12 Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
I have been thinking a lot about repentance lately, and as I thought about my past, these verses popped up. What really prompted this morning’s meditation is that I was recently contacted by a woman whom I had met thirty-two years ago while on a high school trip to New York City. When she first wrote to me, she asked if I was who she thought I was–by name and old location and if I had gone on that trip. It wasn’t until our third round of messages that I remembered her at all, and even then my memory was very vague, only highlights of the trip coming through. It had been a fun trip, and I made new friends from other cities, but not long after returning home I lost touch with them and so my memories faded. Now, I barely remember this one-time friend’s name, and I certainly don’t remember anyone else from that trip. As I write this, I am forty-eight years old, and it feels like that trip to NYC was a lifetime ago, which it certainly was.
What does all this have to do with repentance? It has to do with memory, with what we remember about the things we have done. As I think about my high school days, I realize I remember very little about the events of my past. I look back and remember some highlights and very few names, and I understand something very important: there is no way I could ever confess and feel remorse for every sin I have ever committed, because I cannot even remember those days. No matter how I try, the events of thirty years ago are lost in a fog, hidden from me by time and fickle memory.
But repentance is not solely about confession and regret. In the verses above, we see that David understood he had likely committed sins against God that he didn’t remember. Rather than beat himself up over his inability to repent for things he didn’t remember, David simply asked God to cleanse him of those things, to wipe the slate clean so he could start afresh. And fortunately for David, that is exactly what God wants to do.
25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake;
And I will not remember your sins.
26 “Put Me in remembrance;
Let us contend together;
State your case, that you may be acquitted.”
That’s the kind of God we worship, one who understands and forgives. Of course, the catch is that we must seek that forgiveness and truly repent–change our way of thinking, become new men and women in Christ. It’s not enough simply to remember or regret a sin, we must truly change how we behave. And, like David, we need to seek God’s help in staying on the right path. Although our memory of our past sins can help us know what NOT to do, remembering every detail of every past transgression is less important than remembering the right path, the way of Christ. Thanks to Jesus, we need not try to remember God’s ways alone.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.
26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
This same God whose glory is declared across the heavens, He also wants to save us from our sins. He loves us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to cleanse us of those “hidden faults” and “presumptuous sins,” to teach us the way of truth and righteousness, to forgive us in the name of God, and to create in us pure hearts that love God and seek His glory only.
I may not remember old friends or past sins, but I do remember who I am now in Christ. You see, remembering who we were is less important than remembering the Cross, that place where our sins were forgotten once and for all. If we focus on Jesus Christ, living and breathing in remembrance of Him, then we become new creations, and our past sins–hidden or remembered–will surely be as if they were in someone else’s lifetime.
Heavenly Father, how blessed are we that You have cast our sins from us, that You do not call them to remembrance anymore. I praise and thank You for Your mercy, Lord God. Cleanse me anew, Father, and keep me from the sins that would rule my life. Reign in me, O Lord, and renew me to repentance every day. Amen.