Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. PSALM 51:9 (ESV)
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. PSALM 51:9 (NIV)
Today we’re taking a closer look at Psalm 51:9, where David writes, “Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt.” Consider, for a moment, the last time the Spirit convicted you of sin in your life. What did you feel? How did you respond? If you’re anything like me, you probably felt ashamed, embarrassed, or frustrated with yourself for not doing better. Perhaps you even developed a plan to avoid that sin moving forward or asked a friend to keep you accountable in the future. John Piper says, "Guilt is a universal experience. Everybody at some time or other has had the bad feeling of not doing what he (or she) ought to have done.” All of us know what it’s like to feel guilty. The voice in our head of shame, embarrassment, or frustration is normal when we become aware of our sin.
It’s normal, but is it helpful…or true?
The problem is it can be easy to confuse this voice — the voice of condemnation — with the voice of God. It’s easy to mistake the voice of conviction for the voice of condemnation. When that happens, we then begin to think the way we view ourselves is the same way God views us. You think, “I’m disappointed with myself. Therefore, God must be disappointed with me too. He’s probably ashamed of me and has turned his face away from me.” Perhaps you’ve even gone so far as to attach your identity to the things you do — you think, “I am a disappointment.” I have good news for you if you’ve had any of those thoughts before. Today’s verse will be an encouragement.
As you may know, Psalm 51 is king David’s prayer after he made the worst mistake of his life. Knowing the context of this prayer, you might expect King David to say to God, “Turn your face away from me,” but that’s not what he says. Instead, he says, “Turn your face away from my sins.” Notice the small but significant difference between the two statements. David asks God not to turn away from him but from his sin. When you and I sin — when we fall short — it can be easy to think that God is disappointed with us and no longer wants a relationship. That, however, is not the case. David’s prayer reminds us that God doesn’t abandon us when we fail. David turned to God at the lowest point in his life because he knew God was waiting for him, ready to forgive. We don’t worship a God who loves us based on our performance but one who stands ready to forgive. Charles Spurgeon once said, “I believe that as often as I transgress, God is more ready to forgive me than I am ready to offend.” If you’ve decided to follow Jesus and placed your faith in him, there is no sin you can commit that will cause God to turn his face on you. John Bunyan wrote, “No child of God sins to that degree as to make him incapable of forgiveness.” It is impossible for you and me to out-sin the grace of God. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, there is no sin that puts us beyond the reach of his mercy. And anyone who turns to God, who says like David, “Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt,” will be met by mercy and forgiven by God.
God can hide his face from sin because there was a moment in history when he hid his face from his Son. On the cross, Jesus experienced the rejection of God so that you don’t have to. God hid his face from Jesus so he could hide his face from our sin. It’s the greatest news in all the world. You and I don’t have to live in shame or guilt. Instead, we can experience forgiveness because of the sacrifice of Jesus.
This week, I read a quote by C.J. Mahaney that applies well to today's verse. He says this.
“Don’t buy the lie that cultivating condemnation and wallowing in your shame is pleasing to God, or that constant low-grade guilt will promote holiness and spiritual maturity. It’s just the opposite! God is glorified when we believe with all our heart that those who trust in Christ can never be condemned.”
Psalm 51:9 reminds us that God is ready to forgive when we sin. Rather than hiding his face from us, God is waiting to hide his face from our sin if we turn to him in repentance. Let that be an encouragement to you this week.
Written By: Nick Harsh
Nick Harsh (MDiv, Clarks Summit University) is a ministry leader with The Salt Company, a ministry of Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa. While publishing regularly at nickharsh.com, his writing has also been featured at The Gospel Coalition, For the Church, and Relevant Magazine.