This promise is staggering. It’s a business deal that makes no sense. We confess the sins we know about, and God forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
This is like a little kid coming into the house having played in the mud, and he’s covered head to toe in it. And at some point he looked down and suddenly noticed that his hands were looking pretty grimy. He trots into the house and sees his dad and says, dad, can you help me wash my hands? And the dad looks at him with a big grin and says, you bet, son. Let’s toss you in the bath.
The kid only sees his hands, but the dad sees all of the mud, all of the grime. The kid asks his father to help him get his hands clean, but his father is intent on getting him entirely clean. And so God is with us. “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”
If God made a complete list of the sins of any one of us, it would crush us. But God in His mercy takes our baby steps of sanctification and rewards them with far more than they deserve. When we humble ourselves and truly ask him to forgive, He does far more.
But this has massive ramifications for how we treat one another, for how we forgive one another. You serve the God who gives you far more than you ask. He forgives you far more than you know. He does not mark every iniquity. When we come to him with dirty hands, He doesn’t lecture us on exactly how filthy and ridiculous we look. He receives us with joy because we are beginning to notice our sin because we are beginning to confess it. Because we are beginning to learn to humble ourselves.
God has incredibly high standards. The standard is perfection and holiness. But God is also incredibly patient and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and mercy. This is what we are aiming for in our community: high standards of excellence and faithfulness and piles of patience and mercy for those who fear Him.