Friday, October 8, 2010

Two Problems with Forgiveness

Two Problems With Forgiveness
Micah 7:18-20

Read Micah 3:1-5. Where is God? How do we know he is there, especially when evil things are going on as described in Micah 3?

Micah 3 affirms that the way you treat others has removed you from God. If you treat others abusively, you can call God, but will get a busy signal.
V.1 - You will know justice (but not in a way they will like!)
V. 2- You hate the good and love the evil. You tear the skin from off my people
V.3 - You eat the flesh of my people; break their bones. You chop them up like meat in a pot, like flesh in a cauldron

Micah is describing cannibalism. Are they literally cannibals? Probably not. This is likely a reference to how they are abusing people, usually financially. Micah 2:9 says they drive women from their homes; deprive children of their inheritance. We use the term "skinning" people in reference to financial abuse.

But in ch.4 God doesn’t completely give up on people. This describes how life could be if people followed God. Ch.5 offers a prophecy of a king to be born in Bethlehem. Israel is called to be a good force in the world.

What does God expect of us?
Ch. 6 - Summons to court. God goes to court with Israel to see who is right. Israel is found guilty. Ch. 7 - Lament. Micah is waiting on the Lord. And the people need forgiveness.

Two fundamental problems with forgiveness.
1) We confuse our inability to forgive with God’s ability to forgive.
2) We sometimes don’t feel forgiven because we don’t feel good enough to be forgiven.
Feeling forgiven is a major issue in forgiveness.

(Stories of hurt and forgiveness.)

Micah 3:1-2 - If anybody should be forgiven, it is certainly not these people! These people are like cannibals. That is how they are described. But God is bigger then any of our sins. And this chapter is not the last word in Micah.

Micah 7:18b - God delights in being merciful; forgiving. This is a great verse to memorize - God does "not stay angry forever but delights to show mercy."

Seven affirmations about forgiveness: Micah 7:18-20
1) God pardons us. 7:18b
Pardon means "to lift off." God lifts off our sin.

Overview of Leviticus
1] Chs. 1-15 - about worship (sacrifices)
2] Chs. 17-27 (the end) - how to live after forgiven.
3] Ch. 16 - Other chapters revolve around this one.

Ch. 16 is about the Day of Atonement.
Atonement is about forgiveness. Ch.16 is about how their sins are forgiven. Two goats are brought forward. One is sacrificed. Then the sins of the people are place on the other goad. The sins of people are taken off - lifted off - and put on back of the goat. The goat is then taken to the wilderness. V.20-22

2) God forgiveness us. 7:18b
Forgiveness means he passes over transgressions. Remember the plagues on Egypt. Pharaoh’s heart was hard. The most severe plague was death. Blood placed on door post - death passed over. Same terms.

3) God does not stay angry forever. 7:18c
Exodus 32:27-28 - example of the wrath of God. He kills the Israelites with the sword for making and worshiping golden calf. About 3,000 killed.

Exodus 34:6 - the love of God. "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin." Then, 7b reminds us that God will punish the disobedient and unrepentant. 34:6 - "Slow to anger." Literally translated as "Does not have long nose." Something concrete to explain an abstract concept. The Hebrews believed anger originated in the nose.

4) God delights in showing mercy. 7:18c
Word for mercy is chesed. Means steadfast love (ESV); mercy (NIV). Good translation - loyal.

In Hebrew this word is void of emotion. Has nothing to do with how we feel. How we feel does not matter; not a part of chesed. Chesed is an act of the will. A decision to be with someone. It is an act of God’s will to be loyal to his people; to forgive them.

5) He has compassion on us. 7:19a
Compassion is gentleness. Another concrete word - compassion refers to a woman’s womb. The verb means, "show compassion." The imagery in Hebrew - the way a woman feels about her unborn baby in her womb is how God feels for us.

6) He treads our sins underfoot. 7:19b
It means he stamps sin underneath him.
Ancient practice - soldiers would walk on the corpses of those they killed. Showed complete triumph over their enemies. That is what God does to our sin. He destroys it; stomps on it.

7) God throws our sin into the depths of the sea. 7:19c
Exodus 14 - God parted the Red Sea. When Egyptians tried to cross, were drowned in the depths of the sea. God takes our sins to the deepest part of the ocean and drowns them there.


Here are seven positive affirmations about how God handles sin in the one who is penitent. Seven is a complete number. Means God has done everything to remove our sin from us.

Remember the two fundamental problems with forgiveness.
1) We confuse our inability to forgive with God’s ability to forgive.
2) We sometimes don’t feel forgiven because we don’t feel good enough to be forgiven.
Feeling forgiven is a major issue in forgiveness.

But, we must also remember ...
God forgives, not because we are good enough, but because he is good enough.
1) God’s forgiveness involves forgetting.
2) God’s forgiveness involves grace. God is good enough.

If you are struggling with feeling forgiven, God says, "What you can’t forget I can’t remember. What you are not good enough to do, I am."

What freedom from guilt and shame God gives us!

Note: Dr. Harold Shank of OC presented this lesson at the Kansas Men’s Retreat in September, 2010. These are his notes that I took, with some of my thoughts added in. It was an excellent lesson that I wanted to share with you.

Warren Baldwin


  1. Harold Shank is one of my favorite Bible scholars. His book "Up Close and Personal: Embracing the Poor" encouraged me to get involved in a newly-formed urban ministry about 10 years ago. His book "Children Mean the World to God" encouraged my wife and myself as we were going through the adoption process. And his commentary on the minor prophets (College Press) is one of the best commentaries I've ever read. He has also spoken at our church on occassion. I'm glad you were able to enjoy some time with him.

  2. Terry,
    Harold Shank's presentations at the retreat were outstanding. I already had his commentary on the MPs. After the retreat we bought 5 copies of Children, and I'm reading it with the elders. Very god. Don't have Embracing yet, but plan to get it and read it. I can see why he was able to influence your work with the poor. He has sure influenced my thinking already. Thanks for contributing to this discussion. wb

  3. Forgiveness is a huge topic. One point you hit the nail on the head, forgiveness is an act of our will. We have to choose to forgive. It's not something that just happens by saying "I forgive you." It is an attitude of the heart. What helps me to forgive is picturing Christ on the cross saying "Forgive them Father for they know not what they have done." Many times we are hurt and the other person has no idea, or little idea of the hurt we feel, because they do not share our painful past experiences. Forgiveness is a choice I make to not carry that pain around with me for longer than necessary. Jesus died so we could be free and that means forgiving others, forgiving ourselves, and forgiving God. Bless you, Warren.

  4. Thank you, Pattie, for sharing this. wb