Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great (ESV).
When we think correctly about the Lord God, we know that he is holy and exalted. As we live in his presence, we learn more and more that we are sinful and lowly (cf. Isaiah 6). God needs to act in grace to welcome us to approach him. Two serious problems in spirituality are either to downplay God’s holiness or our sinfulness. Both failures distort our understanding of grace.
In his word, the Lord reveals that he forgives great sin. Here are twelve factors that make our sins great. Our sins are great…
- Because they are against the great God
- Because they test God’s great patience
- Because they despise great mercies (cf. Rm 2:4)
- Because they are against great light (made known to us in Christ and the Scriptures)
- Because they are many
- Because of our pride in thinking that we can change without grace
- Because they break out from our very nature, from the inner person of the heart
- Because they show that we have followed God’s enemy, the devil
- Because they challenge God’s justice and wrath
- Because we have tempted others to join in our sin
- Because in sinning we choose evil instead of God’s goodness
- Because the only way they could be forgiven was through the sacrifice of the Holy Son of God
Apart from God’s grace in Christ, the realization of the seriousness our sinfulness could drive us to despair, if we would grasp the magnitude of our offense against the Holy God.
The greatness of our sins creates the need for God’s greater mercy. When the wound is dangerous and near fatal, the patient needs a highly skilled surgeon. We need one who can properly understand our need, who is able to provide what we need, and who is able to apply the cure to our souls. This skilled physician is the Triune God, in whom is the wisdom of the Father, the redeeming sacrifice of the Son, and the renewing work of the Holy Spirit.
“It is the glory of the great God to forgive great sins” (Henry). To forgive great sin is not difficult for God. David makes use of the greatness of his sin to make his plea stronger, as a person in a famine would magnify the seriousness of the calamity as a reason to provide food. God does not pity sinners because they are worthy, but because they need his pity. The splendor of God’s grace is seen clearly in this: in Christ he forgives the worst offenders and makes his grace overflow to them. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more (Romans 5:20). Think of the testimony of Paul (1 Timothy 1:13-16):
Though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life (ESV).
See the greatness of your God, trust in Jesus Christ, and then confess your sins as great. You will experience the exceeding riches of his grace and mercy to you.
Grace and peace, David