“I feel so guilty!” That has been the cry of many people in counselling situations. They feel guilty because they ARE guilty before God. But how do they get rid of the guilt they feel? There is an answer in 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. We have seen many references in previous articles to sins being forgiven. Jeremiah here introduces another concept regarding forgiveness. Those confessing their sins could know that their guilt had been forgiven, but in addition they could also have a sense of being “cleansed” of the guilt of their sin and rebellion.
The combination of “cleanse” (Hebrew “taher”) and “sin” (Hebrew “avon”) is also found in Joshua 22:17, and in Ezekiel 36:33. Just a quick look at those verses to get a sense of what “cleanse” might involve.
In Jos 22:17 Phinehas challenged the hearers Have we not had enough of the sin at Peor from which even yet we have not cleansed ourselves, and for which there came a plague upon the congregation of the LORD. He was referring to the sin committed at Peor when the people of God rebelled against Him and punishment ensued. Now later another group appeared to be heading towards rebellion. Phinehas asks the group involved whether or not they had really cleansed themselves from the sin of Peor. If they had they really cleansed themselves (obviously through repentance) then they would not now be acting in rebellion against God. However their actions were not rebellious and no action was taken against them. What is interesting in the account is the link between forgiveness and cleansing. If they really had repented and then acted on their forgiveness from God, they would have been “cleansed” (in the sense of not wanting to commit a similar sin again). True repentance brings a cleansing that in turn brings liberation and a determination to do the right thing.
In Ezekiel 36:33 God promised that when He cleansed the nation from their iniquities He would bring material blessing to the nation whom He had forgiven. God’s cleansing from sin opens the door to even more blessing. Eze 36:33 “Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt.
In our verse for this article in Jeremiah 33:8, there is the phrase about God cleansing the people from all the guilt of their sin. Then later in the same verse, God says that He would forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. In both cases it is not only the sin that is cleansed or forgiven but the guilt as well. “Cleanse” (Hebrew” taher”) was used for the ritual cleansing of either things or people in Leviticus. But here it seems to refer to the release from sin and from the guilt deriving from it. They could not cleanse themselves, but God could make them clean and give them a sense of being clean. Guilt is both what God sees in people as they sin, and also what people may feel about their sins.
These two concepts of forgiveness and cleansing are seen together in the New Testament in 1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It is wonderful to be able to point out to people who confess their sins to God and ask for His forgiveness, that they can experience freedom from the guilt of sin as well. Forgiveness means the sins are gone. Cleansing means that the defilement that sin always brings can also be dealt with. John Bunyan summed it up well in his “Pilgrim’s Progress” as he has Christian recognising release from the burden and guilt of sin,“Thus far did I come laden with my sin; Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in Till I came hither: What a place is this! Must here be the beginning of my bliss? Must here the burden fall from off my back? Must here the strings that bound it to me crack? Blest Cross! blest sepulcher! blest rather be The Man that there was put to shame for me!”
Blog No.049. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Saturday 26th November 2011