God’s forgiveness is swift, total, and complete.
Even when we seem to be in the depths of sorrow, aware of our own failings before God, when we are filled with guilt and grief, God never fails to prove his love for us. If we are aware of our status before God, that he is perfect and we are not, we become aware of the fact that we are sinners in need of God’s great mercy. The psalmist understood this and in this awareness he cries out to the Lord: “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice” (Psalm 130:1-2).
It is said that few knew themselves as sinners more than the saints. The deeper their relationship with God became, the more they were aware of their sinfulness in relationship to his absolute goodness. When we think of the idea of sinfulness, we generally think of the great sins like murder, or some other great injustice, but such sins are like the tip of an iceberg; they are not the mass of sins that are committed, just the most obvious. The greater mass of sins are far less dramatic, but are just as hurtful, or damaging to relationships with others and, ultimately, with God.
To understand the quality and the depth of God’s mercy, think of King David here for a moment. He who lusted after Bathsheba and committed adultery with her, and who then arranged for her husband, Uriah, to be killed in battle to cover his sin, (2 Samuel 11:1-12:9). When the prophet Nathan confronted him with his sin and told him of the consequences it would have on his family and the kingdom, David, at first, grew angry, but ultimately, in all humility, he finally realized and expressed his mental torment, his guilt, and pleaded to God for forgiveness. In the realm of worldly wisdom, we might argue that David’s sins were too great to be forgiven. We might even argue that he was irredeemable, that he should be punished with eternal damnation. But this is not the wisdom of God.
As Psalm 130 reveals, when in humility we become aware of our sinfulness and experience the depth of sorrow for our sins and feel the deep need to turn back to God, hoping that he might hear our voice, our desperate cry for help, and that he will, in his great mercy, forgive us. And here is the greatest of mysteries; no sin is so great that he cannot forgive it. “If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered” (verses 3-4). God’s forgiveness is swift, total, and complete, if the sinner turns to Him in sorrowful recognition of and repentance for his/her sin and its consequences.
The psalm tells us what is necessary in this relationship with God, too; trust. “I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in his word. My soul waits for the Lord more than sentinels wait for the dawn…For with the Lord is mercy, with him is plenteous redemption” (verses 5-7). Our God is both just and merciful. Knowing that he is both just and merciful fills us with awe. And so, we cry out to him, not just because of his righteous anger at our sins, but because we fear the loss of his love. As we see in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Yes, we are sinners. But it is a matter of grace that we realize this, and, in trusting faith, we can turn back to the One who is both just and merciful, trusting in his infinite love for us. In sorrowful humility we can trust him when he says, “Ask and you shall receive” (Mt. 7:7).