A few days ago I wrote an article outlining a dozen things God has done with our sin. I want to follow up on that today by drawing our attention to three things he doesn’t and never will do with it.
(1) He doesn’t and never will use it to determine how he will “deal” with us (Ps. 103:10a)
(2) He doesn’t and never will appeal to our sin in order to repay us (Ps. 103:10b)
(3) He doesn’t and never will count it or impute it against us (Ps. 32:2)
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10).
“Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:2).
We will combine them into one.
Consider for a moment how we “deal” with others. We keep fresh in our minds their injustices toward us. We nurture the memory of their faults and failings. We never let them forget what they did and we often make sure others are mindful of it as well. We seek every opportunity, often secretly and surreptitiously, to make them pay for their transgressions. We hold it in our hearts and over their heads and persuade ourselves that it’s only fair that they be treated this way.
Now consider again this description of God in his “dealings” with us: “He does NOT deal with us according to our sins” (v. 10a). Our sins do not constitute the rule or standard or plumb line according to which God makes his decisions on how to treat us. He does not recall or bring to the fore or publicly announce our history of hatred and lust and blasphemy and greed and pride before he formulates his plan for our life or before responding to something we’ve just said or done.
Better still is the second statement in v. 10, namely, that God does NOT “repay us according to our iniquities” (v. 10b). It’s certainly not because our iniquities do not deserve repayment. They are deep and many and heinous and are deserving of the most severe, indeed, eternal judgment. But those who “fear him” (v. 11b) need never fear that he will exact payment or demand suffering or insist, according to the rigors of his law and unyielding holiness, that we endure the penal consequences of violating his will and ways.
Now, here’s the question: Why does God not deal with us according to our sins (Ps. 103:10)? Why does he not repay us according to our iniquities? Why does he not count or reckon our sins against us? In other words, on what grounds does he take such magnanimous and marvelous action? Does he simply wave the wand of mercy and dismiss our guilt? Does he merely shrug off our rebellion and unbelief and hostility as if they were nothing and of no consequence? Does he ignore the dictates of his holiness when he forgives us? Does he pretend that justice matters little or that love trumps righteousness?
Clearly the answer is no! The reason why God does not deal with us according to our sins is because he has dealt with Jesus in accordance with what they require! The reason why God does not repay us according to our iniquities is because he has repaid his Son in accordance with what holiness demands (in perfect harmony, I might add, with the will and voluntary love of the Son himself)!
David wrote these words of hope and life from within the context of the Old Testament sacrificial system. He could confidently speak of such grace and kindness because he personally knew of the Day of Atonement, of the blood sacrifice, of the scapegoat onto whose head his sins were symbolically placed and transferred (see Leviticus 16).
In our case, on this side of the cross that forever and finally fulfills these old covenant types and symbols, we can confidently rest in the freedom of forgiveness because God has “put forward [Christ Jesus] as a propitiation by his blood” (Romans 3:25).
God did not willy-nilly cast aside our sins as if they were of no consequence. Rather, he “laid on him [the Son, our Savior] the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6b). God did not casually ignore the dictates of his holiness and righteous character. Rather, he “wounded” Jesus “for our transgressions” and “crushed” him “for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5).
This, and this alone, is why we can sing and celebrate that God does not and never will “deal with us according to our sins” or “repay us according to our iniquities”. The measure of God’s “steadfast love” (v. 11) is the depth of the sacrifice he endured in giving up his only Son to suffer in our stead (cf. Rom. 8:32).