Lesson 7 - Streams of Mercy - Forgiveness
This lesson deals with the issues of sin and forgiveness
Isaiah 35: This passage is about the restoration of God’s people and of the resulting transformation of the world. Its location in Isaiah is problematic and it perhaps ought to be after chapter 60 when the focus is on the restoration of creation.
1. The Foundation: (vs. 1-2) the foundation for this chapter is that God has a plan for the future. This plan includes the creation itself singing praises to God.
2. The Request: (vs. 3-4) the writer asks that God do what only God can do, and that is remind the people that God will act to restore their lives, their nation and creation.
3. The Results (vs. 5-10) the results of God’s work are dramatic. People who are disabled will be made whole, then the wilderness will become a place of life, then there will be a way to God which is safe and even those who had been taken captive will find their way home vis this new route.
Psalm 51: This is a psalm about the transformation of someone from being in sin, to praising God.
1. The Foundation: (vs. 1) the foundation for forgiveness is the love of God. The Psalmist begins with a focus on the steadfast love of God. Without this love there would be no forgiveness. This is important because it reminds us that God is the one who is for us and for humanity.
2. Desire to be made whole: (vs. 2) the writer knows that something is wrong; that they need to be washed clean and they want God to do what only God can do. They want to be clean and restored.
3. Admission of sin: (vs. 3-5) the writer takes full blame for their sins. She admits having done evil in the sight of God. And even though he states that he was brought forth in sin he makes no attempt to blame his sin on anyone else. He made the choices.
4. The End Goal: (vs. 6-12) the writer knows that the end goal is and that is restoration of truth, wisdom and relationship. The writer wants to feel joy and gladness again as well as a restored relationship with God which comes from God not focusing on the sins of the writer. Finally the writer wants a clean heart (a new being) and desires that God uphold her.
5. The Response: (vs. 13-17) Being forgiven calls for a response. The writer’s response is to show others what right living looks like, to sing praises to God, to praise God in worship, offer up a broken spirit and contrite heart. All of these demonstrate that forgiveness has changes the person.
6. Late Addition: (vs. 18-19) the last two verses were probably added later to allow this Psalm to be used in worship.
Matthew 6:12: at issue here is, what is the appropriate English word which ought to be used to translate the Greek word opheilema? An exact translation would be “debt.” This is why we use debts and debtors. Some people have speculated that what is at issue is actual debts (debts we owe God and what others owe to us). However, this word has a nuanced meaning in Aramaic, which is that it refers to sin that indebts us to God, and sins which indebt others to us. So the best translation would probably sin. In my opinion trespasses does not appear to fit because there is nothing in the words dealing with violating God’s rules. In Luke the Greek word is hamartia, which is sin. So Luke focuses on the ideas of us being forgiven our sins and forgiving the sins of others.
Forgiveness: the author offers us some good insights about forgiveness. First forgiveness does not require forgetting. In fact if we can forget what happened than I would question whether there is actually forgiveness. I say this because forgiveness is costly. If it does not cost us something in terms of pain, then it is not forgiveness. Second we need to remember that God loves us enough to forgive us; that none of us have ever done something that God cannot forgive (just look at the Apostle Paul who helped to murder the disciple Stephen). One thought that I would offer is that hating someone, or not forgiving, is like burning down our own house; meaning that our not forgiving hurts us more than the other person. When we hold on to the hate and pain we become crippled and we cannot become the people God wants us to be.
Summary: in the scriptures there is a link between what water does in the wilderness (bringing life where there is none) and what God does in forgiveness (bringing life where there is none). It is about restoration of life as it ought to be based on the foundation of God’s love for us. This is the starting place for all Jewish and Christian theology, the fact that God has a good outcome which God desires for each of us. And we reach this place by following the pattern laid out in the Psalm 51.
1. What is your response to being forgiven?
2. What is the most difficult part of forgiveness for you?
3. How would you explain the Prayer of Forgiveness we use every week to a new comer?