December 21 - LD 51, Day 5: Impute Not to Us Poor Sinners
by Rev. Martyn McGeown
Psalm 32:2 - “Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity…”
LD 51 interprets the petition “Forgive us our debts” as “Be pleased for the sake of Christ’s blood, not to impute to us poor sinners…” Thus, LD 51 interprets the fifth petition, rightly, in terms of justification.
Impute is a legal term which we encountered in LD 23. It means to reckon something to the account of another, so that legally that thing belongs to the person to whom it has been imputed. In Scripture, guilt or innocence (unrighteousness or righteousness) can be imputed, or money can be imputed to a person’s account. For example, in Philemon 18, Paul writes, “put that [Onesimus’ debt] on mine account,” that is, impute it to me, so that I become legally obligated to pay for it.
A debtor might echo the words of LD 51 to his creditor, “Impute not to me, a poor debtor, the obligation to pay what I owe.” But here the debt is not money, but sin (or the obligation to perfect obedience and the obligation to satisfactory punishment for imperfect obedience, which we have not paid and which we cannot pay). Thus, the one praying the fifth petition asks, “Impute not to me, a poor sinner, my transgressions nor my depravity.”
Clearly, this is a petition for mercy, not a petition based on what we deserve. If God did impute our transgressions to us, He would be just. They are, after all, our transgressions, not His. Similarly, if a creditor insisted on payment from a delinquent debtor, he would be just to impute debt to his debtor. The clearing of a debt is mercy, not something a debtor can demand.
Two things, we ask God not to impute to us. First, we beseech God not to impute our transgressions to us. Do not account us guilty before Thee for all of our sins—our lies, our thefts, our murders, our idolatry, our blasphemy, our disrespect toward our parents, and so many more sins in thought, word, and deed. Do not mark those sins against us with a view to punishing us for them. What a bold request to make before the Judge! Second, we beseech God not to impute our depravity to us. Do not account us guilty before Thee for “that depravity which always cleaves to us.” We are polluted, wicked, and depraved by nature, but, Lord, do not hold that against us. An even bolder request!
But there is more. In not imputing guilt to us, God gives us something even more wonderful. It is one thing not to be guilty—to be exempt from punishment. It is quite another to be positively righteous—to stand before God as spotless and holy as God Himself!
In this fifth petition we ask for Christ’s righteousness, about which we will learn in our next meditation.
- Date: December 21
Rev. Martyn McGeown (Larisa)
Pastorates: Missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland for the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland - 2010; Providence PRC (Hudsonville, MI), Sept. 2021Website: www.prca.org/current/news/churches/usa-canada/providence-prc-hudsonville-mi
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