- Chad Werkhoven
Psalm 103 - Forgiveness isn't New
God's forgiveness of sins isn't just a New Testament innovation.
Read / Listen
Read Psalm 103
1 Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— 3 He forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 he redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 he satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. 21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. 22 Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Listen to passage & devotional:
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 56
Q. What do you believe
concerning “the forgiveness of sins”?
A. I believe that God,
because of Christ’s atonement,
will never hold against me
any of my sins
nor my sinful nature
which I need to struggle against
all my life.
Rather, in his grace
God grants me
the righteousness of Christ
to free me forever from judgment.
So many people force the Bible into a false dichotomy in which the Old Testament tells the story of an angry Creator determined to unload His wrath upon His wayward, sinful children. According to this understanding, there's no good news in the Bible until the Son of this bitter old man shows up in the New Testament with love and compassion for all.
Psalm 103 is an excellent reminder that such a bifurcated approach to the Bible is totally inaccurate.
Notice the endearing language that David uses to describe the LORD:
He forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, satisfies and loves;
He is faithful, compassionate and gracious, He does not repay us with what we deserve.
Notice that in describing the LORD's grace, David does not do so by minimizing or ignoring His holiness:
The LORD works righteousness and justice;
He has made His law known.
Too many people, building on the misconception of a vengeful Father who is ultimately pacified by His Son who loves all people unconditionally, have the false idea that somehow it's God who changes, not us; that it's God who somehow realizes His standards are impossible so He drops them.
The truth is that you're the one who's been changed:
God, in His patience, did not treat you as your sins deserved;
Rather, He removed your sins and put them as far away as the east is from the west.
Sadly, there are some (many?) reading this today who can't identify with the description David uses for God, that He is like "a father who has compassion for His children (v13)." For them the idea of an angry Father who is ready to instantly crush any sort of disobedience is much more familiar.
Our catechism, in echoing and summarizing the entire Bible, beautifully removes the wedge we so often want to place in between the Father and the Son. Notice who is extending grace and mercy - God (the Father):
will never hold against me my sins...
in His grace frees me forever from judgment.
Of course this is only possible because of the changes you've experienced in Christ; it's because of His atonement (payment) and because you been given His righteousness.
Remember, you're the one who's been changed, not God.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who has compassion on His children;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will praise the LORD with all of your inmost being.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Romans 8