The sin of all men is great.
We may choose to compare ourselves with others and suppose that we are “not so bad,” but set against the firm criteria of perfection (Mt. 5:48), all men are desperately sinful. There are no exceptions to that statement.
The psalmist underscores that truth when he says,
“If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psa 130:3)
Men are iniquitous. They deliberately go astray from the standards, holiness, and provision of God. They do not delight in Him. They do not want Him (Ps. 51:2, 5; Rom. 3:10ff). And the Psalmist also says that not only does the Lord notice the sins, but He “marks” them. He keeps an accounting of them and not one sin passes by His notice without being marked and recorded. This ledger against all men is great. It is so great, that no man could stand before the Lord. It is impossible for a sinful man to stand before a perfect God, if God chose to take note of and count his sins. If God went strictly by justice, the sinner would have no hope. Punishment is the ultimate consequence of sin, and there is no one who can face that punishment and survive.
But there is also hope for mankind.
“But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.” (Psa 130:4)
God offers forgiveness. Above all others, God is the One who can pardon (see Dan. 9:19; Ex. 34:7). Rather than carrying out His legal right to judge, God instead applies mercy and grace to declare righteous the sinner who comes to Him in faith.
Yet the question remains: Why? Why does God do that? There is great cost in God’s provision of forgiveness; what is the benefit that He derives from it? Why should He forgive? The psalmist tells us that also. God forgives so that He might be glorified through the “fear” of men.
This fear is not the trembling of a child about to receive the consequences of disobedience or the tremblings of an employee about to be dismissed for insubordination or the terror of a motorist a moment before a fatal impact. No, this is the fear of reverence. This is the fearful reverence of loving sons. “A harsh God…would either be shunned altogether, or be worshipped only in order that He might not hurt us.…But God’s loving forgiveness leads His children to honor Him, and to avoid with fear all that offends Him.”
So this forgiveness also precludes ongoing sin. Forgiveness does not become a license for sin; one who has truly repented will all the more hold God in reverence and respect, just because God has been so gracious in bestowing pardon.
Yes, sin paints us into a tight corner, but God graciously provides forgiveness, not so that we can keep doing what we’re doing, but so that we can live righteous lives in joyful love and devotion to Him.