In the first three verses, the writer of the psalm is giving God a history lesson – reminding Him of all of his goodness to the nation of Israel in the past. Notice that Jacob’s other name is Israel so it is not the man Jacob whose fortunes were restored but the nation of Jacob (Israel). The writer reminds God that in the past He forgave their iniquity and covered all their sins.
Now the author of the psalm begins his entreaty. “Listen, God, I want you to forgive us again.” The assumption is here that even after being forgiven and restored to God’s favour in the past, they’ve dropped the ball again and are in need of forgiveness once again. You see I have used the word “again” three times already (well that now make four) in this paragraph. This psalm is a salutary lesson in the relationship between human beings and God, and by extension between one another. Before God and before our brothers and sisters, we continually let ourselves down and require forgiveness. By God’s grace he does forgive us until we let Him and ourselves down again. It is easy to suffer a bit of contrition fatigue. What? I have to be sorry again? What? I have to forgive you again? Yes!
There is a caveat in verse eight. The writer is not simply saying, “Hey it’s me again with another mercy petition.” He says, “I will listen to what The Lord God will say.” So there is no assumption that forgiveness will be automatic.
Finally, there is a bit of smooch up to God. “I know you are faithful, righteous, peaceful, loving, good…etc,” and therefore I am going to trust you.” In verse eight: “He promises peace to his people”.
For the left-brainers amongst our readers, here is the flow-chart:
Sin -> Contrition -> Forgiveness -> More sin -> Righteous anger -> More contrition
-> Listening -> Trust -> More forgiveness.
So what is the key to the universe? Without forgiveness, all of us would be constantly at war with each other and without forgiveness all of us would be condemned to hell. Can there be anything more important in the universe than forgiveness?