Three thousand years ago a Hebrew poet wrote :
“If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities,
O Lord, who shall stand?” (Psalm 130, verse 3, KJV)
That, of course, is a translation from ancient Hebrew into 17th century English. I’ve been thinking about how best to express it in modern English and it comes out as:
“If you, our God, were to focus on our faults …
Oh Lord, whoever could survive?”
In other words this ancient Biblical poem reminds us that not one of us is good enough for God. There have been faults and failings in our lives. Yes, sins! If he were to respond to them with justice as the Great Judge these sins would inevitably attract his severe punishment.
God, however, as well as being a righteous judge is full of mercy. He provides another possibility, forgiveness. We need not flee from him in total terror. The next verse of the psalm reads,
“But there is forgiveness with thee,
that thou mayest be feared.” (verse 4, KJV)
In my modern English interpretation this comes out as,
“You offer us forgiveness.
Therefore it is possible for us, with reverence, to approach you.”
Sometimes people describe what they call “the Old Testament god” as unrelentingly harsh and stern. Not at all! True, he is hard on those who sin without regret, but to the repentant he was always merciful. It is possible to approach him with respectful reverence as a forgiving God. Another poem in the book of Psalms puts it this way:
“He hath not dealt with us after our sins;
nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as the heaven is high above the earth,
so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”
(Psalm 103:10-12, KJV)
And one of the prophets exclaimed:
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives …?
You … delight to show mercy.”
(Micah 7:18, NIV)
And now today, to quote the Apostle Peter as he preached about the Lord Jesus in the very early days of the Christian church:
“Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
(Acts 10:43, NIV)
Yes, our God is a forgiving God, and as a local church we meet not as a gathering of the good but as a fellowship of the forgiven.