiming the possibility of forgiveness is not just a minor theological tenet of Christianity. We are commanded by our Savior to proclaim it. In Luke’s version of the great commission, we are told that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:17).
But the story of God’s forgiveness does not begin at Calvary or the great commission. No, just like everything else that Jesus taught, if we want to understand it, we have to spend some time reading the Bible that he read — the Old Testament. That’s why we are first going to go to Psalm 130 to understand that our God is willing to forgive.
Verse 4 says it. David says to his Lord, “You are willing to forgive.” We know for sure that David believed that. I am not here today to convince you that David believed that. The purpose of this psalm is to convince others to believe that.
Forgiveness is crucial to the gospel. If someone does not believe in forgiveness, it doesn’t matter how much they know about other things. I want to outline from today’s text some of the supposed obstacles to forgiveness. My point is that they are not obstacles because God is willing to forgive.
Verse 1 begins “From the deep water I cry out to you, O LORD.” So, the first obstacle to forgiveness is the deep water.
The deep water cannot prevent him from forgiving you (1).
Deep water signifies danger in the Bible. The particular danger that David faces at the beginning of this psalm is the danger of unforgiven sin. He is in danger of being destroyed by his guilt.
Murphy says “This Psalm describes the rise of the soul from the deep of self-condemnation to the height of hope in God.” (646). The psalm has three stages. The first stage is verses 1-2, where David is pleading for rescue.
Spurgeon says “Those that are farthest cast down, are not farthest from God, but are nearest unto him” (123). When you are at rock bottom, it is a good thing because the only direction you can look is up.
Jonah was in the deep water literally and metaphorically. He prayed to God, and God sent a fish. There is no water deep enough to obscure us from God’s vision.
In Psalm 139, David said: “Where can I go to escape your spirit? Where can I flee to escape your presence? If I were to ascend to heaven, you would be there. If I were to sprawl out in Sheol, there you would be. If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn and settle down on the other side of the sea, even there your hand would guide me, your right hand would grab hold of me” (7-10).
God is actively seeking those he can forgive. He is willing to dig deep to find people willing to be forgiven. Even before we ask God to listen to us, he is there listening.
Verse 3 says “If you, O LORD, were to keep track of sins, O Lord, who could stand before you?”
The number of your sins cannot prevent him from forgiving you (3).
I like the way verse 3 begins with an “if.” This is not conditional “if.” It is a hypothetical “if”. David is saying that if God operated in such a way that his sins could become an obstacle to God’s forgiveness, then he would have a problem. David knows he is a sinner. But he also knows that God is a forgiver. The number of David’s sins can never prevent God from intervening in his life and rescuing him from their consequences.
I imagine some people think of their relationship with God as if God is holding a bucket. Every time they sin, God puts that sin in his bucket. When their transgressions reach critical mass, God puts the bucket down and walks away.
That may be the way some people think, but that is not the way David thought. He did not have bucket theology. He knew that God is offended by his sins, but he also knew that God had committed himself to never walk away, to always be available to forgive.
Isaiah wrote “Come, let’s consider your options,” says the LORD. “Though your sins have stained you like the color red, you can become white like snow; though they are as easy to see as the color scarlet, you can become white like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). The sins are real, but so is the potential of complete forgiveness. It doesn’t matter how dark the stain is, God’s got a detergent that can take the stain away.
Verse 4 says that God is willing to forgive, so that he might be honored.
That word “honored” is the word “fear” but we don’t usually associate forgiveness with fear. We tend to think of forgiveness as removing fear. It does remove the fear of judgment, but it replaces it with reverence and worship.
The justice of God cannot prevent him from forgiving you (4).
“God does not forgive in order that man may be in terror of him. That would be nonsense. But God would neither be worth reverence, nor would it be worthwhile to revere him, unless he were forgiving. Not worth reverence,’ because he would not be good; ‘ not worthwhile to revere, ‘ because, as sin is for us inevitable, it would be hopeless to serve him. Who would not run away from and disown an unforgiving Father? (Montefiore, 556-557).
God takes sin seriously. That is why he sent his only Son to atone for our sins. But because Jesus died for our sins, God approaches us with the reality of that atonement. His justice is not an obstacle to his forgiveness. No sin that we could ever commit could ever deplete the purifying power of the blood of Christ on the cross. As long as we keep walking in the light, the blood of Jesus keeps cleansing us from all sin.
Also, The distance between you and God cannot prevent him from forgiving you (5-7).
The text talks about the watchmen waiting for the morning to come.
Burgess explains that “The custom was that one of the Levites who watched in the temple should stand to observe the first rising of the dawn; that the morning sacrifice might be duly prepared.” (Burgess, 246). These Levites watched for the morning light because they thought that during that time before the morning sacrifice there were sins that were not yet atoned for. Without the sacrifice, there was a distance between God and his creation.
We all know how it feels when we know we have done something wrong. We are afraid of praying because we feel that distance. We are self-condemned but are reluctant to go to God because we feel that he would condemn us as well.
But we need to remember the cross. On that old rugged cross, Jesus died as the substitutionary sacrifice for our sins once and for all. There is no longer a distance. Our sins are no longer an obstacle. Our God has called us to come boldly to his throne of grace to find mercy in our time of need.
Our God is like the father of the prodigal son, watching and waiting for us to come home to him. He looks out his window to see if we are making our way down the dusty road. He has the robe and ring ready. He has the fattened calf in the stall, ready to process for the celebration feast. The sinful prodigal might feel like there is a distance. He may be ready only to return to his father’s house as one of his hired servants. But the loving Father will have none of that. That is no way to treat this son of mine, who was dead, and is now alive!
Finally, The consequences of your mistakes cannot prevent him from forgiving you (8).
Verse 8 promises that God will deliver Israel from all the consequences of their sins.
The final payoff of all sin is death, but there are other consequences of failing to obey God. The wars and pandemics and unfairnesses of this life speak to us and they tell us that there are so many things that are not the way they should be.
The God who promises us forgiveness is ready to add to that blessing. He is ready to start undoing what our sins have done to us. We deserve prison, but he promises freedom. We deserve death, but he promises a renewal of life. We deserve pain, but he promises pleasure. We deserve sorrow, but he promises joy. We deserve curses, but he promises blessings.
Burgess, George. The Book of Psalms: Translated into English Verse. New York: F.J. Huntington, 1840.
Montefiore, C. G. The Book of Psalms. 1901.
Murphy, James Gracey. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms. Andover: W.F. Draper, 1875.
Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. The Treasury of David: London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1873.