"The Fact of Forgiveness"
Psalms 130:4 "But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared."
I. The Torment of unforgiveness
a. The depths v. 1a
Out of the depths - The word rendered "depths" is from a verb - עמק ‛âmaq - which means to be deep; then, to be unsearchable; then, to make deep; and it would apply to anything low, deep, or profound, as the ocean, a pit, or a valley. The word used here occurs elsewhere only in the following places: Psa_69:2, Psa_69:14, where it is rendered "deep," applied to waters; and Isa_51:10; Eze_27:34, where it is rendered "depths." The word, as used here, would be applicable to deep affliction, dejection, or distress. It would be applicable
(a) to affliction - the depths of sorrow from loss of friends, property, or bodily suffering;
(b) sin - the depths into which the soul is plunged under the consciousness of guilt;
(c) mental trouble - low spirits - melancholy - darkness of mind - loss of comfort in religion - powerful temptation - disappointment - the anguish caused by ingratitude - or sadness of heart in view of the crimes and the sorrows of people - or grief at the coldness, the hardness, the insensibility of our friends to their spiritual condition.
What can guilt, shame and fear do to us? There was a song that I heard several years ago that the Cathedrals recorded that said;
"As a child, I foolishly, turned God away,
Not knowing, the heartbreak, a sinner must pay,
But God, in His goodness, has let me return,
To share with, His children, this lesson I learned,
So with pleasure, and promises, Sin took control,
Leaving me dying, with nothing to show,
Gone were my loved ones, and my dearest friends,
Only a Saviour, could love me again.
Sin will take you farther, than you want to go,
Slowly, but wholly, taking control,
Sin will leave you longer, than you want to stay,
Sin will cost you far more, than you want to pay.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
In the Prison Fellowship newsletter, Jubilee, Charles Colson told of a young boy who became excessively fearful during the great New York blackout of 1977. When his parents questioned their son, he confessed that at the exact moment the lights went out, he had kicked a power line pole. As darkness engulfed the city, he thought he was to blame and would be punished.
b. The desperation v. 1b-2
These are the words of a broken man. A man who has come to the realization of what he has done and the seriousness of what he has done overwhelms him.
c. The declaration v. 3
If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities - If thou shouldst observe, note, attend to, and regard all the evil that I have done. The Hebrew word means properly to keep, to watch, to guard. The word, as used here, refers to that kind of vigilance or watchfulness which one is expected to manifest who is on guard; who keeps watch in a city or camp by night. The idea is, If God should thus look with a scrutinizing eye; if he should try to see all that he could see; if he should suffer nothing to escape his observation; if he should deal with us exactly as we are; if he should overlook nothing, forgive nothing, we could have no hope.
Who shall stand? - Who shall stand upright? Who could stand before thee? Who could hope to be acquitted? This implies
(1) That the petitioner was conscious of guilt, or knew that he was a sinner;
(2) That he felt there was a depth of depravity in his heart which God could see, but which he did not - as every man must be certain that there is in his own soul;
(3) That God had the power of bringing that to light if he chose to do it, so that the guilty man would be entirely overwhelmed;
Numbers 32:23 "But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out."
Luke 12:3 "Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops."
(4) That he who urged the prayer rested his only hope on the fact that God would not mark iniquity; would not develop what was in him; would not judge him by what he saw in his heart; but would deal with him otherwise, and show him mercy and compassion.
Every man must feel that if God should "mark iniquity" as it is - if he should judge us as we are - we could have no hope. It is only on the ground that we may be forgiven, that we hope to come before him.
II. The Truth about forgiveness
a. There is forgiveness because of Divine prerogative
Free, full, sovereign pardon is in the hand of the great King: it is his prerogative to forgive. The power of pardon is permanently resident with God.
But there is forgiveness with thee - Thou canst forgive; mercy belongs to thee, as well as judgment. The doctrine here is the doctrine of St. John: "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord hath spoken!" Jesus has died for our sins; therefore God can be just, and yet the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.
b. There is forgiveness because of Divine passion
Because by his nature he is mercy, therefore forgiveness is with him for all that come to him confessing their sins.
c. There is forgiveness because of Divine provision
God has provided a sacrifice for sin;
But there is forgiveness with thee - The Septuagint renders this ἱλασμός hilasmos, propitiation, reconciliation; the Latin Vulgate "propitiatio," propitiation. The Hebrew word means "pardon." The idea is, that sin may be forgiven; or, that God is a Being who does pardon sin, and that this is the only ground of hope. When we come before God, the ground of our hope is not that we can justify ourselves; not that we can prove we have not sinned; not that we can explain our sins away; not that we can offer an apology for them; it is only in a frank and full confession, and in a hope that God will forgive them. He who does not come in this manner can have no hope of acceptance with God.
III. The Triumph of forgiveness
a. The confidence David enjoys
He anticipates that he will receive relief! His confidence is based upon the "...word..." of the Lord and in his knowledge of the ways of the Lord, that with God there is "...mercy."
b. The confession David expresses
Being general director of the New York opera took a toll on Beverly Sills; she ballooned into obesity. "It made me sick to look at myself. I'd reached the point where I didn't want to have my clothes made anymore. It was too embarrassing. So I ordered everything from catalogues." Eventually Sills was forced to face the problem. "I woke up one day and realized I was really ill." She went to see a specialist. "He put me on the scales. They read 215 pounds. 'I cannot possibly weigh that much!' I gasped. And the doctor said, 'Please look down. Are those two fat feet on the scale yours or mine?'" Beverly smiled. "Once I accepted the problem, I was on my way."
Phyllis Battelle in Ladies Home Journal, quoted in Reader's Digest, June 1986.
c. The cleansing David experiences
"When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long" Psalms 32:3.
There is nothing that so takes the joy out of life like unconfessed sin on the conscience.
Dr. F.E. Marsh tells that on one occasion he was preaching on this question and urging upon his hearers the importance of confession of sin and wherever possible of restitution for wrong done to others.
At the close a young man, a member of the church, came up to him with a troubled countenance. "Pastor," he explained, "you have put me in a sad fix. I have wronged another and I am ashamed to confess it or to try to put it right. You see, I am a boat builder and the man I work for is an infidel. I have talked to him often about his need of Christ and urged him to come and hear you preach, but he scoffs and ridicules it all. Now, I have been guilty of something that, if I should acknowledge it to him, will ruin my testimony forever."
He then went on to say that sometime ago he started to build a boat for himself in his own yard. In this work copper nails are used because they do not rust in the water. These nails are quite expensive and the young man had been carrying home quantities of them to use on the job. He knew it was stealing, but he tried to salve his conscience be telling himself that the master had so many he would never miss them and besides he was not being paid all that he thought he deserved. But this sermon had brought him to face the fact that he was just a common thief, for whose dishonest actions there was no excuse.
"But," said he, "I cannot go to my boss and tell him what I have done or offer to pay for those I have used and return the rest. If I do he will think I am just a hypocrite. And yet those copper nails are digging into my conscience and I know I shall never have peace until I put this matter right." For weeks the struggle went on. Then one night he came to Dr. Marsh and exclaimed, "Pastor, I've settled for the copper nails and my conscience is relieved at last."
"What happened when you confessed to your employer what you had done?" asked the pastor.
"Oh," he answered, "he looked queerly at me, then exclaimed, 'George, I always did think you were just a hypocrite, but now I begin to feel there's something in this Christianity after all. Any religion that would make a dishonest workman come back and confess that he had been stealing copper nails and offer to settle for them, must be worth having.'"
Dr. Marsh asked if he might use the story, and was granted permission.
Sometime afterwards, he told it in another city. The next day a lady came up and said, "Doctor, I have had 'copper nails' on my conscience too." "Why, surely, you are not a boat builder!" "No, but I am a book-lover and I have stolen a number of books from a friend of mine who gets far more than I could ever afford. I decided last night I must get rid of the 'copper nails,' so I took them all back to her today and confessed my sin. I can't tell you how relieved I am. She forgave me, and God has forgiven me. I am so thankful the 'copper mails' are not digging into my conscience any more."
I have told this story many times and almost invariably people have come to me afterwards telling of "copper nails" in one form or another that they had to get rid of. On one occasion, I told it at a High School chapel service. The next day the principal saw me and said, "As a result of that 'copper nails' story, ever so many stolen fountain pens and other things have been returned to their rightful owners."
Reformation and restitution do not save. But where one is truly repentant and has come to God in sincere confession, he will want to the best of his ability to put things right with others.
H.A. Ironside, Illustrations of Bible Truth, 1945, Moody Press, pp. 104-106.
We are sure that in a congregation this size there are those who need to settle "the copper nails" in your life. There is unconfessed, unforgiven sin and in some cases restitution that needs to be made before you can have peace and freedom from guilt and fear. Will you not come today and make things right?
There is a fear that removes all other fears!