What marvellous answers to the prayers of a mother and daughter! The mother was Dawn whose story we can read about in the previous article. Her prayers were answered. She saw her husband John transformed before her eyes as he turned to God for forgiveness and for strength to overcome his alcohol addiction. Helen was her daughter. She too had a similar problem. Her husband Bill was also too fond of alcohol. It created a strain on their marriage. He was not violent like his father in law but he became insensitive and irresponsible when he imbibed too much.
Helen prayed with renewed vigour when she saw the change in her father. If he had been changed so remarkably then it must be possible for her husband to change as well. She believed all Bill had to do was to turn to God for help. Dawn and Helen agreed to pray together for Bill. They prayed that he would come to know the power of God in his life. The change in John had a great impact on Bill. Before long Bill also decided to give his life to the Lord. As a result he came to experience the release that forgiveness brings to those carrying guilt. He too experienced the power of God to give him victory over alcohol. Both women now had the Christian marriages for which they had longed and prayed for so many years.
Prayer brings the Lord into our human situations. He is able to release people from that which held them in bondage. For John and Bill it was bondage to alcohol. When He transforms people in answer to prayer, other people notice, as Bill did. It encourages them to trust God to work in their own circumstances.
Now for those other references to the word “salach” which has the sense of forgiveness bringing release. (Points i to iii are in Part 1 in the previous article).
iv). It is used of forgiveness available to those who obeyed God in offering sacrifices
God made provision for forgiveness for His people in the Old Testament period. As people repented of their sin and offered the sacrifices He required as a sign of their repentance, He would forgive them. For example, for the sin offering, Leviticus 4:20 …And the priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven. The same expression, And the priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgivenis used for the peace offering in Leviticus 4:26, 31, 35; the burnt offering in Leviticus 5:10; and the guilt offering in Leviticus 5:13, 16, 18. (Similarly in Leviticus 6:7, 19:22, Numbers 15:25, 26, 28.) Penitent sinners acknowledged their need to offer the sacrifices God required. As they did so in faith and obedience they were accepting God’s provision for forgiveness. They were released from the guilt of their sins.
v). The extent of God’s grace in forgiveness and healing is seen in Psalm 103:3, who forgives all your iniquity. There is no sin beyond the capacity of God to forgive. (Jesus did speak of the “unforgiveable sin”. This is the sin of calling evil, “good”, and calling good, ”evil” and never repenting of that attitude in one’s lifetime. Such people never turn to God to receive His forgiveness. That is why such sin is unforgiveable.) That was seen in the Old Testament as well. There would be no forgiveness for those who deliberately kept on rebelling against God. Such people were described in Deuteronomy 29:19 When someone hears the words of this oath, he may bless himself in his mind, thinking, ‘I will have peace even though I follow my own stubborn heart.’ This will lead to the destruction of the well-watered land as well as the dry land. 20 The LORD will not be willing to forgive him…. . God would not force His forgiveness on those who saw no need to ask Him to forgive them.
There is no illness beyond His capacity to heal. Psalm 103:3 ……..who heals all your diseases. We will look more closely at Psalm 103 and other aspects of healing in coming days, but suffice it to say here that finite humans are unable to perfectly appropriate all the resources of an infinite, omnipotent God who says of Himself in His word that He can heal all diseases.
vi). Forgiveness would be a blessing in the new covenant God would make with His people.
In Jeremiah God promised a new covenant which would have additional blessings for His people. Not only would there be a deeper intimacy with Him, but His people would be motivated to ask for and receive forgiveness, Jeremiah 31:34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbour and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” They would know a release from guilt as a result, Jeremiah 33:8 I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. In later articles we will look more closely at more of the gems in these verses, especially the fact that when God forgives people of sin, He promises not to bring the sins back against them ever again. They are released from them. What a blessed thought!
Salach. What a wonderful word tucked away in the Old Testament. It is used only of God because only God can release people from guilt. The guilt may have come from sin in many of the ways seen in in these verses, namely, vows in the form of rash statements, perverseness, error, iniquity, rebellion, evil ways and wickedness. The good news seen in the word “salach” is that as people confess their sins and ask for His forgiveness, God forgives them and releases them from guilt.
Questions to Consider by Groups or Individuals. (Added on Monday 6th June 2016)
Question 1. In Section (iv) what did the people need to do to receive forgiveness from God? To what extent does our understanding of God help or hinder our seeking forgiveness from Him?
Question 2. As we look at Section (v) do think we need to be worried as believers about committing the unforgivable sin? Why or why not?
Question 3. From Section (v). God says in Psalm 103 that He can heal all diseases. It appears that many diseases are not being healed in today’s world and some people for whom we pray are not yet healed. What do you think would be needed for more healings to take place and for more prayers for healing to be answered?
Question 4. From Section (vi). In Jeremiah 31:34 God says “For I will forgive their iniquity and I remember their sin no more.” The Bible declares that He is omniscient, that is, He knows all things, past, present and future. Is it possible for God to forget our sins? If not, what wonderful truth about God is found in this verse?
Question 5. In Jeremiah 33:8 God says that he will “cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.” In question 4 the words from Jeremiah 31:34 talk about God forgiving iniquity and sin but don’t mention “guilt”. Do you think that Jeremiah 33:8 says something different or do you think the verse adds something to our understanding of God’s forgiveness of humans?
Jim Holbeck. Blog No.7. Posted Tuesday 15 February 2011. (Revisited Mon 6th June 2016)