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  • Chad Werkhoven

Psalm 51:13-19 - The Force of Forgiveness

The force of forgiveness is designed to break and reform you.

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Read Psalm 51

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Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 126

Q. What does the fifth request mean?

A. “Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors” means,

Because of Christ’s blood,

do not hold against us,

poor sinners that we are,

any of the sins we do

or the evil that constantly clings to us.

Forgive us just as we are fully determined,

as evidence of your grace in us,

to forgive our neighbors



Newton's third law of motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. A ball that's dropped to the floor will likely bounce right back into your hand.

David shows us here in this final passage of his confession of sin that this law of physics applies to theology as well. The force of God's forgiveness rebounds in David's life as he "opens his mouth to declare God's praise" so that "his tongue will sing of God's righteousness."

As is often the case when heavy physical force is applied, damage occurs. This is the case spirtually as well. When a person confess his sins, and God echoes back with overwhelming grace, it results in a "broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart."

But the spiritual 'damage' forgiveness results in does slightly differ from what might be expected in the physical world. A ball will continue to bounce in the same direction until it finally runs out of energy. But God wants more than just a formulaic, mechanical response to the force His forgiveness brings. David realizes this as he writes that God "does not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it."

In other words, God's not interested in a perpetual pattern of sin which leads to sacrifice/confession leading to forgiveness leading to diminishing thanksgiving which brings you right back to sin again... Instead, God wants Zion - His people/Church - to be built up and strong. So He applies the force of His forgiveness to change the direction of the lives of His people.

Dig Deeper

After experiencing the force of God's forgiveness in his own life, it drives David in a new direction. He writes, "Then I will teach transgessors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you (v13)."

Teaching sinners God's ways certainly includes teaching them His law so they no longer transgress it, but primarily it means helping them understand God's ways of grace and forgiveness. This can be demonstrated on a much smaller scale when you show them forgiveness for the ways they've hurt you.

This is exactly why Jesus teaches you to couch your requests for forgiveness with evidence of your ability to forgive others. It's not at all that God's grace is conditioned upon your actions, rather your actions in forgiving others evidence that you're being shaped by God's forgiveness rather than just mechanically expecting it.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: "O God, you who are God my Savior; my tongue will sing of your righteousness."

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Confess your sins, and pray that the force of God's resulting forgiveness will break your sinful spirit and then build you back up;



Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Revelation 17


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