Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
The fact of God’s forgiveness is as old as the Bible. I’m convinced that if Adam had just confessed when God asked him what he’d done the world would be a far different place today. Same with Cain. In all the Old Testament’s writing about God’s wrath and His judgments, it’s easy to overlook the fact that all He ever asked us to do is to confess our sins. He gave us the Law, not to make us behave, but to show us that we’re sinners. (Romans 3:20)
To me the bottom line in defining our relationship with God comes from Micah 6:8. He has shown you O man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. He could have said, “Do the right thing by one another, be merciful in your treatment of others, and recognize that you’re a sinner in need of forgiveness.”
In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) the Lord didn’t commend the efforts of the Pharisee, who in all likelihood devoted every waking moment to keeping God’s law, but the humility of the tax collector, who knew he couldn’t do it.
One of the things that most frustrates God in His dealings with us is our stubborn refusal to admit that we’re sinners. We clean ourselves up on the outside, we make a good impression on those around us, sometimes even fool ourselves into thinking that we’re better than we are. But in our hearts we’re sinners in need of forgiveness. Every one of us.
When we come to the Lord in sincerity, even our most outrageous sins are always forgiven. And this isn’t some New Testament advantage, enabled by the cross. It’s always been true. Take David’s sin with Bathsheba. He took another man’s wife and then had the man killed so he could marry her. He went into the Holy of Holies expecting to be punished, knowing he deserved it. He had recently seen a man die for touching the Ark so he put his hand on it, ready to be struck down. Instead he was forgiven, because his heart was humble.
If God kept a record of our behavior, none of us could stand. We would have all pushed the relationship too far by our ongoing sinfulness. But His mercies are new every morning. Each day is a new beginning. No matter how many times we’ve done it before, if we sincerely confess our sins he is just and faithful to forgive and will purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.