When Jesus spoke of man’s corrupt, sinful nature He always addressed it in its ultimate result. For example, Jesus never warned us that we must not covet because it might lead to stealing…He said rather, You must not covet because it is stealing. The same goes for all the fleshly appetites and passions that come from our human nature. If you think it – Jesus says you’ve already done it in your heart…from lust to murder. For anytime we allow fantasy to fill our mind instead of truth, our flesh is winning.
Peter asked Jesus just how many times he had to forgive someone, and he used the Old Testament number of seven. (Genesis 4:24) But Jesus answered Peter’s question by saying, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” So it’s not really about numbers, it’s more about our response to that transgression against us. When we forgive someone, we’re letting go of resentment…we’re refusing to take offense…and we’re not allowing a root of bitterness to grow. For just as God forgives us, we must forgive others. (Matthew 6:14-15)
I am my worst critic. I lie in bed at night annoyed with myself that I didn’t accomplish everything I should have. Or I’m aggravated at myself for not speaking up when I could have. I react with self-loathing as I play back the events of the day… as the “I should have, I could have, I would have’s” run in a loop through my mind. What’s so sad is… most times, I’m beating myself up over things no one else even knows about. They’re things that are only important to me…so why am I so perturbed? In a word…it’s guilt. Self-directed anger is fueled by guilt…and it doesn’t need to be guilt heaped on us from someone else…for we can do that all by ourselves! But this guilt-ridden self-anger can be changed by the last few words of this verse…for it says to “search your hearts and be silent. Selah” That means we listen and not speak, allowing the Holy Spirit to whisper truth into our heart and mind. It means then we pause and ponder these truths not allowing our mind to race negatively. It’s positive reinforcement, Holy Spirit style.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to not go along with the crowd. Sure, the peer pressure is strong, and we want to fit in and not seem odd…but we also realize what the crowd is about to do is just plain wrong. Deuteronomy 13:8 tells us to not yield to or even listen to the enticements from those who are sinning. And the old excuse of, “Everybody’s doing it!” can’t stand up to the truth if it goes against the word of God. For any words of persuasion, guilt, or deception we hear will never change wrong into right.
We probably all know a person who has fallen away. Someone who consciously rejected the spiritual enlightenment they had once received…who had tasted of God’s goodness, but chose instead to abandon their faith. And when we intentionally reject Jesus Christ, we’re essentially saying that His sacrifice on the Cross meant nothing. For when anyone falls away, they have turned their back on God’s truth and can only then look forward to His final judgment.
In this very well-known and often quoted Scripture, we like to gloss over the first part and instead focus on the end…the promised things God will do for us. But in doing so, we miss two small but very important words contained in this verse. The first, is how this Scripture starts, “If My people…” “If” puts the burden and responsibility squarely on our shoulders to follow through with the conditions God has placed here…namely, for us to have a radical change of heart, mind, and spirit. It is only at that time and after that is completed, (marked by the second important word, “then”) that God will forgive and heal the land. You could call these prerequisites…things God requires of us beforehand…not because He’s a mean tyrant, but because He’s a good and just God.
Admitting we’re wrong and asking forgiveness is hard to do. And when it comes to acknowledging our sin before God it gets even tougher. It’s not that we’re deliberately rebelling against Him…of blatantly and conspicuously sinning for all to see. No, it’s rather sins by omission that really mess us up. These are secret sins that are easy to hide…things that only we may know about. These sins of omission are things neglected and left undone in our lives…like regular time in the Word, or prayer. Or they’re things we chose to turn a blind eye to…knowing the Lord wants us to act, but choosing to be apathetic instead. These sins of omission are disobedience at its best and need to be dealt with, for as time goes on, it becomes easier and easier to allow these sins to hide in our sub-conscience and justify them rather than admit they are wrong.