Psalm 103:2,4 “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits–who forgives all your sins…who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.”
The Lord forgives all your sins and mine. The Bible, you may know, has many different words for sin. In English, too, we can speak about iniquities, and trespasses, and transgressions. The word David uses to describe sin here thinks of it as twisting or bending something.
When I was a little boy, my dad would let me play with some of the scrap wood and simple tools in his workshop. He also had some tools that I wasn’t supposed to find. I once wanted to pull a nail out of a board, but I couldn’t get the claw of the hammer under the head of the nail. I looked around and I found a set of wood chisels he kept hidden away. I pounded the tip of one of those chisels under the nail head, and pried the nail up and out. But in the process I dented and bent the edge of that chisel and pretty much ruined it. My father was not pleased.
Many kinds of sins do the same thing to the good tools God has given us for life in this world. It is good to celebrate and feast like we do at holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries. But you know that not every day can be a feast. Too much of a good thing becomes a sin that bends and twists God’s gift of food so that it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to anymore.
Relationships are another beautiful gift from God, a tool he uses to care for our hearts and our lives in so many different ways. But when we use guilt trips, threats, lies, or pouting to manipulate those relationships for our own purposes, we bend and twist God’s good gift so that it doesn’t work right anymore. It might even become unusable. Our Father is not pleased.
Still, he “forgives all your sins.” Although we connect one sin to another in an unbroken chain that stretches across the length of our lives from birth to death, the Lord forgives them all. It’s not that he is unaware of them. He never approves of them. He simply refuses to hold them against us. No link in that chain of sin is so big, or so long, that he is forced to say, “Now this is just too much. Now you have gone too far.”
A few verses later David gives us a beautiful description of this forgiveness that needs no commentary. It just needs to be heard. “He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:9-12).
What makes the benefits of God’s grace even more amazing is the price that makes forgiveness possible. “He redeems your life from the pit,” David says. The word “redeem” always means that a price is being paid. But just look at who is doing the paying! God himself paid to make sure that we get out of our graves someday. Old Testament believers were given some inkling of the price as day after day, year after year, thousands and even millions of animals died at the altar in God’s temple–all the dead sheep, and goats, and cattle, and doves!
But that was just a picture, and it was small compared to the real price when God became a man, and let himself to be nailed to a cross, where he slowly bled and suffocated and died to pay the price for our guilt. How dearly the Lord must love you to consider you so precious to him that he paid so much to forgive your sins and make you his very own! Having any trouble remembering why we have reason to praise the Lord? Don’t forget the benefits of his grace.