Remember not, O God,
the sins of long ago;
in tender mercy visit us,
distressed and humbled low.
2 O Lord, our Saviour, help,
and glorify your name;
deliver us from all our sins
and take away our shame.
3 Then, safe within your fold,
we will exalt your name;
our thankful hearts with songs of joy
your goodness will proclaim.
You can hear a verse of this Psalm sung to the tune, Gorton, here:
How natural to want to turn to God in our distress and ask for forgiveness. We know God will lift us up when we are low and in need.
How natural, once we are saved, to want to give thanks to God. We know God is worthy of our praise.
How natural to forget to offer that same chance of forgiveness to others! We know, or we think we know, they are much more guilty than we are.
It’s interesting that to create this sung version of Psalm 79 the writer has omitted the first part of the Psalm – where the Psalmist asks God to ‘pour out wrath’ on the nations that have defiled Jerusalem – in order to focus on the forgiveness the people of God want for themselves. What a very natural human reaction, wanting punishment for someone else’s wrong-doing, but leniency for ourselves. What a challenge for us poor humans to hear Jesus telling us to pray ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’.
And yet, if we truly grasp the forgiveness God offers – not a cheap grace that simple forgets or wipes over our sins, but costly, amazing grace that wrestles with sin, suffering and death and overcomes it – we can be filled with a love, joy and praise that flows out of us to all those who need it. So as we sing this Psalm may God lift us up and fill us with grace so that we may reach out to others to lift them up, too, by God’s mercy.
God of endless grace,
pour out your mercy on us, we pray.
Lift us up from sin and despair and shame.
Help us to praise you with freed hearts.
But help us to know that your grace is for all.
Make us channels of the grace that knows no limits
able to pray and live as Jesus teaches us.
That all your children may know life and peace