I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22 ESV)
Thank God, He provides fresh starts and new beginnings for Jesus’ followers! Scripture says: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.”1 God does this not only one time at the beginning of our Christian life, but every day, along the way. As we keep on repenting and coming back to Him, God begins to erase our bad thoughts, words, and deeds. He provides deep soul cleaning and healing that transforms us. He makes us new people from inside out.
Author Winn Collier says that the Lord gathers all our shame, sins, blunders, failures, and moral mistakes and washes them away with His wide, sweeping grace. Collier reminds us that there are no moral flaws God cannot mend, no wound He cannot heal. He mercifully rescues us and heals the most painful places in our soul, even the ones we’ve hidden for a long time. God graciously sweeps away all our guilt and washes away every regret.2
This builds upon our previous post. You can read Sins Blotted Out in Christ (Part 1)
Blotting Out a Stain
In Isaiah 44, the Hebrew verb is machah and it can mean blotting out, as we do with a stain. That’s the sense in Psalm 51. King David prays for cleansing after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband:
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness. According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions….Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.3
If the Lord saved David after monstrous moral failures and redeemed him from his wrongs, there is hope for all of us who come to God, trusting in Jesus. I use a paraphrase from Psalm 51 to sing and as a prayer:
God, be merciful to me, On Your grace I rest my plea.
Be plenteous in compassion now, Blot out my transgressions now.
Wash me, make me pure within, Cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin.4
Why would any of us resist coming back to God and having our moral stains washed away? The Lord refreshes, renews, restores, and revives our souls. We are prone to wander from Jesus and get lost. We need guidance. Through Christ’s Holy Spirit and His word (the Bible), God leads us along the right paths in life and reroutes us when we foolishly stray from Him.
Canceling a Debt in an Account Book
The Hebrew verb machah can also mean blotting out or erasing a debt. Paul may have had Isaiah 44 in mind when he wrote: “When you were dead in your sins…, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us. He has taken it away, nailing it to Jesus’ cross.”5
The whole Bible teaches that every person has a legal debt to God outstanding for our sins. This uncludes: Ungodliness and Worldliness; Anxiety and Frustration; Discontentment and Unthankfulness; Pride and Selfishness; Lack of Self-control; Impatience and Irritability; Anger, Resentment, and Bitterness; Judgmentalism; Envy, Jealousy, and Coveting; Sins of the Tongue; and many other ways we fail to love God and our neighbors.6 The Lord created us in His image and likeness to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.7 But we fail again and again.
None of us can re-pay our debts to God. So Christ, knowing every sin we would ever commit, took our record of wrongs upon Himself and wiped out the debt with His death and resurrection. It has been cancelled forever. When Jesus has completed His sacrificial work for us on the cross, Christ said “It is finished,”and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.8 It is the single Greek word tetelestai that was also written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times to show that a bill had been paid in full. Jesus used that word to tell us that His death accomplished the payment for our sins. Now no one can ever condemn us, because our Savior, the Lord Jesus, paid the penalty in full and God is satisfied forever.
Another hymn based on Psalm 51 raises this prayer to God:
O you who hear when sinners cry, Though all my crimes before you lie,
Behold them not with angry look, But blot their memory from your book.9
Praying like this isn’t just our duty as sinners. It’s our privilege as the Lord’s sons and daughters. Praying like this doesn’t just remind us that we still sin. It assures us that our God our Father always delights to show us mercy. And that He gladly forgives us again and again.
God Also Blows Away Our Sins
Isaiah also pictures the Lord sweeping, brushing, wiping away our transgressions like a strong wind removes storm clouds from the sky. Dark, thunderous clouds seem so threatening. But they can vanish quickly and a sunny sky is restored. It reminds me of a stanza from another hymn:
I take, O cross, your shadow for my abiding-place.
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of Christ’s face.
Content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss.
My sinful self my only shame, my glory, all His cross.10
Remember the Domino Effect
Grace flows downhill from the Lord to us to others. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us that forgiving others is not meant to be an occasional act. It is to be our permanent attitude as Christ’s followers. Jesus taught us to pray: Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.11
To be continued
Notes (various translations): 1 Lamentations 3:22-23. 2 Our Daily Bread, July 22, 2020. 3 Psalm 51:1,9. 4 The Psalter, 1912. 5 Col 2:14. 6 Adapted from Jerry Bridges’ list of common sins among churchgoers. These are not the only sins we are to repent of, but a good place to start. 7 Micah 6:8. 8 John 19:30. 9 paraphrase of Psalm 51 by Isaac Watts. 10 from “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” by Elizabeth C. Clephane. 11 Luke 11:4.