“If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.” (Psalms 130:3–4 NIV)
So what is the distress of the previous verses? It is guilt! It is interesting that after the initial cries for ‘mercy’ the Psalmist refers to sin. Is seems that his suffering is caused by sin – his own sin. This is why the Psalm is among the ‘penitential’ Psalms – which we talked about in the previous article.
We cause suffering to ourselves and those around us by our sin (see the example of Achan in Joshua 7:20-26). We do not live in a sealed box when it comes to the effects of sin. Sin affects our spouse, our children, our friends and much more. Is that why we avoid people? Does that have any connection with why we arrive late for church meetings?
We also cause spiritual suffering to ourselves,
“When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!” (Romans 6:20–21)
So what do we do with our sin? Do we hide it like Achan? We know we cannot ‘stand’ before the holy God – but the good news is that Jesus can,
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:22–23)
It reminds me of the hymn,
Before the throne of God above I have a strong and perfect plea. A great high Priest whose Name is Love who ever lives and pleads for me. My name is graven on His hands, my name is written on His heart. I know that while in Heaven He stands no tongue can bid me thence depart.
Because He stands there, we can ‘stand’ before God. We can walk into God’s presence any time, any day to find the grace we need (Heb 4:16). This truth and this love makes all the difference when we come to God with our sin. He keeps no record of sin that is surrendered to him.
A very important word, that ‘but’ in v4! The Psalmist is aware of his sin. It troubles him. Humility is his response. He hopes that he can find forgiveness, he knows that God does and can forgive.
God is to be feared because he is the only one who can forgive. This fear is not negative to the Psalmist. He wants the LORD – not just his forgiveness. He wants a right relationship with God, and that is his hope. When we remember that the real point is to have a relationship with God, and that becomes our desire, then confessing our sins is no real problem.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:8–10 NIV)
Rejoice that God keeps no record of our sins!