But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. Psalm 130:4
For anyone who has wandered from God and come to see their sins, there are few words sweeter than these: “but there is forgiveness with God.”
All we like sheep have gone astray; we all wander from God to one degree or another. But God, by His grace, draws us back to Himself, leading us to sincere sorrow and repentance. When we call upon Him out of the depths, what a joy to know that there is forgiveness with God! Not just forgiveness for others, but there is forgiveness with God for me personally. There is forgiveness with God through the broken body and shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is forgiveness for sins against our spouse and family members, for the sin of following after the things of this world; for sins of pride and selfishness, for the sin of failing to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. No matter how great the depths of our sin, “there is forgiveness with God.”
Whatever depths we find ourselves in, out of those depths we must cry to Jehovah. “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord” (v. 1).
When Jonah refused to go to Nineveh, God sent a great storm upon the sea and forced the sailors to throw Jonah overboard into the depths of the raging sea (Jonah 2:3). Those angry billows conveyed the message of God’s anger so that Jonah cries, “I am cast out of thy sight” (Jonah 2:4).
The depths for the psalmist and for us are the places of deep distress because those depths seem to separate us from God. Jonah’s desire was to come into God’s presence again and to look toward God’s holy temple (Jonah 2:4). But, as long as he was wallowing in the depths, he felt far from God.
A multitude of circumstances might bring us into depths of despair: be it illness, or marital strife, financial hardship, grief in the loss of loved ones, or great persecution. The psalmist teaches us to call upon God out of the depths.
But the psalmist’s greatest need and our greatest need is not deliverance from our circumstances but, rather, redemption from our iniquities. That is why the psalmist confesses, “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord who shall stand” (v. 3). We stand in great need because of our iniquities.
Iniquities refer to crooked and perverse and distorted acts. But those very acts incur guilt before God. When we walk on crooked paths away from the straight and narrow way, we bring guilt upon ourselves. Furthermore, our guilt deserves punishment. Iniquities refer to all these things put together: distorted acts, guilt, and punishment. We are miserable creatures because we miss the mark of God’s glory and, therefore, daily increase our guilt. We are especially miserable because of the punishment we deserve. What if Jehovah would mark our iniquities (v. 3)?
What if God would take into account our harsh words? Our proud attitudes? Our selfish deeds? How we spend our precious time? What we watch on the television or listen to on the radio? What if God would scrutinize every thought, word, and deed? What if He dealt with us exactly as we deserved?
If God should mark our iniquities, we would have no hope of standing in His holy presence. Why? Because He hates all workers of iniquity (Ps. 5:5). None can stand in His sight when once He is angry (Ps. 76:7). If God would mark our iniquities, we could never enjoy sweet communion with Him.
Then follow the sweet words of our text: “But there is forgiveness with thee.”
That stands in contrast to God marking our iniquities. “But” signifies a given that stands in contrast to the previous possibility. Here is a sure truth we can rely on: “There is forgiveness with thee.”
To say “there is forgiveness with thee” does not mean sometimes there is forgiveness and other times not, as if sometimes God was a God of forgiveness and other times He was a God of judgment. God “cannot deny himself” (II Tim. 2:13). He cannot repudiate who He is; He must remain true to His character. Bound up in God’s unchangeable character is the fact that He is a God of forgiveness. This is who God is: He is “ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Neh. 9:17). Though we have often sinned against Him, He never forsakes us. He is a God who delights in forgiveness.
Forgiveness, according to the parallel phrase, refers to God not marking our iniquities. When He forgives us, God removes the guilt of our iniquities and the punishment we deserve. When He forgives us, He does not cast us out of His presence. Under the curse of the law, we deserved to be cast into outer darkness. When God forgives us, He allows us to stand before Him in peace.
Someone who has no delight in fellowshipping with God will not care about and seek after forgiveness. But sometimes we have difficulty believing that God is truly a God of forgiveness. We might imagine that our sins are too great; or that God might not forgive us because we keep falling again and again; or that He might not forgive because we are not sorry enough. Then we live in doubt and despair.
But, God’s Word is clear: “There is forgiveness with thee.”
How can there be forgiveness with God? Exactly because God marked our iniquities, every last one of them!
Not as those iniquities were in us. But as our iniquities were imputed to Jesus Christ. Under the burden of our iniquities, Jesus Christ experienced the horrible torments that we deserved. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities” (Is. 53:5). “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:6). Jesus Christ experienced the depths of God’s cursing wrath so that we might be delivered from those depths. The psalmist puts these words in Jesus’ mouth, prophesying of Jesus’ suffering: “I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me” (Ps. 69:2). Later in the same Psalm he has Jesus saying, “Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters” (v. 14). The greatest depths that man has ever known could never approach the depths that Jesus experienced as He hung on the cross for our sakes.
There is forgiveness with God because the atoning sacrifice has been offered. The ransom has been paid. Justice has been served in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
How shall we respond to the gracious forgiveness earned by Christ on the cross? Is there forgiveness with God so that we can enjoy the pleasures of sin and still go to heaven?
Is there forgiveness with God so that we can live for ourselves? The Devil would have us think that way.
The psalmist answers, “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”
That is not talking about a legalistic fear that has to do enough or else we will miss out on God’s forgiveness. The psalmist is not talking about a fear that cowers in the corner, wondering if God is going to make life miserable for us. He is talking about a fear of reverence and awe that says, “Look at what God has done for me! What a gracious and longsuffering God who has forgiven me much!” God forgives us in order that we would live our lives in grateful response to His goodness.
How do grateful people live? How will we respond when we know there is forgiveness with God? Like the psalmist, we will learn more and more to wait upon Jehovah for all things we need: “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning…” (Ps. 130:5-6). When we are thankful for what God has already given us in Christ, we will look to Him with eager expectation to continue His work of salvation in us. When we remember God’s bountiful provision, we will look to Him to continue to supply our needs.
So, the psalmist says, “My soul waiteth for the Lord” (v. 6). As if to say, “I am confident that His Word will prove to be true to the very last jot and tittle. Such is his confidence that he waits for God with greater expectation “than they that watch for the morning” (v. 6). The watchman yearns for the morning to come, and he is also absolutely certain that it will come. So, too, we wait for the Lord, knowing He will keep His Word; He will finish the work He started.
Lastly, when we know God’s forgiveness, we will respond to His goodness by telling others. The psalmist does not stop with confessing the truth himself; he wants others to glorify God’s name. So he says, “Let Israel hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption” (v. 7). As he saw God’s goodness, he calls all of God’s people to hope in our gracious Lord.
What a merciful God we have, that He would redeem us! He does not just barely redeem us. His atoning sacrifice did not just barely rescue us from death and hell. His ransom payment was not just barely enough to give us one or two blessings of salvation. Rather, “With him is plenteous redemption” (v. 7). Jesus Christ made the full payment for all of our salvation. “He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (v. 8). He will deliver us from all our depths, either removing them altogether or turning them to our profit.
Jehovah hears us when we call to Him out of the depths.
Blessed be the Lord God with whom there is forgiveness!