I read Psalm 51 yesterday. I pretty much know it by heart – its sentiments are very close to this wayward heart but a different translation can bring fresh thoughts and verse 9 made me pause.
Cover Your face so You will not see my sins,
and erase my guilt from the record.
I’m more used to the words ‘hide Your face” but the idea of God covering His face to avoid looking at my sin struck a chord. We facepalm but that’s not the image I get here. It’s not that ‘oh there she goes again’ with a wry smile as a palm smacks the brow. This is two hands covering the face with horror; head bent to avoid having to look at something so offensively horrific that it defies words. That’s my sin before God.
Wow. That’s a picture I haven’t considered before. I have, of course, thought about God turning His head – but never with that graphic idea of HAVING to avoid looking. That same feeling I get while watching TV when something I really do not want to see or hear comes on and I bury my head in my hands and hum loudly.
Cover Your face
But there’s hope even there – erase my guilt. David wouldn’t ask if it weren’t possible. It has to be covered because otherwise, God would never be able to look at me.
3 If You, Eternal One, recorded each offense,
Lord, who on earth could stand innocent?
4 But with You forgiveness exists;
that’s why true respect of You might flow.
If He didn’t remove, erase, cover my sin then how could I stand? Not just appear innocent but actually stand blameless before Him. This forgiveness is undeserved but because God is gracious and compassionate it comes and inspires true respect. It inspires reverence. It inspires a proper and righteous fear of the Lord.
I am the one who ought to cover my face with shame, trembling and guilty, condemned in my sinful state. I am the one who has no righteousness and nothing to recommend me. But I don’t. I stand made righteous – declared innocent.
6 Then the Eternal One passed before him.
Eternal One: The Eternal God, full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger, and abundant in loyal love and truth, 7 who maintains loyal love to thousands of people, who forgives wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin; yet does not allow sin to go unpunished, extending the consequences of a father’s sin to his children, his grandchildren, and even to the third and fourth generations.
The underlined part almost seems to contradict itself unless you know God. Unless you know that He makes a way where there is no way. In Exodus, He sets out a careful and precise way for sins to be forgiven. In Jesus, He finalises that process. Once and for all a sacrifice that covers every sin, that pays every debt, that declares me innocent because I accept that I can’t make myself innocent and confess my need of a Saviour.
I can come to God and declare my sins covered by the blood of Jesus so that His face can be uncovered and I can gaze on His glory with fear, trembling and absolute confidence that He loves me.
That has to be the best news ever!