The Word for today:
Alright, grab your calculator, because we've got some figurin' to do.
We'll start right here in Psalm 32:
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity. (Psalm 32:2/NKJV)
Before we do the math, we have to know the vocabulary. Iniquity means sin. Impute could be translated as count, account, credit, accredit, reckon, or even compute! Another version says it this way:
Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him. (Psalms 32:2/NIV)
Notice that the scripture doesn't say the man has no sin. The man has sin, but God doesn't count it!
Can God do that? He sure can, because He didn't just pay for sin, he overpaid. He offered infinite value to clear a finite debt. No matter how many people receive his offer of forgiveness, the blood of Christ covers the cost--and then some. There's more than enough collateral to cover any contingency. (I use these cold and calculating commercial terms only because the Word of God used them first: covenant (a contract); credit; earnest (a down payment); wages; debt. Even the word redeem connotes a transaction. But we soon warm up to the words when we understand them as the terms and conditions of God's guarantee of eternal life!)
Finally, who is that blessed man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity? Is he some goody with a few minor moral mishaps?
Only if murder is a minor moral mishap! The sins that form the background and context for Psalm 32 are the sins committed by King David in what the Bible refers to as the matter of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kings 15:5/NKJV). So what was "the matter?"
David, bored and lonely, was restlessly pacing the roof of his palace when he spied a beautiful woman as she bathed. What ensued was a cavalcade, a parade, an onslaught, and an avalanche of sin. You can read the entire catalog in the book of 2 Samuel, but among them would be pornography, adultery (with Bathsheba), murder (of Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba's husband), conspiracy, treason, incest, rape, and civil war. Moreover, the untimely deaths of David's favorite son (Absalom) and another son (an infant) were direct consequences of this affair.
So David was the man forgiven and those were the sins not imputed! But why David and why not another? Does God play favorites, does he pick and choose the sinners and the sins he will (or will not) forgive?
The answer is found in Psalm 51, also written in reaction to the matter of Uriah the Hittite. David does not plead innocence, or offer any shred of his own righteousness:
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. (Psalm 51:1-3)
Clearly, David is sincerely repentant. But repentance alone is not what enables God to forgive. Tears and penitent prayers leave God as unable to forgive sin as you and I are.
So it's not the repentance--the turning--that gives God the authority to forgive. It's what David turns to that counts:
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. (Psalm 51:7-9)
Hyssop is what David turned to, and that's what allowed God to forgive his sins. "Hyssop" is an Old Testament word that covers great spiritual ground. It was spoken here, by David, like we speak of "the cross."
"Hyssop," like "the cross," denotes the blood of God's designated sacrifice. The hyssop branch (with its fluffy leaves) was used at the first Passover to daub the blood of a lamb on the door frame, which caused--which enabled--the death angel to pass over:
When I see the blood, I will pass over you. (Exodus 12:13)
The blood of a lamb on a hyssop branch enabled God not to count their sins against them, because it pointed through time to the blood of the Lamb of God on a cross.
The blood of Jesus, which had not yet been shed in real time, made it possible for God to forgive David "on credit"--because Jesus had promised to pay in the future. Thus God could say, of David, what he'd said about Abraham:
Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)
If you turn back to the blood of the same Lamb that David and Abraham looked forward to, then you can take your long list of sins and add them to my long list of sins, which I added to David's long list of sins, which he added to Abraham's long list of sins.
No matter how many or how awful they were and are, they all add up to zero.