When I was a kid I had, on more than one occasion, some version of disappearing ink. Cheap-jack magic pens and little Houdini starter packs in half-clear capsules in quarter-slot vending machines were hard to turn away from. I wanted the mood ring, the stretchy rubber pencil cap, and yes, anything that promised magic.
But, unfortunately for the kid version of me, good magic tricks both cost more than a quarter, and require a more skilled magician than I was, or am for that matter.
So the disappearing ink was always a disappointment. Sometimes it would fade, the light black, original marks deteriorating into a much lighter blueish scrawl. Sometimes, if I was lucky, the ink would actually fade into near nothingness; but even then the marks on the page where i’d pressed the tip of the pen were still visible, and so with just a slight change in viewing angle the words could still be read.
This all led me to believe, despite the marketing ploys desperate to separate me from twenty-five cents, that disappearing ink did not truly exist – it was a myth, like Sasquatch, Achilles and trickle-down economics.
But David, in Psalm 130, seems to suggest that God has an ink that does everything, and more, that the ten-year-old version of me wanted.
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
The “if” in this psalm is an enormous word.
If God marked down, eternally, every instance of my failure, of my mistakes, of my rebellion, of my resistance to His leading – if He determined to keep all of these moments (and there are so many) written in eternal ink, I would be forever doomed.
And, despite the fact that we would like to think this psalm is saying that the Lord just avoids the process of marking iniquities at all, the truth is God fully and intimately knows our faults and failures. No matter how the poetry seems to read, it is not saying that God keeps shabby records; if He did, the entire sacrificial system would have been a sham.
What David says, and I am updating this to include our own view of the work of Jesus, is that despite God’s full knowledge of our sins, because of the cross He notates them differently. Forgiveness, which turns out to be one of God’s central characteristics, ensures that my sins are written with an ink that can be erased, forever gone, the marks of failure totally neutralized by the blood of Jesus!
If God chose to “mark iniquities” in the same way He marks forgiveness, we’d all have no hope. But He doesn’t. The ink that God writes down failures is thick and heavy and seems at first to have permanently stained the pages of our life, past-present-future, with the stories of our failures. But that ink, no matter how obsidian its shade, is absolutely, eternally and completely erased when God traces over the letters of sin with the blood of His Son.
Let us be filled with gladness. Not because God is comparing our failures with our successes. But let us be glad because when He looks at the story that been written about those who have put their trust in Jesus, there is no comparing, no pulling out the adding machine to see if we’re more good than bad – no, He looks at us who have been adopted into His family and says, “I see no record of wrong at all. If there ever was anything here, it is here no longer.”
And so we rejoice.