This Week's Focus Passage

Psalm 130 ‘If thou, Jehovah, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?’

Psalm 130 ‘If thou, Jehovah, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?’

John Owen wrote a treatise which, in a Banner of Truth reprint from ‘The Works of John Owen,’ and titled by this publisher, ‘The Forgiveness of Sin,’ the ‘little’ volume is made up of 448 pages. This independent puritan pastor and theologian has written 448 pages commenting upon a psalm which is made up of only eight verses; but what magnificent verses they are. The pen of yet another finite being has inscribed in some copies of the Holy Scriptures, at the head of this psalm, something which may pass as a title, with some approbation, they simply say, Hope in the Lord’s Forgiving Love. The psalmist, whether it be David or another, is most conspicuously, expressing his hope in God’s love; yea, a love that rejoices in forgiving sin. This hope, however great, does not set aside the urgent requirement of the sinner’s pleading that hope before the Lord. Our Lord has promised through the pen of the apostle, John, that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins. While it may be contended that using John to compliment the psalmist should be see for what it is, an anachronism. That is to say, ‘how can the words of the apostle be brought alongside the Older Testament?’ But is forgiveness and its corollary of confession different for the Old Testament believer than it is for the New Testament believer? Such a dichotomy between the two testaments is often brought forward, and far more often than it is warrantable to do. Indeed, the greatest repentance and confession of sin is arguably found in the Older Testament. David’s genuine and poignant expressions of contrition toward God for his sin with Bath-Sheba, as well as his subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah, expressed in Psalm 51, find few, if any, equals in either Testament.

The psalmist, here in Psalm 130, makes this particular observation when he has said, If thou, Jehovah, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? Such an inquiry, whether the writer is David or not, surely coincides with the wonderful asseveration of the aforementioned penitential psalm when David acknowledged that his sin was Against thee, and thee only. In other words, David confirmed that he had been made aware that all sin, regardless of the men or women sinned against, are ultimately sins committed against our most Holy God.

But the writer, or singer, has raised a very serious question when beginning with ‘if;’ If thou, Jehovah, shouldest mark iniquities. What if God did mark our each and every sin? This psalmist asks, in that case, who could stand? The gracious and remarkable response to the question begins with the simple three-letter word through which so much of our salvation is focused upon, ‘but.’ God the Holy Spirit inspired this individual to answer the question, who could stand?, with this ever-blessed ‘but.’ Even as Paul was inspired to write in his epistle to the church in Ephesus 2:4-6;

But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.

Yea, the psalmist, in like fashion reminds us of the everlasting mercy of our God, when he records his answer to the question, O Lord, who could stand? His brief answer is full of grace; But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. There is forgiveness with God, else none could stand. None could stand at the last day before God; before His Holy Tribunal, and give any defense against the charges of sinning against the Holy God and Creator of all things. None could even attempt to offer any excuse, or any ‘loop-hole,’ for a reason why they should not be cast into eternal condemnation and punishment for having shaken their fists in the face of the Almighty Sovereign and Triune God. It is among those things that are impossible for man, but are nonetheless possible, as are all things, for God. Is it not an incredibly hard thing for mankind to overlook a fault committed against them? As much as we would like to think of ourselves and others as being very ready to forgive; often it is more imagined than real. But God is ever ready to forgive.

Ready to forgive is an expression found also in the Psalms of David; in the fifth verse of Psalm 86, A prayer of David (the inspired superscription). David says;

For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness unto all them that call upon thee.

This is consonant with the prayer recorded in Nehemiah, chapter nine, verse 17;

But thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness.

When we read ‘ready to forgive, or pardon’ rather than simply rendered ‘forgiving,’ as in 30 of the 53 versions consulted, is there not a likely distinction the one from the other in the reading of the 20 that employ ‘ready to forgive’? We all agree that God is a forgiving God; does that necessarily teach us that He is ‘ready to forgive’?

Has He not made Himself ‘ready to forgive’? Is this not, at the very least, implied in John’s assertion that he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins?

How is He faithful and righteous in this? John provides answer in verse 1:7, the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin. The answer is the blood of Jesus. The Father would not be faithful if He did not honor the promise given the Son in Isaiah 53:11, He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied. The Father would not be righteous if He did not forgive, for it is further said, my righteous servant shall justify many. Who could stand? Those who stand in Christ!

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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