Pastor Steve Ellison: Why Should God Forgive?
God asks some absolutely penetrating questions in His book. Jeremiah 5:7-9 asks two such questions:
“Why should I pardon you? Your sons have forsaken Me And sworn by those who are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, They committed adultery And trooped to the harlot's house. 8 "They were well-fed lusty horses, Each one neighing after his neighbor's wife. 9 "Shall I not punish these people," declares the Lord, "And on a nation such as this Shall I not avenge Myself?” (NASU)
This paragraph clearly warns against breaking the seventh and 10th prohibitions of the Ten Commandments. The society in which I live (21st century U.S.A.) desperately needs to hear that admonition. However, that is not the main point of this paragraph.
The paragraph begins with a simple yet heart-wrenching question. The question is from the mouth of God. It is variously translated: “Why should I pardon you?;” “Why should I forgive you?;” “How shall I pardon thee for this?;” “How can I pardon you?” The Amplified Bible renders it, “Why should I and how can I pass over this and forgive you for it?”
Every man, woman, boy, and girl (who has reached the age of accountability) has failed to keep the clear commands of God. Thus, each is deserving of punishment. The only hope is to be forgiven. So, this question forces me to think long and hard about my own condition.
Indeed, why should the living God forgive me? The only possible answer is very simple and yet virtually unfathomable. It is simply because God chose to love me.
A second and just as important question is how can God justly forgive a guilty sinner like me? Sin cannot and must not go unpunished. The decreed penalty of eternal death must be paid. If I am to be forgiven, it can only be based on the decreed punishment being borne by a suitable substitute. Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, is the only one who fits that bill. Praise God! He who is suitable was also willing!
The paragraph that is Jeremiah 5:7-9 concludes with a related question from the Lord, “Shall I not punish these people, And on a nation such as this Shall I not avenge Myself?” (NASU)
Clearly, there is a component of this paragraph that shines light on the guilt of nations, which is a recurring theme in the Bible. However, I wish to focus on the individual accountability for now.
God’s chosen people had disobeyed God’s clear command to eradicate sin from the Promised Land and were now deeply involved in participating in that sin. In spite of God’s bountiful provision and blessing, the children of Israel were involved in gross immorality with prostitutes and their neighbor’s wives. Sadly, the people I live among are involved in the same heinous acts. Retribution from the Lord is demanded. As atrocious as the literal sins are, the main point in this passage is the spiritual adultery.
YHWH, the covenant God of Israel, the Creator of the Universe, had chosen Israel as His special people and yet they had forsaken Him. They were openly professing reverence for and allegiance to idols. Punishment must be meted out. Payment for the penalty must be made.
Praise the Lord, Jesus did exactly that! He took on the guilt and punishment that was due to me! He made it possible for justice and mercy to coexist. He made a way for the holiness of God and the grace of God to dwell together in my presence. I do not have to be cast out. He made a way for me to be reconciled to a holy, holy, holy God.