Imagine if God kept record of sins. Picture the reams of paper. Warehouses of files, stored as evidence of our foolish behavior, our shameful thoughts. What if He decided to go public, to expose all of it? The court is in session and the judge enters. The guilty one is offered no lawyer for the defense. Condemnation awaits you.
Breaking the dreadful silence, the judge announces that all evidence against you has been lost. You knew that no one could aid you with the insurmountable charges. Now all documents have been annihilated. Case dismissed! You hear further that the judge himself wiped out the files. You discover that the one you feared is responsible for your release. Strangely, it causes you to fear more, to honor his greatness.
The psalmist cried out, not to a casual friend but pleading for mercy from a holy God. He called from deep within, refusing the solace of the night and unable to silence the piercing arrows of a guilty conscience: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy” (Psalm 130:1,2).
Then the revelation breaks through: “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (3,4). Peace replaces anguish. Those who see God as righteous, themselves as sinful, and discover afresh the mercy of God do not take advantage of such kindness. We don’t pull out the forgiveness card every time we step over the line, so we can step over again. His goodness has led us to repentance.
Then his posture changes from crying out in need to waiting in confidence. He uses the word “wait” five times in two verses: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning” (5,6). How do they wait? Hopefully, expectantly. That is how he positions himself before this gracious God. Anxiety has been replaced by hope, anchoring his soul in the mercy of God rather than the dread of revenge. Those who think God is punishing them for something they did a decade ago may worship a monster, but they won’t love him. The psalmist confidently hopes for what he knows—a rich future with a merciful God.
He grows so confident that he now wants to go public: “O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love, and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins” (7,8). He knows of others oppressed by guilt, weighed down by shame. He proclaims to fellow Israelites that sins do not keep a broken sinner from a merciful God, that God fully redeems us in His love.
We don’t ignore the need to cry out in our sin as if it doesn’t matter. Guilt can drive us crazy, so we go to the one place in the universe where it can be properly disposed. And once again, contrary to our heart that condemns, we find a God who receives—and who relieves us of the tyranny of a criminal sentence. To our amazement, we discover afresh one of the most liberating truths in all the world—God does not keep score! So we don’t need to either!