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Remember not…

Ps 25:7 Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.

The first time Psalm 25:7 actually stuck in my head was when somebody sang it as a song.  People who grew up as typical Americans have much to wish the Lord to forget, and we’re relieved to learn that he promises to do just that.  He promises to cast all our sins into the depth of the sea (Mic 7:19), or to remove them as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12), to remember our sins and iniquities no more (Jer 31:34), to blot them out (Isa 43:25, Isa 44:22), and to make sure nobody even mentions them again (Ez 18:22).  Balaam said God will not see iniquity in his people (Num 23:21).

One of the reasons people resist the Gospel is they think they’ll have to go back and deal with all that stuff back there, and people with an awakening conscience just can’t face it.  Restitution is one thing, and sometimes it’s required, but how does one undo vicious acts performed against somebody who is now dead?  How does somebody who did violence to a baby put that right?  The now-adult victim can’t remember it, so there’s not much point in going to the person to confess.  Given the checkered history of David’s private life, you suspect that Psalm 25:7 may refer to youthful sins of a sexual nature.  Our culture is rapidly building an army of folks who will eventually learn the cruelty and lasting harm of sexual sin.

I knew a guy whose wife had done some seriously perverse things… on film.  The internet has made sure the movie will never stop circulating among wicked men.  Others have their own movies running in their own heads.  The memory used to bring pleasure, but now it has turned bitter, and they can’t  get past it.

The context of the psalm is that David was in some kind of trouble and needed God’s help.  But how do you ask God for help when you know your deeds call for judgment?  And if the Lord should mark iniquities, who would stand?  (Ps 130:3)  The psalm notes in several places the great benefits that come to the man whom God blesses, and David yearned to be included even while knowing himself to be a sinner.  He needed a way to set aside his transgressions so he could have peace with God and pray confidently.

The psalm contains no mention of David resolving to offer God a sacrifice.  He hopes in God’s mercy, but there’s no spot where he says, “Okay, I’ve got a plan, and here’s what I’m going to do to get back on the good foot.”  The omission, I believe, is intentional.  There is nothing David can do to correct things with God.  What can you offer God that he needs?  And besides, judgment involves history, and what can you do to fix that?

I knew a school teacher who was attacked by a student who shoved her backwards over a desk and then jumped on her.  The teacher suffered several cracked ribs, a broken collar bone, and a dislocated shoulder.  The issue unfortunately had a racial component because the teacher was white and the assailant black, so a race-baiter on the school board staged an apology in which the attacker said she was sorry.  When the hearing convened, the school board member stated that an apology had been offered, so basically the issue was over and done with.

To which every fair-minded person says, not quite.  An apology does not restore a collarbone, ribs, and a shoulder.  David’s repentance, however heartfelt it might have been, could not undo his sins, could not restore lost virtue or lost lives and could not purify the polluted.  Even if David’s repentance and resulted in the remainder of his life being lived in sinless perfection, judgment is a thing of history, and that has to be dealt with.

Man would never have thought of the solution to this problem, nor would he have thought to ask for it if he had.  The resolution is found not in man sacrificing for his Maker, but in the Maker sacrificing for man.  Sin is a problem so vast and destructive that only God can reverse it, and this was done when Christ Jesus came into the world to pay for our sins with his life.  “It is blood,” wrote Moses, “it is blood that makes an atonement for the soul.” (Lev 17:11)  The Hebrew writer said, “According to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.”  (Heb 9:22 NKJV)

The problem with man offering sacrifices to God is that these don’t take away sins any more than an apology fixes a shoulder.  But when God offers the sacrifice to satisfy his own law for man’s benefit, rest assured that what he has done is sufficient.

11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.  For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.   Heb 10:12-14 NKJV

And then the writer gives the conclusion David was looking for, their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.  What is a debt that is paid?  It is nothing in the world at all, and on that basis the way is made clear for David, and me, to approach the throne of God confidently.  There I expect to find mercy and grace to help in time of need.

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