Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | December 5, 2012

Psalm 25:4-7 (Midweek Advent)

God doesn’t remember

  • Order of Service:  Meditation on the Commandments, Supplement, p70-71
  • Lessons:  Luke 1:1-25, Psalm 25:4-7
  • Hymns: 17, 588, 285 (1, 5, 11-12), 21

Downloadable version

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

“Do not remember my sins,” David says to God.  How silly and futile!  How can David, or anyone, ask an omniscient God to forget?  By definition, being omniscient means that God doesn’t forget.  When you know everything, you really know everything.

We’re not omniscient.  We don’t know everything (though we often speak and act like we do), and yet we can barely forget.  We don’t forget the offenses committed against us.  We don’t forget the slights, neither the major nor the minor.  We do the opposite of forgetting, we remember.  We remember that off-putting word or that bad first impression.  We remember that defiance or sarcasm or disobedience.  We remember that hurt and harm.  We remember as if were yesterday, and sometimes it was!

We remember.  And not just about others.  Though not omniscient in any way, we remember the sins of your youth, no matter how recent or far past that youth was.  We remember our rebellious ways.  We remember the indiscretions and the rebellions.  We remember behind the bleachers, in the parked car, or the parent-empty home.  We remember the insults, the slaps, the gossips.  We remember not running from Potiphar’s wife when she presented herself to us in all her splendid beauty.  We remember instead caressing her, enjoying her, living in that moment.

We remember our own defiance, “You can’t tell me what to do!”  “You can’t judge me!”  “Stop trying to control me!”  We remember our revolts, “I’ll stay out until I’m good and ready to come home!”  We remember destroying relationships, “I hate you!”  We remember casting off allegiances, “I can do what I want!  I can go where I want!”  We remember rejecting even God’s own authority, “I don’t need this guy telling me what to do too!”

Oh, how we remember.  And yet David says, “Don’t remember that.”  Can it really be that easy?  It can’t possibly be so.  These things, these deeds, these memories, these realities don’t just disappear.  Especially not when you’re omniscient.  They don’t disappear.  Unless….

Unless there’s something else to be remembered.  David does say that too.  He says, “Remember.”  He says to the LORD, “Remember who you are.”  He talks about God’s mercy.  He talks about God’s love.  He says, “You are good, O LORD.”  He says, “As much as you are omniscient LORD, your mercy and love and goodness are eternal.”  So perhaps there’s some hope there, huh?  Perhaps if God remembers His mercy and love and goodness, it’ll cause Him to forget the sins of our youth and our rebellion.  Perhaps if the LORD thinks of His love and mercy, and according to that love and mercy then remembers David, perhaps then there’ll be some hope.

And so David confesses.  “I’ve sinned, LORD.  I’ve sinned when I was young.  I’ve sinned when I was old.  I’ve sinned then.  I’ve sinned now.  I’ll sin again.”  David the adulterer, David the murderer, David the polygamist, David the father who played favorites among his own children, that David says, “Don’t remember any of that stuff.  Please.”  David prays our prayer, “Lord, if you keep accurate records, and I know you do, then I’m done.  But please, don’t remember those things.”  But it just can’t be this easy.  To just tell an omniscient God to forget.  Yet this same David says elsewhere, I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ – and you forgave the guilt of my sin (Psalm 32:5, NIV84).  And right here in Psalm 25 David called the LORD, God my Savior (v5).

David appeals to this something else that God can remember.  David appeals to a new reality.  Because this sin and guilt of ours doesn’t just disappear.  Yet we too can say to the LORD, “Don’t remember my sins.  Don’t remember my rebellions.”  And God does not.  Not according to the reality of our flesh, in which we continue to commit these sins, but according to the new reality of His love, His love in Christ.  “Remember your great mercy, Lord!”  And it’s Christ He remembers.  “Remember your love, Lord!”  And it’s Christ He sees.  According to your love, according to Christ, remember me, not according to me, not according to who I am.  “Hide me in Christ, forget that I was ever and am ever outside of Christ!  Oh, Lord, let me take refuge in you, because in you there is forgiveness!”

This is the show me, guide me, teach me of Psalm 25.  David doesn’t merely ask to be instructed, He doesn’t just want the ten simple steps to salvation.  He wants God’s ways.  He wants God’s paths.  He wants God’s truth.  He wants an end to his own “my way or the highway.”  And the God in whom He trusts speaks and says, I am the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6).  And that same speaker, that same Jesus says, “When you see me, you see the Father!  And when you hear me say, ‘I forgive you,’ you hear the Father say, ‘I forgive you.’”

This is what we mean when we sing, Oh taste and see that the LORD is good, blessed are they who take refuge in Him (Service of the Word, “Oh, taste and see”, CW p39).  It tastes good to hear the LORD speak this way.  It tastes good to listen to His voice say such things.  It tastes good to savor His life on our lips, on our tongue, and into our souls.  It tastes good to hear God say, “I have forgotten your rebellion.  I have remembered my Son’s death.”  Because that’s what He says to those who believe in Him, to those who beg Him for forgiveness, who ask that sins be forgotten, who confess their rebellion.  Confession isn’t about the confession.  It isn’t about me winding myself up into a corker of a cry and really showing how sorry I am.  Though confession is absolutely necessary and tears may accompany my sorrow and sorrow over sins is a part of repentance.  Confession is about the faith in Christ that believes that for Christ’s sake sins are forgiven, or, in the thought-patterns of Psalm 25, forgotten.

And I assure you that they are.  God is good.  God remembered His great mercy and love.  He sent Christ after all to remove your youthful (and not-so-youthful) sins and rebellions and replace them with His most precious gift:  innocence and blessedness.  And in catechism you heard, through the pen of Dr. Luther, how God does this.  God bespeaks you righteous through your preacher’s words and actions as that preacher displays to you the one and only holy relic of the Christian Church:  God’s Word.  In the act of confession and absolution, in the liturgy, in the preaching office:  We receive absolution or forgiveness from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting but firmly believing that our sins are thus forgiven before God in heaven.  In Holy Baptism: But with this Word it is Baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of rebirth by the Holy Spirit. In the Holy Communion: And whoever believes these words has what they plainly say, the forgiveness of sins.  Thus it goes well with us and we enjoy a long life upon the earth and in heaven, because in Christ, that’s all God remembers about you. Amen.

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