August 20th, 2017
Aux Text: Luke 19:1-10
Call to Worship: Psa 80
Service Orientation: God is a god of second chances. His love and grace is apparent in His sacrifice to seek and save that which is lost.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” — Luke 19:10
- The chapter division obscures the relationship between this section and the ending to chapter 9. Located immediately after his plea to spare Israel, Moses recalls the production of the new set of tablets and suggests that Yahweh’s renewal of the covenant was the answer to his prayer. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 260-1)
- In vv. 1-5 Moses briefly relates the success of his earnest intercession. “At that time,” of his intercession, God commanded him to hew out new tables, and prepare an ark in which to keep them (cf. Ex 34:1sqq.). (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 340)
- (v. 1) Here, either Moses rearranged the order of events because his primary concern wasn’t chronological, or because the ark he described was only a temporary holding container until a more permanent ark could be completed. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 93)
- (v. 1) There has been much discussion among scholars as to the original function and purpose of this sacred object, which was certainly the most treasured article in the Israelites’ sanctuary. It is, at any rate, very likely that Deuteronomy wanted the Israelites to pay less attention to the ark and more attention to the divine words which it contained. The ark could readily become a sort of magic object, attracting superstitious worship; indeed it could become a substitute idol. But the covenant was all about obeying God’s recorded wishes, not about paying reverence to boxes. (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 71)
- (v. 1) In Ex 34:1-4 is no mention of the ark. In Deuteronomy the ark functions simply as a receptacle for the tablets. Yahweh will again write the ten words on the tablets (cf. 9:10; Ex 31:18b; 32:16), and Moses is to deposit them in the ark. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 382-3)
- (v. 1) Elsewhere in the OT, the ark took on an expanded function, particularly in the Priestly traditions: It was a symbol of the divine presence and accompanied Israel in its various movements, especially as it went into battle (Nm 10:33-36; 14:44 [contrast Dt 1:42]; Josh 3:6; 1 Sm 4:3-4, 6-7; 2 Sm 11:11). It was also a throne for the invisible Yahweh (1 Sm 4:4, 2 Sm 6:2 [= 1 Chr 13:6]; 2 Kgs 19;15 [= Isa 37:16]; Jer 3:16-17). On the ark as Yahweh’s footstool, see Haran 1959. Overlaid in pure gold (Ex 25:11; 37:2), the ark (of the covenant) was the nation’s most sacred object, kept later in the temple’s holy of holies (1 Kgs 8:6; cf. Ex 25:10-22; 37:1-9). All of this goes unmentioned in Deuteronomy, where the ark is nothing more than a box containing the tablets. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 383)
- (v. 1) This was not the permanent “ark of the covenant” later placed in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle. That ark had not yet been made, and in any case it was crafted by the divinely endowed craftsman Bezalel for the tablets (cf. Dt 31:9, 26), that one would also function as a throne for the invisible deity, which figured in the Day of Atonement ritual (Lv 16:11-14). This one played no part in the cult, but that one served as a visible symbol of Yahweh’s presence and was a central feature in Israelite’s worship. This distinction is reinforced by the rare reference to the receptacle as “an ark” (v. 1; NIV “a wooden chest”) as opposed to “the ark” (v. 3). (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 261)
- (v. 1) The idea of the ark did not originate with the Hebrews. Similar sacred boats or boxes are to be found both in Egyptian and Babylonian religious usage. (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2. 396)
- (v. 7) The order of Israel’s stops in the wilderness listed here (wells of the Jaakanites to Moserah to Gudgodah to Jotbathah) seems to contradict the sequence in Nm 33:31-33 (Moseroth to Bene Jaakan to Hor Haggidgad to Jotbathath). This apparent discrepancy disappears, however, when it becomes clear that the list of stops in Deuteronomy includes the locations after they stayed at Kadesh, which is mentioned in Nm 33:37 without a listing of the names of all the stops. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 94)
- (vss. 10-11) The climax of this recital is Moses’ declaration that the Lord listened to his plea on the Israelites’ behalf (v. 10). It was not the Lord’s will to destroy them. The grace of God–not because they were numerous or righteous–kept them from destruction, and by his grace Moses’ orders were renewed to “lead the people on their way” to occupy the Promised Land (v. 11). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 84)
The questions to be answered are . . . Why is this passage significant?
Answer: This passage shows God’s desire to rebirth, regenerate, renew, restore, rebuild, resurrect, reconcile, redeem and reform that which is lost. God wants to forgive.
Do you know the meaning of the Greek word “Forgive?” It means to “let go.” —Steve Brown
Forgiveness is letting go. Untying the knot that binds us to another who has hurt us. —Gary Smalley
To be an unforgiving Christian is an oxymoron. —Greg Laurie
Forgiveness is a prerequisite for love. —Steve Brown
The Word for the Day is . . . Restore
Why is this passage significant?:
I- We all suffer from a broken relationship with God. (Dt 10:1, 3, 4, 10; see also: Ps 14:1-3; 130:8; Rom 3:9-23)
The purpose of this summarizing section is to make known that God in His mercy has renewed the covenant with His rebellious people. The covenant’s placement in the ark will make it secure, inaccessible, permanent, and available only as Moses teaches from it and about it. The writing on the second set of tablets is the same as the first; the covenant does not change. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 156)
All the reflection on Israel’s persistent “guilt” falls between these two boundaries. The covenant is broken because of Israel’s sin, but renewed by God’s grace, and so the people may enter the land. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 192)
The whole danger of ritual (and all Churches have their rituals!) Is that the symbol may become a substitute for God–or worse, that we may become so devoted to the symbols that we have no time or inclination to listen to what God says. (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 71)
The Bible presents sin by way of major concepts, principally lawlessness and faithlessness, expressed in an array of images: sin is the missing of a target, a wandering from the path, a straying from the fold. Sin is a hard heart and a stiff neck. Sin is blindness and deafness. It is both the overstepping of a line and the failure to reach it–both transgression and shortcoming. Sin is a beast crouching at the door. In sin, people attack or evade or neglect their diving calling. These and other images suggest deviance: even when it is familiar, sin is never normal. Sin is disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony. Above all, sin disrupts and resists the vital human relation to God, and it does all this disrupting and resisting in a number of intertwined ways. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 5)
II- God takes the costly initiative for covenant restoration of our broken relationships. (Dt 10:1-4, 10-11; see also: Ps 19:14; 23:3; 34:22; 80:3, 7, 19; 130:8; Mt 9:2-6; Mk 2:5-10; Lk 5:20-24; 6:10; 7:47-49; 19:10; Jn 3:16; Acts 3:21; 2 Cor 5:21 – reconcile)
True forgiveness always entails suffering. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 101)
The point of Dt 10:1-5 is not to give a detailed physical description of the ark or to explain every aspect of its religious significance, but rather, in the context of ch. 9, to see its construction for the purpose of storing the new tablets of the law as tangible proof of the forgiveness of the people and the renewal of the covenant by God’s grace. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 143)
The second set of stone tablets was identical to the first, which Moses broke. The Lord forgave Israel’s sin, which had broken the first agreement. He did not enact any new stipulations in the new agreement; the new agreement, as the old one, was based on the Lord’s love and his great rescue of his people from Egypt. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 93)
The constant presence of the ark with the covenant inside would remind Israel that her relationship with the Lord rested only on the Lord’s goodness and mercy. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 93)
What blocks forgiveness is not God’s reticence—“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him”—but ours. God’s arms are always extended; we are the ones who turn away. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 52)
There is repentance, but not a repentance in the light of the immense love of a forgiving God. It is a self-serving repentance that offers the possibility of survival. I know this state of mind and heart quite well. It is like saying: “Well, I couldn’t make it on my own, I have to acknowledge that God is the only resource left to me. I will go to God and ask for forgiveness in the hope that I will receive a minimal punishment and be allowed to survive on the condition of hard labor.” God remains a harsh, judgmental God. It is this God who makes me feel guilty and worried and calls up in me all these self-serving apologies. Submission to this God does not create true inner freedom, but breeds only bitterness and resentment.
One of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life is to receive God’s forgiveness. There is something in us humans that keeps us clinging to our sins and prevents us from letting God erase our past and offer us a completely new beginning. Sometimes it even seems as though I want to prove to God that my darkness is too great to overcome. While God wants to restore me to the full dignity of sonship, I keep insisting that I will settle for being a hired servant. (Henri J. M. Nouwen; The Return of the Prodigal Son: a Story of Homecoming, 52-3)
God is a restoring God. He takes problems and crises and redeems them. In the strictest sense, God has never faced a problem. He doesn’t see problems; He sees opportunities to demonstrate His grace and mercy. (Floyd McClung Jr.; God’s Man in the Family, 94)
He came to leave us “an example” that we should “follow in his steps” (1 Pt 2:21), But more: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tm 1:15). But even more; he came to destroy the devil (Heb 2:14) and to “disarm the principalities and powers” (Col 2:15). But most of all, most broadly and cosmically of all, God sent his Son to unite or reconcile all things to him (Eph 1:10, Col 1:20). That is, he sent Christ to restore a broken and rebellious universal kingdom. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.; Assurances of the Heart, 164)
Before God rebuilds, he often pulls down and plucks up. (David F. Wells; No Place For Truth or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?, 91)
Forgiveness is difficult, costly, and painful. To forgive means that the innocent one carries his own wrath at the sin of the offending one and resolves his indignation through love! A refusal to forgive means that we keep the offending person as “beholden” to us, as obligated or indebted to us. To forgive means that we release the other person, that we accept the loss that has come to us from their offense, and let them go free. In forgiving we actually carry our own wrath at their sin and resolve this through love, refusing to make them feel our wrath and extending to them acceptance, love, and fellowship. God has done just this in Christ, reconciling us to Himself, absorbing our hostility into Himself, carrying His own wrath at our sin, and speaking back the word of acceptance. “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, nor counting men’s sins against them” (2 Cor 5:19). This verse makes reconciliation central to the meaning and the message of grace. (Myron S. Augsburger; The Christ-Shaped Conscience, 28)
There’s always a price in forgiveness. Let’s say somebody insults you in front of others and later you graciously say, “I forgive you.” Who bears the price of the insult? You do.
This is what God has done. God has said, “I forgive you.” But he was willing to pay the price himself through the cross. (Josh McDowell, More Than a Carpenter, 115-6)
In The Art of Forgiving, Lewis Smedes makes the striking observation that the Bible portrays God going through progressive stages when he forgives, much as we humans do. First, God rediscovers the humanity of the person who wronged him, by removing the barrier created by sin. Second, God surrenders his right to get even, choosing instead to bear the cost in his own body. Finally, God revises his feelings toward us, finding a way to “justify” us so that when he looks upon us he sees his own adopted children, with his divine image restored. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 106)
III- God provides mediatorial priests to perpetuate worldwide covenant restoration: Believers. (Dt 10:5-9; see also: Dt 10:15; Rom 9:4; 15:16; 2 Cor 4:16; Gal 3:13-14; 6:1-2; Col 1:20-22; Heb 5:1; 1 Pt 2:5-9)
What the Levitical priests were to the congregation of Israel, the people of God are to the world. Peter’s reference to the priesthood of all believers in 1 Pt 2:9 has less to do with laypersons having “the same right as ordained ministers to communicate with God, interpret Scripture, and minister in Christ’s name,” than with the community of faith as a whole representing the gracious God to a needy world. Like the Levites, Israel as a whole, and now as those who have been grafted into the olive tree (Rom 11:17-23) and adopted as children of God (Rom 8:15, 23), Christians are custodians of the new covenant (Rom 9:4). To us has been granted the new “temple” service (Rom 9:4), and we have been called to be agents of blessing to a world under the curse of sin (Gal 3:14). (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 266)
The Israelites owed to the grace of their God, which was turned towards them once more, through the intercession of Moses, not only the restoration of the tables of the covenant as a pledge that the covenant itself was restored, but also the institution and maintenance of the high-priesthood and priesthood generally for the purpose of mediation between them and the Lord. Moses reminds the people of this gracious gift on the part of their God, by recalling to their memory the time when Aaron died and his son Eleazar was invested with the high-priesthood in his stead. (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 340-1)
The Levitical priests were responsible for maintaining the relationship between the two parties to the covenant. The note ends with a reference to their spiritual privilege. Whereas the rest of the tribes of Israel would receive their apportioned allotment in the form of real estate, the Levitical priests’ portion is defined in spiritual and theological terms; Yahweh promised himself as their grant. Aaronic status and privilege was extended to the Levites as a whole. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 263)
By choosing to mention the death of Aaron and Eleazar’s succeeding him to the high priesthood, the narrative makes clear that Moses’ Intercession on Aaron’s behalf (9:20) was also successful; not only did Aaron not die at the time of the great apostasy but his family remained the heirs of his priesthood. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 141)
Although Moses said here that Aaron died at Moserah, in Nm 20:22 and 33:38 he reported that Aaron died at Mt. Hor. Moserah was probably the name of the general locality, and Mt. Hor was a particular peak within that locality. Moses later repeated (Dt 32:50) that Aaron died on Mt. Hor. Aaron’s death was recorded earlier but repeated here to confirm that the Lord restored the priesthood of Aaron and his descendants, in spite of his sin with the golden calf. Moses recalled that here to emphasize God’s mercy and forgiveness. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 94)
The section ends with the re-making of the two tables of the law (10:1-5), to symbolize the re-making of the covenant. There is a double-edged lesson in this paragraph. On the one hand, Israelites can take heart that God’s covenant with them, and his love for them, are secure–“there they are” (v. 5). On the other hand, the very symbols of the covenant contained the ten commandments (v. 4), and they too must be taken to heart–there they are, to be heeded and obeyed by the covenant people. (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 69)
In introducing the ark as the repository of the covenant document, Moses has struck on its primary covenantal significance in Israel’s tradition. In keeping with ancient Near Eastern custom, by placing the tablets of the covenant in the ark and later depositing it before Yahweh in the Most Holy Place, Yahweh was invoked as a witness to and guarantor of the covenant. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 262)
. . . in the final analysis, forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am. By forgiving, I release my own right to get even and leave all issues of fairness for God to work out. I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 93)
“It may be infinitely worse to refuse to forgive than to murder. Because the latter (namely murder) may be an impulse in the heat of the moment whereas the former is a cold and deliberate choice of the heart.” (Alister Begg sermon Measure for Measure – Part 1)
The merciful, says Jesus, are shown mercy. They witness grace. They are blessed because they are testimonies to a greater goodness. Forgiving others allows us to see how God has forgiven us. The dynamic of giving grace is the key to understanding grace, for it is when we forgive others that we begin to feel what God feels. (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 104)
Magnanimous forgiveness, such as that offered Valjean by the bishop, allows the possibility of transformation in the guilty party. Lewis Smedes details this process of “spiritual surgery”:
When you forgive someone, you slice away the wrong from the person who did it. You disengage that person from his hurtful act. You recreate him. At one moment you identify him ineradicably as the person who did you wrong. The next moment you change that identity. He is remade in your memory.
You think of him now not as the person who hurt you, but a person who needs you. You feel him now not as the person who alienated you, but as the person who belongs to you. Once you branded him as a person powerful in evil, but now you see him as a person weak in his needs. You recreated your past by recreating the person whose wrong made your past painful.
Smedes adds many cautions. Forgiveness is not the same as pardon, he advises: you may forgive one who wronged you and still insist on a just punishment for that wrong. If you can bring yourself to the point of forgiveness, though, you will release its healing power both in you and in the person who wronged you. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 102-3)
The appointment of the tribe of Levi for service at the sanctuary took place in connection with the election of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood (Ex 38 and 29), although their call to this service, instead of the first-born of Israel, was not carried out till the numbering and mustering of the people (Nm 1:49 sqq., 4:17 sqq., 8:6sqq.). Moses is speaking here of the election of the whole of the tribe of Levi, including the priests (Aaron and his sons), as is very evident from the account of their service. It is true that the carrying of the ark upon the march through the desert was the business of the (non-priestly) Levites, viz. the Kohathites (Nm 4:4 sqq.); but on solemn occasions the priests had to carry it (cf. Josh 3:3, 6, 8; 6:6; 1 Kgs 8:3 sqq.). “Standing before the Lord, to serve Him, and to bless in His name,” was exclusively the business of the priests (cf. chap. 18:5, 21:5, and Nm 6:23 sqq.), whereas the Levites were only assistants of the priests in their service (see at Chap. 18:7). This tribe therefore received no share and possession with the other tribes, as was already laid down in Nm 18:20 with reference to the priests, and in v. 24 with regard to all the Levites; to which passages the words “as the Lord thy God promised him” refer. (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 344)
Ultimately renewal lies in God’s hands. (Jack Miller; Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, 72)
In a church started by a man with six wives . . . Forgiveness goes without saying. —Ad for the Episcopal – Anglican Church (Steve Brown message, Back to Basics III)
God’s purposes can never be accomplished if we react to our own pain by inflicting pain on others. Nor can we continue growing as the people of God if we seek vengeance on others. That spoils our reconciliation, not only with them, but also with God and with ourselves. To curse our persecutors is surely always more destructive to us than to them. (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community: Romans 12, 229)
Enmity with God is the source of all that poisons man; overcoming this enmity is the basic condition for peace in the world. Only the man who is reconciled with God can also be reconciled and in harmony with himself, and only the man who is reconciled with God and with himself can establish peace around him and throughout the world. (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, 85) (David Robertson, Magnificent Obsession–Why Jesus Is Great, 172)
Worship Point: Worship Almighty God Who for some crazy reason loves us and has spared no expense to restore a relationship with us fallen humans. (Rom 5:8-11; Eph 1:7; 1 Pt 1:18ff)
Miracles are not a suspension of the natural order, they are a restoration of the natural order. Miracles are a sign of the future natural world that God will one day restore. (Tim Keller message, Real Spirituality)
When Adam and Eve were tempted in the garden, Satan used as the source of his temptation that he could make Adam and Eve “like God” . . . the very thing that God designed and created them to be and the very thing that God desires to restore in us (Rom 8:29-30; 1 Pt 1:1-4) —Jean Porter 8-7-12
In a world where the only plea is “not guilty,” what possibility is there of an honest encounter with Jesus, “who died for our sins”? We can only pretend that we are sinners, and thus only pretend that we are forgiven. (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 171)
Gospel Application: Look to Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Through Jesus our relationship with God is restored. As Christians, we too should seek and save those who are lost. (Ps 51:10; Isa 59:20; Jer 15:19; Mk 1:4; Lk 3:3; 19:10; Acts 2:38; 5:31; 1 Tm 2:5; Heb 2:17; 3:1; 4:14-15; 5:5-10; 6:20; ch 7; 8:1-6; 9:11, 25; 10:11-12, 21, 24)
The Mosaic covenant explicitly assured that repentance would lead to restoration to the land (see Dt 4:29; 30:1-3). (Richard Pratt Jr., Commentary on 1 and 2 Chr, 239)
Samuel Bolton explains the radical changes the Spirit effects in our affections:
This, then is the reason why a godly man conducts himself well in duty, not merely because it is commanded but because he has the nature which truly and rightly responds to the command. The law of God which is in the book is transcribed into his heart; it is his nature, his new nature. So that he acts his own nature renewed as he acts obedience. The eye needs no command to see, nor the ear to hear; it is their nature to see and hear…So far as the heart is renewed, it is as natural for it to obey as for the eye to see or the ear to hear…So far as the law of God is its nature, so far does it find delight in obedience. (Bryan Chapell; Holiness by Grace, 152)
No creature that deserved Redemption would need to be redeemed. They that are whole need not the physician. Christ died for men precisely because men are not worth dying for; to make them worth it. (CS Lewis, The World’s Last Night, 86)
As the Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt said, the only remedy for the inevitability of history is forgiveness; otherwise, we remain trapped in the “predicament of irreversibility.”
Not to forgive imprisons me in the past and locks out all potential for change. I thus yield control to another, my enemy, and doom myself to suffer the consequences of the wrong. I once heard an immigrant rabbi make an astonishing statement. “Before coming to America, I had to forgive Adolf Hitler,” he said. “I did not want to bring Hitler inside me to my new country.” (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 99)
If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again.
…Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know that they need any forgiveness. It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power–it is after all this and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk. When you are sick, you will listen to the doctor. (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 38-9)
Bitterness is the most visible symptom of the stronghold of cold love. To deal with cold love, we must repent and forgive the one who hurt us. Painful experiences are allowed by God to teach us how to love our enemies. If we still have unforgiveness toward someone, we have failed this test. Fortunately, it was just a test, not a final exam. We actually need to thank God for the opportunity to grow in divine love. Thank Him that your whole life is not being swallowed up in bitterness and resentment. Millions of souls are swept off into eternal judgment every day without any hope of escaping from embitterment, but you have been given God’s answer for your pain. God gives you a way out: love! (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 68-9)
What has God done with our sins? They are “forgiven” (1 Jn 2:12); “forgotten,” “cleansed,” (Jer 33:8); “gone,” “atoned for,” (Rom 5:11); “covered” (Ps 32:1); “cast into the depths of the sea,” (Mic 7:19); “removed as far as the east is from the west” (Ps 103:12); “blotted out as a thick cloud” (Is 44:22); “cast behind God’s back” (Is 38:17); and “remembered against us no more” (Jer 31:34). (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Freedom, 68)
“If the God of life does not respond to the culture of death (21st century western civilization – abortion) with judgment, then God is not god. If God does not honor the blood of hundreds of millions of innocent victims of this culture of death, then the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham , the God of Israel, the God of the prophets, is a man-made myth, a fairy tale, a comfortable ideal as substantial as a dream.
But, you may object: Is not the God of the Bible forgiving?
He is! But, the unrepentant refuse forgiveness. Forgiveness being a gift of grace, must be freely given and freely received. How can it be received by a moral relativist who denies that there is anything to forgive, except unforgiveness; nothing to judge but judgmentalism; nothing lacking but self-esteem? How can a Pharisee or a pop-psychologist be saved?
But, you might object: Is not the God of the Bible compassionate?
He is! But, He is not compassionate to Molech and Baal and Ashtoreth, and to the Canaanites who do their work who cause their children to pass through the fire. Perhaps your god is compassionate to the work of human sacrifice, the god of your demands, the god of your religious preferences. But, not the God of the Bible. Read the Book. Look at the data. (Peter Kreeft lecture, Culture War)
The Pharisee had never seen the need of forgiveness and there is no more terrible sin than that. I know of nothing worse than the person who says; “You know I have never really felt that I am a sinner.” That is the height of sin because it means that you have never realized the truth about God and the truth about yourself. Read the argument of the Apostle Paul and you will find that his logic is not only inevitable, but also unanswerable. “There is none righteous, no not one.” “We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God.” If you have never realized your guilt or guiltiness before God you will never have joy in Christ. It is impossible. “Not the righteous, but sinners Jesus came to save.” “They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick.: (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 31)
It is not psychologically possible for us really to know God’s pity for us and at the same time be hardhearted toward others. So we are “forgiving of others in the same manner as God forgives us.” That is a part of our prayer. We are not just promising or resolving to forgive, however. We are praying for help to forgive others, for, though it is up to us to forgive–we do it–we know we cannot do it without help. (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 262)
Today even many Christians read and say “forgive us our trespasses” as “give me a break.” In the typically late-twentieth-century manner, this saves the ego and its egotism. “I am not a sinner, I just need a break!” But no, I need more than a break. I need pity because of who I am. If my pride is untouched when I pray for forgiveness, I have not prayed for forgiveness. I don’t even understand it. (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 264)
You can’t forgive until you have been forgiven and only then can you for give to the degree that you have been forgiven (Mt 18:32-33).
Fellowship with the Father and the Son, that intimate, holy, and unceasing communion, is the reason for man’s creation. That fellowship has been restored to us in Christ Jesus. (Andrew Murray, Receiving Power from God, 42)
Listen carefully: God was not angry because of the sin of homosexuality, fornication, adultery, or pornography. Does that surprise you? God was angry–and I believe that I expressed that anger in my speechlessness–because the report had said that sin was not sin, thus burning the bridge of repentance, which is the only real source of power for the Christian. The report’s horror was not that it seemed to forgive some horrible sin. God does that all the time. The report’s horror was that it said that there was no need for forgiveness. (Steve Brown, Born Free, 158-9)
Spiritual Challenge: If you are a Christian, your goal is to be like Jesus: The Mediatorial Priest who came to rebirth, regenerate, renew, restore, rebuild, resurrect, reconcile, redeem and reform those who are lost. (Mt 6:12-15; Mk 2:9-10; Phil 3:21; Col 3:20)
“The Son of Man has come unto the world to take upon Himself the sins of the world. If you want to follow Him you must be willing to do the same.” (Jesus of Nazareth video)
There is a direct correlation between a lack of forgiveness and a lack of self-knowledge. When you know yourself, you will forgive. (Steve Brown, Born Free, 184)
“If you want to know the problem in any organization, look for the ego. There is no forgiveness where there is ego.
We could also follow Moses’ precedent of renewing the covenant after sin by having services of repentance or rededication. If we find that we have moved from our primary call, a service of recommitment to the call could signal a new phase in the life of our group. If we find that apathy and sin have entered our group, we could have acts of community confession and rededication, especially after what we now call revival meetings. The restoration of a Christian who has been disciplined could be accompanied by a service of restoration. The same could be done with a couple whose marriage had gone through tough times and who are now ready to start afresh with God’s help. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 334)
If we do not move in divine forgiveness, we will walk in much deception. We will presume we have discernment when, in truth, we are seeing through the veil of a critical spirit. We must know our weaknesses, for if we are blind to our sins, what we assume we discern in men will merely be the reflection of ourselves. Indeed, if we do not move in love, we will actually become a menace to the body of Christ (Mt 7:1-5). (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 75)
The people of God do not serve Him in order to be forgiven but because we are forgiven. When believers serve only because they feel guilty if they don’t, it’s as though they serve with a ball and chain dragging from their ankles. There’s no love in that kind of service, only labor. There’s no joy, only obligation and drudgery. But Christians aren’t prisoners who should serve in God’s Kingdom grudgingly because of guilt. We can serve willingly because Christ’s death freed us from guilt. (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 115)
Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving. (Dale Carnegie, How to win Friends and Influence People)
In expounding the ethic of the New Covenant, Christ taught that forgiveness is a duty. No limit can be set to the extent of forgiveness (Lk 17:4), and it must be granted without reserve. Jesus will not admit that there is any wrong so gross nor so often repeated that it is beyond forgiveness. To Him, having an unforgiving spirit is one of the most heinous of sins. (Geoffrey Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 341)
Victims need to repent of the fact that all too often they mimic the behavior of the oppressors, let themselves be shaped in the mirror image of the enemy. They need to repent also of the desire to excuse their own reactive behavior either by claiming that they are not responsible for it or that such reactions are a necessary condition of liberation. Without repentance for these sins, the full human dignity of victims will not be restored and needed social change will not take place. (Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace, 117)
So What?: Does your life reflect this mission?
God will forgive anyone anything except for those who don’t forgive anyone anything. —Steve Brown
A happy marriage is the union of two forgivers. —Ruth Bell Graham
We don’t want to forgive others because it makes us even, not superior. —Steve Brown
What restores a grandparent’s soul? The very same thing that restores anyone’s soul: respect and honor personally and publicly expressed. The old, because of the realities of aging, need that respect, orchestrated in society and in one’s children. But perhaps there is one group that if left on their own need laws to do what has to be done. Perhaps they respect experience and authority that does not come into direct conflict with them—rather they serve as models of what one can ideally respect. Perhaps grandchildren naturally fit this bill and mean so much to their grandparents because it is these children who naturally put them on a pedestal and thereby restore their souls. (Richard L. Morgan; No Wrinkles On the Soul)
When a church learns to forgive, they’ll be able to grow.
When a marriage learns to forgive, that relationship will be able to grow.
When a team learns to forgive, that team will be able to grow.
When an organization learns to forgive, that organization will be able to grow. — Steve Brown
Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. —Mark Gungor
A man can as well go to hell for not forgiving as for not believing. —Thomas Watson
Unless you have forgiven others, you read your own death-warrant when you repeat the Lord’s Prayer. —Charles Spurgeon
It is impossible to forgive someone if you feel superior to him or her. (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 55)