“If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” (Psalm 130:3-4)
I’ve been reading through the Psalms lately, and Psalm 130:4 particularly struck me. I was quite surprised at the psalmist’s assertion that being forgiven by God would lead to the fear of the Lord. Of course, my next realization was that my response to this passage was a good indication that I had forgotten what forgiveness truly is.
I think that we, in this society, tend to define forgiveness as a very mamby-pamby, sappy sentimental act. To us, forgiveness means being let off the hook. Forgiveness means the person we offended is too nice to exact revenge upon us. Forgiveness means we’ll just sweep that wrongdoing under the rug and pretend like it never happened. It’s another skeleton to be locked safely away in the closet, along with all our others that the world can never know about.
But God’s forgiveness is of an altogether different sort. Sin is a horrendously grevious offense against an infinitely holy, powerful God. Every single one of us deserved hell for our rebellious, ingrateful conduct towards the Lord. God’s justice demanded that this could not be swept under the rug. This could not be dismissed as “one of those goofy things that humans do”. Sin is an insidious, cancerous evil that could not be left unchecked.
However, God is loving and merciful. His desire was that humanity should not be destroyed, but rather saved. His justice refused to turn a blind eye to our sin, but His mercy yearned to rescue us from our condition. And thus we have the Cross.
I love what Allen Hood said about the Cross: “It is as much a statement of God’s hatred for sin as it is His love of human beings.” Sin is a weighty, devastating matter — so much so that God was willing to crush His own Son to remedy it. The earth has yet to see such a profound act of God as was demonstrated on Calvary. The fullness of the wrath of God was poured upon Jesus, the Son of God made flesh. A sinless Man willingly shed His own blood for the sins of the world… not to ignore sin, but to cancel it entirely. Through the incomparable sacrifice of Christ, atonement has been made for us. This is what it means to be forgiven.
God is loving enough to forgive us; this should give us confidence. He is powerful enough to either spare us or give us over to destruction; this should inspire godly fear. We are under a glorious covenant where our sins are done away with (Heb 10:16-18); this should give us confidence. We are under a glorious covenant with Christ, the ultimate revelation of God, at the head; this should also fill us with godly fear of straying from grace (Heb 10:26-31).
The forgiveness of God is a tremendously powerful reality. It is the removal (not toleration) of our sins, accomplished through the crushing of the Son of God Himself. It is an infinitely powerful God who has extended undeserved grace to us at His own expense, and is calling us to a higher way of living.
Truly forgiveness is with God that He may be feared.