Thursday: Forgiveness
avatar

Read Micah 7:18–20. What picture of God do we find in this passage?

The last three verses of the book of Micah focus on the relationship of God with His remnant. The text describes beautifully why God is unrivaled. He is incomparable because of His forgiving love and grace. The outstanding characteristic of God, as revealed in Micah (and elsewhere), is His willingness to forgive. Micah emphasizes this point by using various expressions for God’s attributes (vs. 18) and achievements (vss. 19, 20). His attributes and achievements are explained in the language of the Israelite Credo in Exodus 34:6-7, one of the most beloved biblical descriptions of the character of God.

Interestingly, several crucial words in Micah 7:18–20 are also used in the Servant Song in Isaiah 53, pointing to the fact that the means of forgiveness comes from the One who is suffering for the people.

Unfortunately, not everyone will enjoy God’s saving grace. God’s forgiveness is neither cheap nor automatic. It involves loyalty. Those who have experienced His grace respond in kind, such as we see in Micah 6:8, a central text in the book. Just as God “delights in unchanging love,” NASB, He calls His remnant to “love kindness” NASB. His people will imitate God’s character. Their lives will reflect His love, compassion, and kindness.

In the Bible, Micah 7:18–20, with its emphasis on forgiveness, is immediately followed by Nahum 1:2-3, with its emphasis on judgment. This unfolds the two dimensions of God’s dealings with us: forgiving the repentant and punishing the wicked. Both sides belong to God. He is Savior and Judge. These two aspects of God’s character are complementary, not contrary. A compassionate God can also be a just God. Knowing this, we can rest assured in His love, in His forgiveness, and in His ultimate justice.

Read Micah 6:8. What good is a profession of faith without these principles to reveal the reality of that profession? What’s easier, to claim faith in Jesus or to live out that faith, as expressed in Micah 6:8? How can you better do the latter?

Share Button

Comments

Thursday: Forgiveness — 14 Comments

  1. Do we as a church really believe that God will forgive the repentant and "punish" the wicked? How does God treat His enemies? Do we believe that God has two sides to Him, one loving and the other severe? When we say "justice" does that mean "to do the right thing" or does that mean "punishment"? What good will it do to "punish" the wicked in the end? Will it put fear in us for all eternity to witness that? Or will God hide that from us? What does wrath mean anyway?

    Like(5)
    • Larry, this lesson focuses on forgiveness. It is what God wants to do for all who will accept it. Those who refuse to accept His forgiveness will experience the consequences. I believe what the Bible teaches on this topic, and Nahum 1:2-3 is just one of these references. Christ Himself spoke about judgment and destruction.

      In both the OT and the NT, God speaks to us in human language, because that's all we can understand. He used promises of rewards and threats of punishment to cajole us into accepting Him as Savior. I have a feeling that God's "wrath" is as different from our "wrath" as His love is different from ours. He calls His final act of destruction a "strange act," (see Isaiah 28:21) because it is not what He wants to do, but it is what must be done to secure the universe against evil.

      See also "Punishment of the Wicked in Light of the Cross."

      For what "we as a church" believe, I suggest you consult our fundamental belief on "The Millennium and the End of Sin."

      The Bible presents God as a God of mercy/love and justice. I believe that justice and judgment are but the other side of love. They cannot be separated. (An imperfect analogy is found in parenting: Those who truly love their children will discipline them.) Just precisely how that plays out in the final destruction of the wicked, God has not revealed to us, and we would be amiss to speculate on what God has not revealed.

      One thing is sure: The Bible represents God as both actively seeking the salvation of His people and actively destroying those who have reached the point that there's nothing more He can do for them. We only need to look back to the world-wide destruction of the Noachian flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Both were necessary to preserve a people on this earth whom He could use as a means of spreading the Good News of His salvation.

      Regarding the feelings of the saved in eternity: I rather think that those who have lived on this earth and been saved from it will know God so intimately and love Him so deeply that fear will be the farthest thing from their minds. They certainly will not need it to "follow the Lamb wherever it goes." (Rev 14:4)

      Like(22)
  2. Dear Lord,

    I long to always follow your example and live a fulfilling christian life, i want especially Micah 6:8 to be my watchword in Jesus name. Amen.

    Like(11)
  3. "God's forgiveness is neither cheap nor automatic" (quoted from lesson) - How easy it is to take forgiveness for granted and regard lightly our responsibility.

    Reflecting on the ancient day of atonement it occurs that the camp of Israel was not infused with glee, charged with excitement, or given to lighthearted activities on the day. While the atonement was in progress there was self-denial, solemnity, affliction of soul, prayer, fasting, and deep heart searching (ref. Leviticus 16:29-31; From Eternity Past P. 247). Although sin was transferred from the sinner to the sanctuary during the daily services the deal was not done until the cleansing of the sanctuary, the blotting out of sin from the record, on the day of atonement.

    For the end-time church of Israel, alive in the antitypical day of atonement, the atmosphere and disposition of the people can hardly be different if the sanctuary message is taken seriously. Frivolity, common amusement, ecstasy and high celebration are actually inconsistent with the hour of judgment which has come. At best any celebration now should be muted or tempered by the awesomeness of the occasion. The time of rapturous celebration is ahead. There will be much time for it.

    Peter's call to sobriety (1 Peter 5:8) is particularly applicable to the time of judgment. The day of atonement was one of the best opportunities for Satan to devour the people, for it was easy to be cut off through carelessness.

    This is by no means a smooth or crowd pleasing sentiment, but one that bears attention. Forgiveness is not cheap - it was purchased at infinite price by the Redeemer. It is not automatic - the sinner's response matters, from the claiming of the free gift all the way to the end.

    Like(3)
    • Hugh, are you proposing that people in the end time should not rejoice in the salvation of the Lord - that they should always go about with sober-faced sobriety? Are you proposing that we should discard all the Psalms that call on us to rejoice? (See for instance Ps 148:1-14; Ps 150:1-6)

      Because we now live in the antitypical Day of Atonement, should we refrain from reading and acting on the exhortations of Paul to the Philippians, where he repeatedly calls on them to "Rejoice!"? (See Phil 2:18; Phil 3:1; Phil 3:3)

      Are we to ignore the counsel to Jesus to rejoice when we are persecuted? (Matt 5:12) Are we no longer to rejoice because our names are written in heaven? (Luke 10:20) Are we no longer to rejoice because of His resurrection? (Matt 28:9) Are we not to rejoice when the lost are found? (Luke 15:6) Are we not to rejoice because we "have the Bridegroom"? (John 3:29)Are we no longer to rejoice (rather than mourn) when we run into trials? (Ro 5:11)

      The Israelites were to afflict their souls for one day a year - the tenth day of the seventh month. Are you proposing that Christians living today should do the same from the day they are born until the day they die?

      Perhaps you might want to reconsider how you apply the typical day of atonement to our time?

      Paul calls on us to "Rejoice in the Lord always! (Phil 4:4)I believe that is still good counsel, since the joy of the Lord really is our strength (Neh 8:10), and we need that strength today more than ever. It is strength in time of temptation, it is strength in trial, and it is strength to witness. (No one is attracted to long-faced Christians.)

      For more on the subject of rejoicing, I suggest the chapter, "Rejoicing in the Lord" in Steps to Christ, beginning p. 115.

      Like(11)
      • Inge,
        Thanks for your response and expressed concern. For clarification the intent is not at all to do away with healthy rejoicing in the Lord or to prescribe long-faced Christianity. A literal exact parallel was not envisioned in this matter in the same way we do not offer bulls and goats now. It would be impractical for us to be on a literal continuous fast, abstain from work, etc. It is the principle that is to be copied. The emphasis is to be placed on the inner heart work, not the external appearance.

        Certainly the comment could be worded better. The central point is not to allow anything to take our minds from the solemnity of our time, including ecstatic feelings which may cause us to overlook our spiritual needs, or any other distraction with the same effect. The caution is against unchecked feelings, not appropriate emotional expression which recognizes the true heart condition. If the comment were reduced to one line it might be - Maintain an attitude of heart searching.

        Again thanks for your comment. Hopefully the attempt at clarification helps, even a little.

        See if the following helps with context:

        "In 1844 our great High Priest entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, to begin the work of the investigative judgment. The cases of the righteous dead have been passing in review before God. When that work shall be completed, judgment is to be pronounced upon the living. How precious, how important are these solemn moments! Each of us has a case pending in the court of heaven. We are individually to be judged according to the deeds done in the body. In the typical service, when the work of atonement was performed by the high priest in the most holy place of the earthly sanctuary, the people were required to afflict their souls before God, and confess their sins, that they might be atoned for and blotted out. Will any less be required of us in this antitypical day of atonement, when Christ in the sanctuary above is pleading in behalf of His people, and the final, irrevocable decision is to be pronounced upon every case?

        What is our condition in this fearful and solemn time? Alas, what pride is prevailing in the church, what hypocrisy, what deception, what love of dress, frivolity, and amusement, what desire for the supremacy! All these sins have clouded the mind, so that eternal things have not been discerned. Shall we not search the Scriptures, that we may know where we are in this world’s history? Shall we not become intelligent in regard to the work that is being accomplished for us at this time, and the position that we as sinners should occupy while this work of atonement is going forward? If we have any regard for our souls’ salvation, we must make a decided change. We must seek the Lord with true penitence; we must with deep contrition of soul confess our sins, that they may be blotted out."
        (Selected Messages Bk. 1 P. 125)

        Like(3)
      • Thank Inge for clarifying with scripture. I have always wondered how we are to function in this anti-typical period of atonement.

        Like(2)
  4. The justness of God is the reason He could forgive man in the Garden but Christ had to die on the cross to receive the consequences of our sin which is death. So for anyone to reject the grace of Christ through forgiveness and righteousness, it is automatically accepting the full consequences of sin

    Like(2)
  5. We forgive out of obedience to the Lord. It is a choice, a decision we make. However, as we do this "forgiving," we discover the command is in place for our own good, and we receive the reward of our forgiveness—freedom.

    Like(3)
  6. God is good and He is good all the time. When we partake of His goodness and abundant grace we will live a life of rejoicing all the time because we will realize that His grace is sufficient for us in all circumstances. I am beginning to understand that God is complex and I cant understand Him fully. When we think we understand God fully we understand something else and not God.
    For instance God can rejoice for a sinner coming back to him and be displeased with the death of the unrepentant sinner at the same time. He can watch and live with us in our multiple experiences of sorrow,joy, resentment and name it for everyone at the same time and yet remain God is love. When we allow God to be in charge of our lives,I believe that He can share with us His complexity as His image is reproduced in our lives.
    When we are there we will neither belong to the pleasure seeking nor to the gloomy camp. We are to start practicing heavenly living on earth with the holy Spirit guiding us what to do and what not to do. When we are at that level our focus will not be on people but on our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ who will then redirect us to focus on the lost with love and compassion without any trace of judgmental spirit. I love this God who is ever ready to forgive all without boundaries.Lets learn from our God

    Like(5)
  7. Inge, I love your first statement, especially after reading Micah 6:8. Sometimes Christians (I included) tend to forget that we serve a merciful but just God. We are so taken up with the wrong-doing of others that we forget that we are sinners too. If we do as Micah 6:8 says we will see our own faults and humble ourselves. Only then will we be able to have mercy and compassion for our fellowmen. Have a blessed Sabbath

    Like(2)
  8. The fruits of the Spirit include joy, peace and love. Logically, if we have the Spirit of God we also have joy. Albeit,the day of atonement (and the antitypical one we apparently are living in today) was/is a day of mourning over the sins of the people with the hope of obtaining forgiveness and freedom of guilt. That hope has not been disappointed. Jesus has forgiven all of us, if we will just come to the Father through him. Teach other men so! As we read in Romans 5:18. "Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life." All are under grace, and we all have life, freely given. My concern is "are we giving glory to Him" by our profession and our commission? Isaiah 58 has something to say about mourning and Christian living. Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts. Clayton Reid

    Like(1)
  9. Thank you Inge for your first statement, it explained God's mercy and love so well. Often times, we as Christians only see God as loving and he will forgive when we sin, but we forget that he is also just. Let us all humble ourselves and do what he He says.

    Like(0)
  10. When you have been on the giving end of forgiving, you come to understand both its personal cost, and freedom. True forgiveness signals the opportunity to rebuild relationships. The forgiven party may not accept, or choose to ignore the forgiveness, but that is their decision. Having experienced the giving of forgiveness, I have a greater appreciation of both the cost and the freedom of Christ's forgiveness of us. It is something that has the potential to shape the way live and act towards others.

    Like(1)

What do you think? If you like a comment, just [Like] it or post a thoughtful reply. Please provide a working email address and your real first AND last name to have your comment published.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.