The Love To Forgive

How can we not but be in awe when, in faith, we realize this great mystery, that God’s love for us is not diminished by our sinfulness, rather, it is increased?

“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord hear my voice.” This is the opening line of Psalm 130. The Hebrew word used for “the depths” here is “Sheol” and it implies the depths of total misery. The psalmist, knowing his own sins, cries out from the depths of his anguish asking the Lord to hear his desperate prayers for mercy. But this is not a psalm of despair. Rather, the Psalmist, even in the “sheol” of his anguish, still trusts in the Lord, and can rightfully place his hope in God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Is this not familiar to all of us at some time in our lives? While it is painful to experience the intense anguish that comes to us with the realization of our own sins, it is a gift of God’s generous grace to realize as well, even more intensely, that we are loved, even in our brokenness. What a marvelous gift of hope it is to realize that God’s love for us is so great that he will not only recognize the true depths of our sorrow for our sins, but that he will respond to our suffering with an infinite love and absolute forgiveness. Christians, in faith and hope, are witnesses to the depths of God’s love for his creation and for all of his children. We have seen the nature and the infinite depth of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. The Psalmist did not, as yet, have this experience. His prayer for, and hope in, God’s mercy in this psalm is a powerful reminder to we Christians of Jesus’ words to Thomas after the resurrection: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

The whole of the Hebrew Testament points toward the Messiah and to salvation history. In this psalm we see both the hope for that salvation and the longing for it. The Psalmist writes: “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits and his word is my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning…” (verse 5-6) It is this same hope that keeps our heads above the deep waters of despair. This hope is greater than our present misery because it is a direct gift from God. It is proof that He will not abandon us, even though we have at times turned away from Him. How can we not but be in awe when, in faith, we realize this great mystery, that God’s love for us is not diminished by our sinfulness, rather, it is increased? If you are a parent, you have probably experienced that powerful, emotional turmoil that occurs within you when a child of yours has done something wrong and you know that they must suffer the consequences of their error, but your heart breaks for them as well. You may be angry, or disappointed in the child, yet your heart cannot deny them your love, or your support either. This is only a weak metaphor for God’s love for us. He cannot deny His love for us, even when we have turned from him and caused injury to others. When we recognize this, and in the depths of our sorrow we cry out to the Lord, like the psalmist here in Psalm 130, God will answer our prayers with His infinite mercy. He will not hold our sins against us. He will forgive them and forget them out of his unconquerable love for us.

So, as the Psalmist counsels Israel to put their hope in the Lord, we Christians are being counseled to do so today as well. Listen! Hear the Psalmist’s Spirit-inspired words of counsel: “Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem (you) from all of (your) sins.” This Psalm is especially pertinent to Christians all over the world as we continue to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ during this Easter season. We have been redeemed. Jesus has conquered sin and death once and for all. He has shown us the depths of God’s mercy and fulfilled the promise that He had made to the Jewish people from the time of Abraham. Thanks be to God for his loving mercy! Alleluia! Amen!

Lord help us to live our lives in daily thanksgiving for your forgiving love. Help us to love others as you have loved us by giving us the strength and the courage to forgive others as you have forgiven us. May we never despair of your love or your mercy. We ask this believing in the power of your most holy name, Jesus. Amen!

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