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Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. What he trusts in is fragile; what he relies on is a spider’s web.[1] These words of Bildad the Shuhite, one of Eliphaz the Temanite’s friends, sound good, but are not right. For God declared, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”[2]

So then, if these words are not right, what is right in God’s eyes and ways, for Bildad went on to say, “Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers”[3]? If God has declared such logical words are not right, then we must look away from the logic of men and see what is right in God’s eyes.

To be a forgiver is right in God’s eyes, and because God will forgive even those who forget Him and who are godless, then we must seek to understand the type of forgiveness that God has. What the godless do not have is an understanding of God’s forgiveness. When Bildad said, “But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now He will rouse Himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place,”[4] his emphasis on Job being pure and upright and being a God seeker so that God would bless Him was entirely wrong. This is proven by God through Cyrus, for He chose Cyrus and anointed him even though God said, “I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honour, though you do not acknowledge Me.”[5]

Thus, the destiny of the godless and that which they trust in is not as fragile as Bildad would have us think, for God is the One who sought to be the Forgiver, and God’s forgiveness is not fragile so that the Covenant that was put into place before the creation of the world is not a covenant that can be easily broken at all. When Jesus said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him,”[6] He showed us the resilience of His forgiveness by telling us what He expects of us concerning our forgiveness of our brother, who is one who, like yourself, obeys the words of God concerning Jesus.[7] If He expects to forgive seven times, then we know He forgives more than seven times. Just as God pre-positioned grace and forgiveness before creation came into existence, so now it does well for us to preposition grace and forgiveness for each other, for if there is anything you can depend on one another for, above all else, it is to sin against each other. The pre-positioning of forgiveness and grace is what gives God’s forgiveness its resilience so that even the godless have a hope that is not fragile, which is why God said what Bildad the Shuhite said about Him is not right.

So, when Peter asked the Lord, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (seventy times seven).”[8] Jesus increased it from seven to seventy-seven to seventy times seven, which is four hundred and ninety times. That is what He expects us to not do but to have, because grace and forgiveness of sins are pre-positioned by God, that is, they are a provision. God does not expect us to forgive after we are sinned against as one who goes to buy bread because there is now a need, but He expects us to have it ready before the sin appears. Thus, He not only commands us to forgive seven times, but seventy-seven times, whilst having the capacity to forgive seventy times seven.

Thus, God’s forgiveness is not shallow as some would think, but deep, and He has more in reserve than is needed. That is why Jesus can say, “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.”[9] This statement displays the depth of God’s forgiveness and its abundance, as well as its resilience, for we who belong to Him continue to sin against Him. The warning not to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is not meant for those who do not even know there is a Holy Spirit, but for those who know there is a Holy Spirit and yet treat Him as an unclean thing by having nothing to do with Him in their pursuit of holiness and piety. Now, herein lies a clearer picture of how one can and does blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

You know there is the Holy Spirit and since He is the Holy One, should He not be the One you seek counsel and fellowship with in your pursuit of holiness? But if you who know there is the Holy Spirit, yet your way of seeking holiness excludes Him as if He is unclean and One not to be trusted, is that not an insult to the Holy Spirit? Those who are pagans are in fact more acceptable in God’s eyes than those who seek holiness as a church, yet do not have ears to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying. That is why Bildad the Shuhite, whose advice seems good, was rejected by God more so than the so-called godless men he denigrates. Likewise, those who call themselves ‘little Christs’ or ‘Christ-like’ and recommend what seems good to them and the Holy Spirit without allowing the Holy Spirit to do what He is sent for, are in graver danger than those who have never even heard of Jesus Christ, much less the Holy Spirit. That is why those who do not know the Lord yet show kindness and mercy to a brother of Christ will receive a better reward than those who call Jesus, “Lord, Lord,”[10] and yet do not know Him.

Now, back to the main point for this teach: The depth of God’s forgiveness is seen in Mark 3:28 that “all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven of them.” There is no condition here, no demand of repentance mentioned; just a promise: “all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven of them.” This means that you who have been hard at work trying not to sin, practising what you preach, obeying the Lord in His commands, decrees and laws, at the end you will receive the same, yes the same, forgiveness of all your sins as those who have not spent as much time doing what you have been doing. This is exactly what Jesus was trying to teach in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard,[11] for such is the Kingdom of Heaven and the generosity of God. And so the question rests with us: “Are you envious because I am generous?”[12]

If the wages of sin is death, then surely the wages of the forgiveness of sins is more than life, for the righteous live by faith and life comes through faith in Christ. As such, do not be envious of God’s generosity even to the pagans and even to each other, but understand that forgiveness of sins is your work that you are assigned to do. Just like the workers who were hired first did much more work than those who were hired last. Though they were paid the same for the day, the workers who were hired first received something that is more valuable than a day’s wage if they had eyes to see and ears to hear and understand. They were given the privilege of working in the field of a prosperous man, so prosperous he could afford to be generous. If they had a heart to learn, they could learn from that man’s vineyard the secrets of raising up a good vineyard. So then, do not be like those who grumbled about their wages; they are the ones who have learned nothing, but be ones who see that they are paid more than their wages because they are privileged to work in a successful vineyard and so learn its secrets. Those who grumbled about the owner’s generosity never learned the secret of the source of his generosity, his prosperity.

You see, worse than God distracting us, we distract ourselves. Jesus began to teach on sin and its consequences. “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves.”[13] Then, immediately He speaks of not just watching yourself, but watching each other, “If your brother sins, rebuke him…” We have tended to think of sin coming through those who are ‘sinners’, like the sexually immoral, pagans, paedophiles, evildoers, murderers, liars and idolaters, when those same evils are found in our own hearts as Jesus said in Mark 7:20-23. And we forget the sin that comes out of us carries more woe for us than the sins that come out of the so-called sinners who are godless, for they are sinners by nature, and by their nature, they cannot help but sin. However, we are not sinners by nature, but, through the Spirit of Sonship, we are called to be sons of God by nature. Therefore, the sins that come through us carry much worse woes. And the greatest of all sins is unforgiveness aside from blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.[14] For our Covenant is for the forgiveness of sins, and if we say or do things that lead others into unforgiveness, our woes will be worse than the woes of hypocrites, for we have broken the Covenant and have truly broken faith. Thus, the practice of the forgiveness of sins is to be pursued with all earnestness, until we come to the place where we can truly see its full power and strength.

Now, as I was saying, worse than Jesus distracting us is that we distract ourselves, for here is Jesus teaching on forgiveness of sins, and we cry out, “Increase our faith!”[15] What does faith have to do with forgiving a brother seven times a day if he repents? Faith has nothing to do with forgiveness. In fact, faith can be very unforgiving sometimes. Saul of Tarsus was such a man of faith who jailed and killed those he thought had blasphemed God. If you think great faith will help you forgive, you are wrong. I agree with Paul, for he said, “If I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”[16] It would have been better had they not distracted the Lord and listened. For when the Lord replied to their appeal of “Increase our faith!” saying, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you,” it really had very little to do with the forgiveness of sin. For, such is a mustard seed of faith utterly deadly to an innocent mulberry tree, which is a creation of God’s. However, the Lord – if you can still concentrate and not wander off now thinking about your mustard seed of faith – continued on to say, “Suppose one of you had a servant ploughing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”[17]

And what was the one thing that Jesus was telling them to do before they interrupted Him with their lust for faith? “Forgive him.” You see, to have great faith to move mulberry trees and kill them in the ocean is easier than to forgive a brother who sins. If it is hard to forgive those who repent, how much harder it is to forgive first before the repentance comes. Yet, now hear this, forgiving one another, forgiving the brother who sins, is merely doing “everything you were told to do,” and that only makes you an unworthy servant.”

So then, these are hardest teachings not for nothing. You and I must come to a level of maturity to recognise that ‘faith lust’ is as great a sin as blood lust or gold lust or sex lust if we fail to understand the fullness of God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness makes the sayings of men like Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite the worthless ramblings of self-righteous, self-elevating, pious ignoramuses of God’s ways. In its light, the light of God’s forgiveness, which alone gives the knowledge of salvation,[18] truly God’s ways are not our ways.

So, the opportunities afforded to us through those who sin against us to practise forgiveness, gives us something far richer than the wage of obedience, which is life, even eternal life. It affords to us, if we are more than wise, an opportunity to learn the ways of God and to experience forgiving as He would forgive and not as we would forgive. Who then is the wise worker, no, shrewd worker, who takes the opportunity of working in the vineyard to learn the secrets of being a prosperous vineyard owner?

To learn to forgive is to learn to be more than Divine. For, before there was sin to forgive, God was already Divine… But when sin came so that He could forgive, He became more than what He was… God the Forgiver… more than Divine.

So, learn not to be fragile in your forgiveness, or shallow, but have the depth to cover over seven sins with the ability to forgive seventy times seven. For love covers over a multitude of sins.[19] This was written by an apostle who denied the Lord three times and was rebuked by Paul for hypocrisy.[20] And God, who is Love, is God who forgives. So, forgiveness gives strength to love and love gives depth to forgiveness. Amen


 

[1] Job 8:13-14

[2] Job 42:7

[3] Job 8:20

[4] Job 8:5-6

[5] Isaiah 45:4

[6] Luke 17:3-4

[7] Luke 8:21

[8] Matthew 18:21-22

[9] Mark 3:28

[10] Matthew 7:21-22; Luke 6:46

[11] Matthew 20:1-16

[12] Matthew 20:15

[13] Luke 17:1-3

[14] Mark 3:29

[15] Luke 17:5

[16] 1 Corinthians 13:2

[17] Luke 17:7-10

[18] Luke 1:77

[19] 1 Peter 4:8

[20] Galatians 2:11-13

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