Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.Psalm 51:1-2
What a marvelous understanding of the nature of sin and the character of God's forgiveness is found in these verses! There are three things David asks for. First, he understands that sin is like a crime. If criminals are to be delivered from the effects of their crime, they do not need justice but mercy. Sin is an illegal act, a violation of justice, and an act of lawlessness and rebellion and therefore requires mercy.
Then he says,
Blot out my transgressions, and thereby he reveals that he understands sin is like a debt. It is something owed, an account that has accumulated and needs to be erased.
Finally he cries,
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. He understands that sin is like an ugly stain, a defilement upon the soul. Even though the act fades into the past, the dirty defiling stain remains a stigma upon the heart. So he cries out and asks to be delivered from these things.
Notice that David understands well the basis for forgiveness. He asks on the basis of two things: first,
according to your unfailing love. He understands that he himself deserves nothing from God, that God is not bound to forgive him. Some people are never able to realize forgiveness because they think they deserve it, that God owes it to them. But David knows better. He realizes that only because of God's love may he even approach God to ask. On the basis of that unqualified acceptance, that marvelous continuing love-that-will-not-let-me-go, he says to God,
I am coming to you and asking now for this.
Second, as David appeals to God
according to your great compassion, he again indicates his understanding of the character of God. God is not a penny pincher; He does not dole out bits of mercy, drop by drop. No, He pours it out. His are abundant mercies. When God forgives, He forgives beyond our utmost imaginings. Two figures of speech that are used in the Old Testament depict the forgiveness of God.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). How far is that? Well, how far do you have to go east before you start going west? You never come to west. Then God says He will
hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). Someone has added that he puts up a sign that reads
NO FISHING. Do not go down there and try to fish old sins out once God has dealt with them. What relief comes when we begin to understand this fullness of God's forgiveness.
Father, thank You that I can come to You with my sin and cry out for mercy and love. Your love is steadfast; your mercy is abundant. I trust that You are always willing to forgive.
The Word of God teaches the true nature of sin, and the astounding basis for God's forgiveness. Are we learning to live in these liberating truths?