NOTE. This can be downloaded as aPDF file by clicking on this link. 009 nasa God removes our sin from us Part 2
Shirley became a different person. In the previous article we read of the great change in her life when she discovered that God was loving and forgiving. She reached out to Him for forgiveness. As a result she was more at peace knowing that her sins were forgiven and that she had a God-given purpose in life. She also experienced ongoing physical healing so that cancer that had led to surgery and other treatment, has never been a problem since that time. She knew deep emotional healing as well, so that she became more open to other people. When people open up to a loving forgiving God He can do wonderful things in their lives.
If it is true as we have seen before that God’s nature is to forgive, as Shirley discovered, then why does He tell us in His word that He did not forgive some people? But first we look at why He forgives.
iv). God did forgive humans. “Nasa” used for forgiveness by the removal of sin
Moses asked the Lord to forgive the sin of the nation in making and worshipping a golden calf, Exodus 32:32 But now, if you will forgive their sin–but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written. Punishment was averted for the moment because of Moses’ prayer for them. However the people needed to genuinely repent and turn back to the Lord for the forgiveness He could give them. Later God did remind them that sin has its consequences if people do not turn from their sins and turn back to Him, Exodus 32:35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.
At Mt Sinai the Lord appeared to Moses and proclaimed aspects of His character to Moses, Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin… . God forgave people because of those characteristics, namely His mercy, grace, patience, steadfast love and faithfulness. But did His people appreciate Him and the manifestations of His forgiving love in His dealings with them?
Obviously not! It was at Sinai that the people rebelled against God. They wanted to go back to Egypt. They were ungrateful for the way the Lord had protected them all the way from Egypt to Sinai. They tried to silence Joshua and Caleb who had urged them to enter the Promised Land. They wanted to stone them. God said to Moses, Numbers 14:11 “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”
Moses prayed that God would forgive His people for their rebellion, reminding Him of His declaration to Moses at Sinai, Numbers 14:17 And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, … 19 Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.” The Lord forgave them of this latest sin, Numbers 14:20 Then the LORD said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. God did not strike them with pestilence as He had threatened to do.
However the deliberate ongoing sin of Israel had a consequence. The people were not inflicted with pestilence, but they would miss out on entry into the Promised land, Numbers 14:23 … none of those who despised me shall see it. The people were in ongoing rebellion against the Lord. The only people of that generation who would enter the Promised Land were those who believed God would enable them to take possession of Canaan, namely Joshua and Caleb, Numbers 14:24.
The story of the history of Israel in these chapters is a wake-up call to those who today would say, “I can do what I like because I can always turn to God and ask Him to forgive me for the things I do or say that are wrong.” That is dangerous thinking because when people deliberately venture into forbidden areas they can become trapped in them. I have often ministered to people who experimented with aspects of the occult or pornography only to be “hooked” by them. They repented of their sin. They were forgiven by God. But some consequences often remained.
King David, in a time of personal difficulty, cried out to God to forgive him, Psalm 25:18 Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. He knew the blessing of forgiveness for he had experienced God’s forgiveness himself. He affirmed in Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (In a later article we will look more closely at the many facets of forgiveness to be seen in Psalm 32). Here David saw the sin he confessed to the Lord as having been taken away and covered over by Him. He felt truly blessed and wrote of that blessing in the Psalm encouraging others to follow his lead and to confess their sin to God. Then they too could know the freedom that came from forgiveness.
The writer of Psalm 99 reflected on the story of God leading His people from Egypt towards the Promised Land. He affirmed what he believed about the character of God as he praised Him, Psalm 99:8 O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. God was always willing to forgive. Sadly the people were not always willing to ask Him for His forgiveness.
We see in the final verses dealing with nasa that though God’s character is to forgive, there were some people He did not forgive. He could not forgive those who never asked Him to do so.
v). God did not forgive some people
When the Israelites had journeyed to Shechem, Joshua renewed the covenant God had made with His people. The people promised that they would never forsake the Lord who had kept them safe against their enemies, Joshua 24:18. Joshua reminded them what true commitment involved, 19 But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.
If their God was a forgiving God why would He not forgive them their sins? Joshua’s answer reminded them that He would not continue to forgive those who later forsook Him and turned to other gods, Joshua 24:20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” A deliberate turning away from God would render them guilty in His sight until they repented of their rebellion and asked Him for forgiveness.
Why would Isaiah ask God not to forgive people? Isaiah 2:9 So man is humbled, and each one is brought low— do not forgive them! Isaiah may have meant that God’s people habitually disobeyed His will and turned away from Him. In Isaiah 2:6-8 the prophet speaks of all the evil the people had done in following other gods. If that attitude were to continue, Isaiah asks God not to forgive them. We saw above that nasa can mean to “forgive” or to “spare”. It could be that Isaiah was asking God not to spare them from punishment if they deliberately keep on sinning against Him. In either case his words were a warning to a new generation to walk in obedience to God, or else! As he added in verse 11, “in that day” when God acts, humans who exalt themselves against God will be humbled and the Lord alone will be exalted. Now was the time to humble themselves in true repentance to receive His forgiveness.
The final verse which tells us that there was a time when God did not forgive is Hosea 1:6 . Hosea’s wife Gomer gave birth. She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. No longer would the nation of Israel know the Lord’s mercy and protection. They had continued to rebel against the Lord. They didn’t want Him to control them. He would no longer forgive them because they saw no need to ask for His forgiveness.
The Greek version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint which was in use before Jesus was born) translates this verse as, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, but will surely set myself in array against them (Brenton translation). The verb to set in array is antitassō which means to set oneself in opposition to, or, to resist. It is also found in Proverbs 3:34 where it is said that “the Lord resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Because Israel had taken their stand against the Lord (resisted Him) and not humbled themselves before Him, He would now take His stand against them and not show them mercy. God’s mercy and forgiveness come only to those who humble themselves to receive them from Him. Otherwise He cannot forgive them. Many Israelites, at different times in the history of the nation chose to close themselves to His grace and mercy.
We can see in all these references to “nasa” in the Old Testament a rich tapestry made up of various threads relating to God carrying His people, sparing and protecting them, releasing them from guilt and forgiving those who did not deserve such grace and love.
At the same time there is the sobering reminder that God is not to be trifled with. Those who never humble themselves to receive His grace in forgiveness, are not forgiven. Only God knows who such people might be in today’s world. In the meantime the gospel message (of what God has done for us in His Son Jesus Christ, and made available in Him) is meant to go out to the whole world. Then people around the world have the opportunity of hearing about a loving, merciful forgiving God; they can put their trust in His Son as their Saviour; they can come into an experience of the release of forgiveness which can bring them physical and emotional healing as well as knowing peace with God. As the Lord says of Himself, Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin… .
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER. For Groups or individuals.(Added on Wed 27 July 2016)
Ques 1. In Section iv) above Moses asked God to forgive the nation for making and worshipping a golden calf (Exodus 32). Why do you think they were initially forgiven but later, judgment came on them? Does that have any application for us today?
Ques 2. Do you think that people in today’s world think about God in the terms God used of Himself in Exodus 34:6-7 above? If not, why not? How could their minds be changed?
Ques 3. As you read Numbers 14:11 above does it remind you of the world at large today? In what ways?
Ques 4. In Section v) above what are some of the reasons given as to why God will not forgive sin? Are there people today whom God has not forgiven? If so, how could they receive forgiveness from God?
Jim Holbeck. Blog No.9. Posted Wednesday 23 February 2011