We Are Forgiven
If God forgives me for what I do, can I move on and not look back?
Have mercy upon me, Oh God, according to thy loving kindness, according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies. Blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from mine iniquities, and cleanse me from my sin, for I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.
I want to lift up this thought out of the Psalms for today's sharing: Ceaseless Sin Consciousness. Ceaseless sin consciousness. How awful it is to be plagued perennially by a haunting presence. How awful it is to be under surveillance morning noon and night by an ever-threatening eye. How awful it is to have your forgettery declare no vacancy, and your memory make room for unlimited lodging of unwanted guests. How awful it is to be trailed from the doing of deeds to our death by agonizing actualities, not empty apparitions, that bespeak our wretchedness.
King David tends to say, upon first read, that while lying on his bed of rest this plaguing presence would present itself upon his sub consciousness and it would turn dreams into nightmares, restfulness into restlessness, and instead of counting sheep, he would spend even his sleeping hours, counting sins.When the Spirit brought me this passage for preaching, I tried to look for the pregnant point in the text and the pregnant point that I found in the text was this little four letter word, “and my sin is ever before me.” Now, here it is. He says, Have mercy upon me, Oh God, according to thy loving kindness, according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies. Blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from mine iniquities, and cleanse me from my sin. He acknowledges that he did it, but he almost aborts the divine grant by saying, "and my sin is ever before me."
If it had not been for the Lord on my side, tell me where would I be?
My sin is ever before me? Why does he write ever? And to me, if it wasn't supposed to be there, the Holy Ghost has had enough time to take ever out by now. So if ever is still there, there's a reason for ever's being there. And I wanted to know, since it was preaching time, why is ever there?
Could it be that David is asking for what he wants, but doesn't have the faith that God is going to give it? And the Spirit said, "No, that's not why David wrote that." The reason that's not why is because David has a good memory. And when you've got a good memory, you usually have great faith. And David remembers that through many dangerous toils and snares, that he's already come. Grace brought him safe thus far and Grace is going to lead him on. David remembers the lion, he remembers the bear, he remembers Saul's spear, he remembers the valley and the shadow of death, he remembers all that God has already brought him through and he knows that God is faithful to answer when you call.
Well, if God is faithful to answer when we call, why does David still write ever? Could it be that God said, "No"? And the Spirit said, "No, God did not say no." God told David to wait. And David said, "I waited patiently for the Lord. And He inclined unto me and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of a horrible pit and out of the mire and clay, set my feet upon a rock and established my going. He put a new song in my mouth and even praise unto our God."
Somebody said, "They that wait on the lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint." And somebody wrote one day, "Lord, teach us how to wait."
So David is just waiting.
I still want to know, though, if God is going to answer, and if David has good faith, then why does he still write ever? And I realized that God and David's relationship was personal. David was a man after God's own heart. You ever really pay attention to the personal pronoun, the possessive pronoun in Psalm 23? Listen to it and share it with me. I got enough black-folk here to participate in a little give-and-take with me:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,
He leadeth me beside the still waters,
He restoreth my soul.
He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil for thou art with me.
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
Thou anointest my head with oil, and my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Now, ain't that personal?
David is saying, "I've been forgiven, but I have not forgotten that my status is: Forgiven. Nor have I forgotten that for which I was forgiven."
"...Grace is for everybody...but mercy is for those of us on the inside of grace who still mess up..."
Oh, that's good news to me.
Copyright ©2004 Johnny Ray Youngblood.
Excerpted from a sermon preached at the Calvary Episcopal Church Lenten Preaching Series, March 17, 2004.