Learning Forgiveness from the Psalmist

Waiting for Dad to come home was always the hardest part. As a kid, I remember hearing those dreadful words “…just wait till your Father comes home.” Those were the worst seven words a guilty child could hear. And I’m not sure why my Mom would say them, since I’m pretty sure her punishment was just as severe as Dad’s. 

Dwelling in worry

Part of the secret in those words is that the punishment was never as severe as the waiting for it! The dread was the punishment. Wondering what a parent will do, how they will respond to whatever I did, what words would they say, how disappointed are they going to be, and what might physically happen to me? It's the worry and unknown that wraps the gut into knots!

Our heart's expression

I love the psalms--and more often than not, I love them because it seems like the author wrote out of my heart. Psalm 6 is considered one of the Penitential Psalms because the writer seeks forgiveness and is thus repenting. So deep is the psalmist's sorrow that the author feels faint, his very bones are in agony, his soul is in anguish, he spends the nights groaning and weeping--so much so that, should he continue to lay in bed crying, the amount of tears would create a river and float him away!

Find the source

Yet all this pain and suffering is the author's own fault. God isn’t forcing him to flood the earth with his own tears. God isn’t hurting his bones or making his soul anguish. It’s all about the psalmist. He is the one reeling in pain and sorrow from the consequences of poor choices. I think he expects God to respond immediately in anger and punish him for his sins, but it never comes. It’s almost as if he is waiting for this wrath of heaven to come down as a bolt of lightning and strike him dead at any moment!

Express lament

The psalmist laments and cries out for forgiveness from God. As he recites his struggles of what he has done, he begins living out the punishment that HE HIMSELF has brought, yet still recognizes that God is listening and will hear and respond. He knows that the Lord accepts his apology--his prayer of confession and for deliverance from his woes (vs 9).

Seek grace

This is the grace we find in this psalm. God, because of the relationship we have with him, because of the covenant mercies he granted us by the blood that poured out for our sins in the death of Christ Jesus, and because of the sanctifying daily work of the Holy Spirit, he has not only felt our same woes but has delivered us from them. He delivers from the pain we cause others and the pain we cause ourselves. Simply put, we are saved, which means we are forgiven.

In life or death

The psalmist asks in verse 5, “Who can praise you when they are dead? I certainly cannot, so please deliver me from death so that I can praise you!” And that is exactly what Christ has done. This is exactly why God sent his Son. So that in our living we can praise him--but also in the dying away of our sinful nature--we can praise him. In all aspects of living and dying we are able to praise the One who hears, answers, and saved us.

Find forgiveness

We firmly believe that God not only hears our seeking of forgiveness but that he has already responded. And while we do not know exactly what the psalmist is seeking forgiveness from, we do affirm that God has already responded to the authentic admittance of sins with God’s unfailing love. 

Seek repentance

God too has already responded to yours and my sins in Christ, but he still calls us to come before him seeking repentance. We still must seek his forgiveness even though we are already forgiven, for it is in these moments that we remember that we believe in a Heavenly Father that doesn’t bring his wrath when he “comes home” but instead pours out his love upon his children and shows his patience, even in his disappointment with us. 

Delight in the free gift

Forgiveness isn’t based on anything you and I have done or haven’t done--forgiveness showers down upon us from God’s grace. And just as grace is doled out in unmerited-fashion, so too is God’s forgiveness.

The psalmist writes in Psalm 103:10-14 that, as high as the heavens are above the earth, so too is his great love for us! What a beautiful reminder in the midst of seeking God’s forgiveness. When you repent, you repent to a generous God. As far as “the east is from the west” (which, last I checked, actually DOESN’T END), so too has God removed our transgressions from us. In the end, we find peace in the midst of our pain. Not only is forgiveness freely given, and not only is forgiveness ALREADY given, but God’s forgiveness never ends.

About the author — Rev. Kelly Vander Woude

Kelly Vander Woude is always looking for something yummy to put on his smoker…and then getting friends and family to enjoy it with him. When he’s not smoking food he can be found playing and hanging out with his two kids, wife, and their dog, as well as preaching at Immanuel CRC in Fort Collins, CO. Oh…and he’s usually trying to learn some new musical instrument with the hopes of one day mastering at least one of them! You can find more of his writings at thesimplepreacherblog.wordpress.com

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