Psalm 130 – Confession of Sin and Assurance of Forgiveness

This Sunday at Covenant Life, we will spend time in our service praying through Psalm 130 together. Read an excerpt on the value of using the Scriptures to confess our sin.

A full diet of Christian prayer naturally includes lamentations, confessions of sin, supplications for forgiveness, and petitions for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here is a psalm that teaches on the nature of the prayer of confession. It is a good prayer to follow when we bring our sins before God.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! 
    O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    that you may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen for the morning,
    more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
    from all his iniquities.

Two things stand out about this prayer. First there is the deep feeling of lament. The words of this prayer evoke our own spiritual anguish when we know things are not right between us and God. Second there is the assurance of pardon, the rock-bottom confidence that with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plenteous redemption. 

There is an important theological point involved here. These psalms make it clear that worship must include recognition of our sin. This is difficult for our age, but without it our worship lacks integrity. It is a matter of honesty. God is offended by sin, and yet he accepts sinners. As the Psalm we have just quoted puts it, 

“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    that you may be feared.” 

Honesty demands that when we approach God, sin be confessed. Otherwise we will have an easy conscience about it, and, even worse, we compromise the holiness of God.

The prayers of lamentation and confession among the Psalms express an important theological truth — humankind is a fallen creature and in need of attention. As much as secular humanists would like to sweep all this under the rug, the cries of our fallen race are to be heard all about us…We are, like it or not, terribly conscious of our sin. If our worship is to be realistic, it must deal with these cries. Surely this is one of the reasons that the psalms have been used as Christian prayer so universally. They express the fact that we are creatures of need. They expressed our human fallibility, which is such an important aspect of the Christian doctrine of humankind. In fact, a theology that does not recognize our fallibility has lost touch with humanity as it really is.

But these psalms also point to another theological affirmation: God is holy and has created us to reflect this holiness. The holiness of God is in the end of our highest hope. At the heart of the universe there is truth, justice, and peace. And that will not be compromised! We rejoice in the holiness of God because it will not be sullied, smeared, or confused. Holiness is a radiant light, a never-ending day whose sun will not go down.

Prayers for forgiveness of sin are a fundamental element in Christian prayer. One thinks immediately of the Lord’s prayer, where we find the petition, “Forgive us our debts.” We remember as well the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee who went to the temple to pray. It was the prayer of that sinner, who humbly confessed his sin to God, that was accepted, not the self-affirming prayer of the Pharisee. 

Hughes Oliphant Old

These prayers, as well as the prayers of the Psalms, were used in public worship by the people of God in the Bible, and have been adopted into the church. For centuries, Christians have prayed together publicly for the forgiveness of sins as a part of their corporate worship. Luther, Bucer, Cranmer, Calvin, Knox, Watts, Wesley, and Henry all emphasized the need for confession in public worship because we need to be reminded of God’s holiness. We continue in that tradition, not for the sake of keeping with it only, but even more so because of our desire to glorify the God who forgives sinners through the blood of Jesus. We will pray Psalm 130 in the gathering this Sunday.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness by Thomas Chisholm

Posted on: October 10, 2019 - 10:00PM

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