Begging God to Not Forgive

Throughout the Bible when God’s people/prophets experience opposition or persecution in their prayers they often beg God to not forgive.

In the book of Nehemiah, as the walls of Jerusalem begin being rebuilt some detractors start insulting and criticizing the project. Nehemiah prays to God saying, “Hear, O God, for we are despised. Turned back there taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives do not cover their guilt, and let not their sins be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders,” (Neh. 4:4-5).

Jeremiah prays, “hear me, O LORD, deliver up the children of my adversaries to famine; give them over to the power of the sword; let their wives become childless and widowed. May their men meet death by pestilence, their youths be struck down by the sword in battle. May a cry be heard from their houses, when you bring the plunderer suddenly upon them! For they have dug a pit to take me and laid snares for my feet. Yet you, O LORD, know all their plotting to kill me. Forgive not their iniquity, nor blot out their sin from your sight,” (Jer. 19-23)

Finally, we have the infamous story of Jonah. A story that is often misrepresented. Growing up , I was often told the reason Jonah runs from God’s calling to go to Nineveh is that he’s afraid. Although fear was no doubt involved, Jonah tells us himself why he ran from Ninevah in Jonah 4:2, “He prayed to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.'”

These prayers were honest cries of anger toward their enemies, and frustration with God and his forgiveness. They know how prone God is toward forgiveness and it upsets them. They know how God, like the father in the prodigal story, is always searching the horizon for lost children so that he can forgive them, restore them, and even have the audacity to celebrate them.

These prophets and people have been hurt and they want to see God step in and do something. And can you blame them? We’ve all felt this way, (some more justified than others). When we’ve been wronged we want to see justice. The good news is we serve a God of perfect justice and holiness. Every single sin and injustice will be answered and accounted for. But there’s a problem.

Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23 “All have sinned” and in Romans 6:23 “the wages of sin is death” That’s justice. That’s “right.” Maybe we should give a little more pause to our demand for justice. Think twice before announcing the, sometimes self-righteous, often in denial, declaration “that’s not fair!!!” Don’t misunderstand. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting justice. As followers of Christ we should be the first to stand against the injustices of the world. It is perfectly right to want to fight for “fairness.” BUT, it must be with humility, recognizing that if God gave us justice, if he did what was “fair” we would be destroyed with the very people we want to see God destroy.

Every single sin will be answered and accounted for, just not by you. 1 John 2:2 says, “Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Romans 3:25 reminds us that Jesus, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” Yes, the “wages of sin is death, BUT the FREE gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23).

Only in the gospel do we see a God who is perfectly just and perfectly merciful. God did not sweep sin, injustice, or persecution under the rug. God will bring everything to account. But for those who have repented and received Christ as their savior and advocate, instead of condemnation (what they deserve) they receive vindication (what He deserves) because Jesus paid the penalty of sin.

The pagan gods were so distant and cold that their followers had to beg, bend-over-backwards, and cut themselves, to receive forgiveness, but the Judeo-Christian God is opposite. He is so full of love and redemption, prone toward reconciliation and restoration, that He has to be begged to not forgive, (and even then won’t listen).

You would have to beg Him not to save you. Tragically, that is exactly what the lost do. In Revelation 6:16 “Calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,’” What’s sad about this is the “the Lamb of God takes away the sins of the World,” (Jn 1:29). God has done, is doing, and will do everything he possibly can to save us. But the wicked won’t let him. They reject his salvation and so they’re “annihilated by the manifestation of his coming.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8, NRSV). Instead of giving them eternity with Him, which would be eternal hell for the wicked, “the fire of God’s [love and justice] comes down from heaven and consumes them, (Rev. 20:9). It is eternal punishment, NOT eternal punishing. The only one that is tortured for eternity is the God who gave everything He had, even Himself, in order to rescue His creation but they would not let Him.

Let the relentless love of God cover you right now. Lose yourself in the bottomless sea of His endless forgiveness. His gift of grace is available to you right now, just receive it.

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