"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit." (Psalm 32:1–2)
There is a man I know who fought in the Vietnam War. I have tried to get him to come to church many times, but each time he refuses because he says that his crimes are so great that God could not forgive him. Though I press him with the good news of the gospel that covers over all his sins, he refuses to believe that his record of wrongdoing can be erased by merely believing in Christ.
What my friend finds difficult to accept is a notion the psalmist wants to teach us. There is a way of thinking about a person who receives forgiveness, namely, that such a person is blessed. We do well to ask what it means to be blessed. Simply, to be blessed is to be favored.
Sometimes when our guilt sticks heavily upon us, we can wonder if God's forgiveness really applies to us. We do that certain sin, again and again, we surprise ourselves with some out-of-character action, we find ourselves feeling less guilty for certain trespasses, etc. In the midst of such rhythms, we are to take the psalmist’s prayer to heart. For we are reminded here that we are favored by God. God has taken our sins away because God wants to!
It is hard to believe this because there seems an inherent injustice in it. “If I keep sinning and doing bad, won’t God punish me? Isn’t his job to keep order? I know he is patient, but I keep repeating the same mistakes. At some point God is going to drop the hammer on me, isn’t he?”
This sense of dreadful anticipation at God’s coming wrath is real because guilty people know that justice must eventually come. God can’t keep turning a blind eye. And he doesn’t. We must put away a whitewashed Christianity that says that God simply forgives because He is nice, kind, loving, gentle, etc. That is not how forgiveness works. God does not simply ignore our sins, turn a blind eye to them, and perpetuate injustice. No. God has forgiven you for Christ’s sake. It was because Jesus paid your debt, took your penalty, and ransomed you from sin and death that you are forgiven. St. Paul has a special word to describe the new, objective reality of your forgiveness: justification. Notice the word “justice” embedded within it. Justification is God’s work, at Christ’s expense, to free you from sin, death, and hell. It is justice done to sin and grace given to you. And God wanted to do this for you.
When God forgives you for the sins you commit over and over, he does so because Christ has paid for their trespass and received the justice of the crime. God does not turn a blind eye to sin but instead issues justice upon his Son, for your sake.
This means you are blessed or favored because God loves you enough, because Jesus loves you enough, to hold no record of your wrongs. Now, if we are so favored by God that he would not spare his only Son, how much more so will he then help us in the midst of our troubles? You see, the cross teaches us the dedication to which God will go to show his favor for you. He wants to forgive you! So now, as you struggle through various trials, do not be downtrodden. The God who never abandoned you to your own sin will not abandon you now. And though you sin ten times ten thousand times, you can never out-sin the work of the cross. Let us live in this promise.