The whole psalm bases its appeal on the fact that God is the one being scorned when His people are defeated by the nations. The psalmist certainly had it right—those people who had slipped so far into idolatry and all its vile and attendant practices could not possibly think that God would save them based upon how faithful and righteous they had been. The only possibility of salvation was to throw themselves on the mercies of their God, to remind Him that it was a personal affront to Him when His people were conquered.
The nations have come into your inheritance…your holy temple they have defiled…the dead bodies of your servants have they given to the birds of the heavens for food…render sevenfold into the laps of our neighbors the taunts wherewith they have taunted you. And in keeping with that, the psalmist then asks for forgiveness, not for the people’s sake, but for God’s name’s sake.
I looked up that phrase and found it several more times in the collection. What was God asked to do “for His name’s sake?” Pardon sins, 25:11; lead in paths of righteousness, 23:3; preserve life, 143:11; lead and guide, 31:3; deal on my behalf and deliver, 109:21. Herein lies a lesson we need—all these things, including pardon and deliverance, God does, not because we deserve them, but because of Who He is. We have nothing to bargain with any more than those fickle people of old. We, too, have sinned against a loving Father, often in a rebellious and disrespectful way. We may not bow down to an idol, but we love the world as much as they did, follow its example as if we fear to be different from it, and let it seep into our minds to the point we no longer even recognize sin.
I hear too many brethren in the midst of a trial ask God, “Why, when I have tried so hard to be faithful for so long?” We just don’t get it. One sin forever makes us unworthy to be in the presence of God. It breaks our covenant with Him as surely as a broken contract today. God is Holy, He is righteous, He cannot tolerate sin. But lucky for us, God is love, too, and because of Who He is, we have hope.
When the trials come, when the fear mounts and the sorrow overwhelms, this is what we say to Him: We know we do not deserve it. We know you are far above us and our frail existence. Please show the world your essence. Please help us and comfort us and deliver us, not for our sakes, but for your name’s sake. Otherwise we don’t have a leg to stand on, and we know it.
"I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:25
"For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Isaiah 48:9
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7.