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Forgiven, Loved, Redeemed

Forgiven, Loved, Redeemed

Psalm 130

It’s been said that ‘the rest of the Bible speaks to us, but the Psalms speak for us’. I’ve found that to be true.

The Book of Psalms is the Bible’s hymnal... and many of the Psalms take the form of prayers. Some date back to time of David, a millennium before Jesus. The Psalms speak to the whole of life – joy and suffering, praise, anger, love and hate – every part of our life, even the ugly parts, all presented to God in prayer.

Of course, I can’t read this particular Psalm, without thinking of the movie “Bruce Almighty”... Smite me, Almighty Smiter! And that’s because of verse 3...

“If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities (or keep a record of sins), Lord, who could stand?” The fact that you and I are still upright is proof that God has yet to smite us in our sins!

Of course, we tend to think of ‘sinners’ as people who are guilty of some particularly heinous or egregious sin – which is most always something that we’re not doing — and what we classify as a ‘heinous/egregious’ changes from time to time.

I mean, in the Victorian Era, it was considered egregiously sinful to look upon a woman’s ankle in public. In the Middle Ages, it was considered sinful to charge interest when you lent money! Kinda wish that was still the case.

That’s why Reformed Theology is so instructive and beneficial. In our most famous confession, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 13... asks, “What is sin: Sin is any want or conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” The word “ANY” is pretty broad...

Of course, during times of corporate confession, as we pray for forgiveness, we use the words, “We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves”. This is based on Jesus’ two great commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. If we’ve neglected to do this (in any way, shape, form or fashion), then, guess what? We’re sinners! And as soon as we start defining sin to include the good things we don’t do, along with the not so good things we actually do, then we know we’re all included. As Paul says in Romans 3, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’ – which is pretty much a New Testament Christian way of saying exactly what Psalm 130 said.

That’s the first thing the psalmist reflects on: everyone is a sinner, so whatever else my troubles might be, they can’t be God’s punishment for my sins – if they were, everyone would be going through the same punishment. The writer then goes on to reflect on three aspects of God’s character that give us hope.

First, God is a God of forgiveness. Verse 4 says, ‘But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” The wording seems strange to us, but this ‘with you’ language is actually the writer’s way of pointing out different aspects of God’s character; he might say ‘there is courage with you’ or ‘there is patience with you’. So in verse 4 we have ‘forgiveness’, and in verse 7 we read ‘For with the Lord there is unfailing love, and with him is full redemption.” And these three ‘with you’ characteristics turn out to be the very things that give us hope in our despair.

So – first, forgiveness. Of all people, we Christ Followers should have no doubt about our forgiveness. Over and over Jesus met people who were struggling in the depths of despair over their guilt, and he assured them of God’s forgiveness. He reached out to people who were considered to be the worst sinners, to the point that he was even described by his enemies as the ‘friend of sinners’ (they didn’t mean that as a compliment, by the way!).

Jesus taught us that God is like a father who welcomes his wayward son home after he’s wasted all his property, or like a king who forgives an embezzling servant a debt bigger than the treasury of the kingdom. Paul says, ‘The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15). ‘There is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered’.

Secondly, God is a God of steadfast love. The Hebrew word is ‘chesed’, literally means ‘stubborn love’, or ‘love that never gives up’... it’s often translated “unfailing love.”

In other words, the Psalmist is telling us that God has made a covenant with us that he will not break. In that covenant he’s adopted us as his children, forgiven our sins, given us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and promised that nothing (in this life nor the next) can ever separate us from his love. His love for us is patient, unfailing, stubborn, steadfast and sure, and we can count on it. His love will never let us go. Never.

So God is a God of forgiveness, and God is a God of steadfast love. Thirdly, God is our redeemer; it says in verses 7-8, ‘…and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.” Of course, Christ paid the price... redeeming us from sin and death. Ephesians 1:7: "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins."

So, we’ve seen that God is a God of forgiveness, a God of steadfast love, and a God who redeems us from the sins that bind us. What’s the conclusion? The conclusion is two words: ‘Hope’, and ‘wait’. Look at verses 5-6:

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.

This is honest and realistic; the writer isn’t promising that the answer to our prayers is going to come instantly. Whatever the “depths” are that threaten to overwhelm him, he’s not expecting that God will instantly take it away. Far from it: he’s expecting to have to wait.

Someone once told said, “I’ve been impatient all my life, so every time I’ve really wanted something, the Lord has made me wait for it!”

It reminds me where in Luke’s gospel Jesus tells us a parable to encourage us ‘to pray always and not to lose heart’ (Luke 18:1); there would have been no need for him to tell that parable if we always got everything we asked for right away!

So – keep on praying, and don’t lose heart. ‘I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope’. Whatever trouble we’re going through, let’s keep bringing it to God in prayer, confident that God is not punishing us, because he’s a God of forgiveness and steadfast love. This trouble we’re going through isn’t a big stick he’s using to beat us up or punish us. Rather, he’s walking through our dark place with us, just as he came and lived and died as one of us in Jesus, experiencing all the trouble that we go through in this life, all the way to death on a cross. So we can come to him with confidence, knowing that nothing can ever change his steadfast love for us.

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