“By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.” (Proverbs 16:6)
There is a fine line between faith and presumption. Presumption rests in the hope of forgiveness, but stops short of lasting change. Presumption wants to escape the guilt and the consequences of sin, but never its presence. So it embraces the one while wallowing in the other. At times, mind you, presumption will swap one sin for another and pride itself in the “improvement.” Say for example, shameful sins for more respectable ones. A friend reminded me of this today when he sent me a quote from the Puritan, John Owen. “He that changes pride for worldliness, sensuality for Pharisaism, vanity in himself to the contempt of others, let him not think that he has mortified the sin that he seems to have left. He has changed his master, but is a servant still.” This is because the presumptuous soul isn’t really interested in pleasing God. He’s after other things than God, and uses the Almighty as a means to those ends.
True faith is different. It is always mixed with the fear of God. Faith reaches for mercy, and through mercy strives for lasting change. This is the point of today’s proverb. Lovingkindness and truth are the Bible’s words for God’s covenant faithfulness. This is the source of Atonement, the covering of sin by the sprinkled blood of the sacrifice. This blood of another produces at-one-ment, reconciling man the sinner with God, the offended Judge of all the earth. Faith embraces this offer eagerly. But its motives are true. Yearning for fellowship with the newly reconciled God, embracing Him as Father, reveling in His glory, faith dreads to offend God more than to die -- Not primarily because God is so terrifying, but precisely because He is so very kind in His mercy. The Psalmist put it well, “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, who could stand. But there is forgiveness with you that you might be feared.” It is the forgiveness of God, not His ferocity, that produces the fear of God. As we leave our weekly devotion, let me ask you how this verse sits with you, this morning? Where are the areas in your life that you are toying with evil? Look at those areas in the light of this verse, in the light of God's willingness to redeem you at the cost of His own Son's lifeblood, and ask yourself honestly, “Don’t you fear God?” Don’t frustrate the end of mercy, forsake the practice of sin. God is sweeter than the sweetest pleasure of the sweetest sin. Taste and see!