(H) For the director of the choir, a psalm of the sons of Korah. (1) You were pleased, Yahweh, with your land. You restored the captivity of Jacob. (2) You forgave the iniquity of your people. You covered all their sins. (Selah) (3) You withdrew all your fury. You turned back from the fierceness of your wrath. (4) Restore us, God of our salvation. Put away your vexation toward us. (5) Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? (6) Will you not turn and revive us so that your people may rejoice in you? (7) Show us your steadfast love, Yahweh, and grant us your salvation.
Four Hebrew words for “anger” are found in the middle three verses of this opening half of the psalm: “fury...wrath” (vs. 3), “vexation” (vs. 4), and two occurrences of “anger” (vs. 5). In the first three verses, the psalmist looks back to the more distant past when God turned away from the fierceness of his wrath and forgave Israel in spite of her waywardness. In the next four verses, he pleads with God to forgive the nation whose sins once again have caused God’s righteous indignation to boil over and chasten them with exile.
I. Praise for Israel’s restoration after an earlier captivity (1-3)
II. Prayer for restoration in the nation’s present predicament (4-7)
Knowing that God has previously forgiven and restored us should give us confidence to ask him once again to show us his mercy.
The battle we face daily with our propensity to sin is, for most of us, a never ending source of frustration. No matter how many times we are forgiven, cleansed, and restored, we still find ourselves repeatedly struggling with the same sinful propensities. As soon as we win one battle in the power of the Holy Spirit, we fall prey again to temptation and have to reclaim the same territory all over again. With Paul we cry out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death” (Rom. 7:24)?
One thing that can help us in the midst of our struggles is remembering how many times in the past God has lovingly restored us and given us the victory. The doctrine of grace, God’s unmerited favor, teaches us that his forgiveness will be granted no matter how often we must return to him for cleansing from sin. John, in his first epistle, tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). This verse contains no quantifier to warn us regarding how many times God will allow us to confess before we reach the limits of his grace. No matter how many times we come to God to confess our sins, he promises to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
God’s grace is boundless. He does not set limits on how often nor on how much he will forgive us. If we wonder how this could be, we should remember that the price which Jesus paid by his death on the cross was of infinite value in God’s sight. Consider another verse John wrote: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2). What a great Savior! What a great salvation! What great forgiveness is constantly available to all who are in Christ all the time!