2.  Blot out

Blot out

according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.  – Psalm 51:1b

I was surprised to find that my NRSV Bible translation actually includes 14 uses of the phrase “blot out”  — all in the Old Testament.  Outside of the two mentions of the phrase in Psalm 51, the Bible uses “blot out” to describe the ways that the Lord expunged those who sinned mightily from God’s holy book, existence, or even memory.   In one of those instances, Moses offers to have himself  blotted out to do penance for the people of Israel after they built the golden calf:

So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold.  But now, if you will only forgive their sin– but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.”  But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.”   – Exodus 32:31-33

The consistent use of “blotting out” in a punitive way in scripture heightens for me its power in Psalm 51 where David pleads to God to “blot out my transgressions.”   For the first time in scripture, this “blotting out” would be an act of mercy, rather than retribution.

What would we give if by the mere discharge from a fountain pen we could cover up our past sins, our greatest mistakes, the sources of our shame.  Splatter here, splatter there, and our trail of miscues and faults would be obscured.

God does indeed blot out our transgressions, according to God’s mercy.  But the implement wasn’t a pen, it was a cross.


Loving God,

As we step a bit further along this Lenten path, help us to leave behind the transgressions and failings from years gone by — or yesterday.   Give us a fresh sheet of paper upon which to begin again, and help us to write anew with you as our guide.   May we strive to be as gracious in blotting out the missteps of others.