Forgive and Forget
We began this morning’s service with these lines: “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side when the forces of death pressed against us, we would have no songs to sing to our children. If it had not been the Lord who was on our side when the instruments of death had us in their power, we would be the victims of the unrighteous. Sing to our God, who brings us into a future of hope and life.”
What are these forces and instruments of death from which God has saved us?
Quite simply…the forces of sin, and they are all around us!
God has saved us from sin via forgiveness and by not judging us
Not judging us? Pastor, you tell us repeatedly that we will be judged on “that” day, right?
Correct, but God delays the judgement until “that” day, no?
“That” day you shall be judged on how you used what you were given…
THINK ABOUT IT: Were you judged by God yesterday? What punishment are you currently serving?
On the other hand, how is God showing you love today? Can I get an AMEN?
One of the best examples of how we are to handle sin in our lives is seen in today’s slice of the story of Joseph
Recall that Joseph was his father’s favorite son, and that his father let the world, and his brothers, know it with the technicolor coat
The brothers were so fed up that they sold Joseph into slavery
Rather than wallow in sadness and be angry with his lot in life, Joseph chose instead to listen to God
Joseph listened to the dream interpretations that the Spirit placed into his mind, and they helped him carve a path to success, both in life and in God’s eyes
Joseph, therefore, is a model for us in two ways
First, he offered complete forgiveness to his brothers…the same brothers who sold him after dropping him into a pit…complete and total forgiveness
How can I say this? At the end of today’s reading from Genesis, we find these words: “So, have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” -Genesis 50:21a (NRSV)
You do not offer to care for people who have been extremely mean to you without complete forgiveness…the kind of forgiveness that God shows to us…more on that later
Second, Joseph modeled something else that very few of us do on a regular basis
Joseph patiently waited for God to use him for good…because he knew something quite important
Something that would serve us well if we were to remember it in times of trials…
Joseph knew that God was with him… “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hands.” Genesis 39:2-3 (NRSV)
And when jailed after the lie of Potiphar… “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.” Genesis 39:21 (NRSV)
And when the chief cupbearer and chief baker had dreams while in jail, Joseph said to them… “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them (their dreams) to me.” Genesis 40:8b (NSRV)
Since Joseph knew that God was with him, Joseph, rather than wallowing in self-pity over his misfortune, moved toward God by embracing the jobs he found himself with, and God rewarded him
Joseph’s forgiveness of all of these people was exemplary
So, what of this forgiveness that God shows us on a regular basis?
It is extensive…as detailed by David, the psalmist of today’s act of praise
David gives a rather long list of the things that God does for us, and it doesn’t even include Jesus!
The Lord forgives iniquity, heals all diseases, satisfies us with good…but it is a goodness that we must seek…it doesn’t just appear while we are not paying attention…”Be still and know that I am God!”
David reminds us that the Lord is merciful and gracious, and is slow to anger…and isn’t that a real good thing…God being slow to anger?
The Lord redeems our lives from The Pit…The Pit, you say…wonder what The Pit is…
The Hebrew word for pit is “shachath” (shaw-hath), which equates to “corruption or destruction related to a grave or a pit”
So, in being “redeemed from The Pit” we are saved from corruption & destruction…death, saved from hell
These are things we know very well, but perhaps we need occasional reminding
You see, God doesn’t deal with us, day in, day out, according to our sins
If he did, let’s just say that our lives would be very different…some form of roller coaster
Recall that our sins have been forgiven via the precious blood of Jesus Christ
Furthermore, we are also separated from our sin…separated as far as the east is from the west
Ever wonder what exactly that meant? I know I did, and now I know
Things that are separated as far as the east is from the west cannot be reconnected
Arrows off to the east and west will never meet…as our sins will never be reconnected to us
And, perhaps most important…in addition to forgiving our sins AND separating us from our sins, somewhat remarkably…God forgets our sin…yes, forgets: Isaiah 43:25 “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
And Hebrews 10:15-18: “And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,” he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.”
Yes, our sins are forgiven AND forgotten!
After all…Why would God want to wallow in the past sins of each and every one of us?
Like some of us choose to do every day?
Why would God want to remember the sinful things we do when he loves us?
Indeed, God does not!
Then, by extention, we Christians are supposed to strive to be more God-like, right?
Including being more forgiving! Including forgetting the sins of others…forgetting the sins of YOU!
Does all of this forgiving and forgetting prove to you how much God loves us? It should!!!
And even Jesus tells us that we are to forgive others…and forgive them A LOT!
The rabbis in Jesus’ day taught that you offered forgiveness to others 3 times and 3 times only
So, when Peter suggests: “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” he thought that he was onto something…that Jesus would require more than the Law of Moses…And Jesus did… “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”
Why seventy times seven, or 490 times, to forgive someone?
Don’t count…the point is that we are not supposed to count…we are supposed to be like God!
After all, if God can forgive us seventy times seven times, what does it make us if we refuse forgiveness…doing forgiveness to others and accepting the forgiveness of others?
It makes us appear that we believe that we are superior to God…with higher standards…and that is not a good thing!
David also reminds us that God crowns us with his steadfast love
Steadfast: “resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering”
God’s unwavering love is enduring, always with us, sins or no sins, until the end of time…steadfast!
And while we are on definitions…Ever thought about the word “redeem,” as in “You are redeemed!”?
You have been redeemed…cashed in, like a coupon
You were purchased out of slavery to sin via the blood of Jesus Christ
My friends, that takes unwavering love…look around…unwavering love!
Endless forgiving…boundless forgetting…steadfast love…AMEN