Sunday, May 1, 2022

Sunday Reflection: "My Sin" by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson

Catherine the Great is reputed to have said, “The good Lord will forgive, that is His business.” She could not have given clearer evidence that she knew very little about forgiveness. The prophets knew better: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you …,” says Isaiah (Isa. 59:2). Jeremiah speaks in the same vein: “Your sins have deprived you of good” (Jer. 5:25).

There are many reasons why we feel the absence of the presence of God. We suspect that God has distanced Himself from us; we have lost the sense of His presence and the assurance of His grace. We fear it may be because we have sinned.

That is not always so, but what if, on this occasion, we are right? What if our sin has hidden His face from our sight and deprived us of the good things of His presence? To what psalm shall we now turn? The more serious the question, the more obvious the answer: to the psalm that begins, “Have mercy on me, O God.… Against You, You only, have I sinned …” (Psalm 51:1, 4).

David has written this psalm specially for us: “I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will turn back to You” (51:13). How can we learn to find our way back into God’s presence when we have sinned?

What stands out in David’s confession is his excruciating discovery of what was really in his heart. There were layers of sin in his soul, or, to change the metaphor, peaks of evil, which rose one beyond the other, another becoming visible only when one had been scaled. He ransacks the Old Testament vocabulary as he explores his soul and provides a series of vivid word pictures to describe his need: “my transgressions” (v. 1), “my iniquity” (v. 2), “my sin” (vv. 2–3), “what is evil” (v. 4).

What happens when we are finally convinced of our need for forgiveness? We begin to face up to the real nature of sin. We call it by its proper names: transgression, iniquity, sin, evil. We also begin to use the first person singular: “my”: my transgressions, my iniquity, my sin, my evil. It is not someone else’s fault, nor the fault of my circumstances. It is my fault.

How, then, can David rediscover the presence of God, hear joy and gladness (v. 8) and have the joy of his salvation restored to him (v. 12)? There is only one hope. He throws himself upon the absolutely unmerited mercy of God.