Psalm 51:1

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.”  Psalm 51:1

It’s one of the most precious verses in the Bible and, for sinners like us, one of the most instructive. What hope could a murderer and adulterer like David have that God would forgive his sins? Answer: God’s “steadfast love.” David is referring to God’s covenant love—the love He set on Israel and swore to maintain toward them simply because they were His chosen people. In that Covenant, God promised He would remove anything that threatened their wellbeing, even their own guilt (Ex 34:6-7).

How can God love sinners that way? Here’s how. God gave David every single thing he asked for in Psalm 51. David asked God to release him from the penalty of his sin, to cleanse him, to restore his joy, not to cast him away from God’s presence. And God did.

But one day, 2000 years after David came David’s greater Son, and He prayed some of these same things: “God, don’t make me drink this cup. Don’t forsake me. Don’t cast me away from your presence.” He was asking God to forgo the penalty of sin, just like David had prayed. But this time, God said no to every request. Everything David asked God not to do to him, God ultimately did to Jesus. David asked for mercy and got it, but there was no mercy for Jesus. David asked for his transgressions to be blotted out and they were, but God wouldn’t blot out the transgressions that fell on Jesus. David asked God not to cast him away from His presence and God didn’t; but Jesus was cast out and His Father turned away. David asked to be delivered from the penalty of his guilt and God delivered him; but when Jesus asked to be delivered from the cup of wrath there was no deliverance.

That, in a word, is the gospel. And what it means to be a Christian is simply that you love that message—and that Savior!—with all your heart. When you finally believe that God truly does love you this way, you gain a whole new identity and awareness of who you are—namely, a deeply loved child of the Heavenly Father, who has done nothing to deserve this, but who enjoys it all freely because of Jesus.