Theme: Fearing the Lord
In this week’s lessons, we see that forgiveness comes to all who genuinely repent of their sin, which leads to godly living.
Scripture: Psalm 130:1-8
This week’s psalm delivers good news, including the points that we looked at yesterday: 1) God’s forgiveness is inclusive; and 2) his forgiveness is for now. But there is more.
3. This forgiveness is for those who want it. It is there, but you must ask God for it and trust him to give it to you. This is what the writer of the psalm is doing. He is confessing his sin, not covering it up, which would be a way of pretending that he does not need forgiveness (v. 1). He is asking God for mercy, for he has no claim on God (v. 2). And he is believing or trusting God, for he says, “With you there is forgiveness” (v. 4). Do you believe that? Thousands of people confess that each week in the words of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe… in the forgiveness of sins.” But do they? And have they actually asked God for forgiveness? Many do not even know what the words mean. Do not be among those unbelieving masses. Come to God, and ask him for the forgiveness you need and he provides.
4. This forgiveness leads to godly living. Some people objected to the Bible’s teaching about salvation on the grounds that a free forgiveness must lead to wickedness. “If God forgives us for anything we do, why shouldn’t we just go on sinning?” they argue. But it doesn’t work that way. The forgiveness we are talking about does not lead to license, as some suppose, but to a heightened reverence for God. It is what verse 4 teaches when it adds to forgiveness the words “therefore you are feared.”
Feared? Shouldn’t the verse have said “loved”? Well, I would think so until I remember that in the Bible “fear” has to do with a holy reverence of God, which is the essence of true religion. It is what is drawn from us when we know that we have been loved and saved by God in spite of our sin and our former disregard of him. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who has a wonderful sermon on this text, translates this verse as, “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be loved and worshipped and served.”1
That is the true and inevitable effect of forgiveness, and it is one way of measuring whether you have actually confessed your sin, believed on God and been forgiven, or are merely presuming on forgiveness without any genuine repentance or faith. Those who have been forgiven are softened and humbled and overwhelmed by God’s mercy, and they are determined never to sin against such a great and fearful goodness. They do sin. But in their deepest hearts they do not want to, and when they do, they hurry back to God for deliverance.
That point leads us to the third of the psalm’s four sections. In this beautiful, poetic, third stanza the psalmist says that he is trusting (hoping) in God’s word, and waiting for the Lord, indeed, “more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning” (v. 6).
What is this stanza about? What specifically is he waiting for? He is not waiting for deliverance from his trouble, which is what Peterson believes the psalm is teaching, for it is not about his troubles; it is about his sin. He is not waiting for forgiveness either, which we might suppose at first, for the earlier stanza says he has already found forgiveness; in fact, we see the first result of this discovery, which is a reverential fear of God. So what is he waiting for here? What he is waiting for is God himself. For it is God whom he has offended by his sin, and it is fellowship with God that he needs to have restored. Notice that the forgiveness does not depend upon his feeling forgiven. He is forgiven whether he feels it or not, because he has asked God for it and God has promised to forgive. But now he also wants the intimacy with God that should and will follow, and he is earnestly waiting for it. He is waiting with persevering faith.
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “There Is Forgiveness” in C. H. Spurgeon’s Sermons on the Psalms, selected and edited by Chas. T. Cook (London and Edinburgh: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1960), p. 206. I have drawn from this sermon in developing the four points presented in today’s and yesterday’s lessons.
On what grounds do some people object to the teaching about free forgiveness? Why is their objection incorrect?
Review the two points made about forgiveness in today’s study. Do you have a genuine hatred for sin in your life, and are you striving to mortify it?
In the third stanza, for what is the psalmist waiting?
Reflection: Why is it good that our being forgiven does not depend on our feelings? Instead, on what is our forgiveness based?
Prayer: Ask God for a holy reverence of him.
Key Point: Do not be among those unbelieving masses. Come to God, and ask him for the forgiveness you need and he provides.