(From a sermon of Bro. Julius Adewumi - 5/2/97)
I want to talk on forgiveness today. We all know what forgiveness is. The Lord says "forgive, and ye shall be forgiven". I want to present this from the old testament and the new, and point out who forgave and what happened and who refused to forgive and what happened in their case. I know that someone can make a big book on this topic, but I will only give summary here.
Isaac forgave Jacob. It was a very bad thing which Jacob did to his daddy Isaac. It is very wrong for someone to deceive a blind person just because he cannot see you. How much more if the blind person is someone's daddy, blind due to old age. People never think of the weight of that offence. We can say "well it was the hand of the Lord, that Jacob should receive the blessing". Yes it was the hand of the Lord. But come to think of it in human terms, that was deception, and it is not acceptable for someone to deceive one's daddy in that way. Because the man was blind for old age, Jacob came (instigated by his mom) and impersonated his brother Esau. After Isaac realized that he was deceived, when Esau came back, if Isaac was not going to forgive, he could have said the blessing he gave should be reversed. Ofcourse God wouldn't allow him to do that. However when we look at it in human terms, if Isaac wouldn't forgive, he would have simply cursed his son who did such to him.
Remember what happened between Noah and his sons? Noah cursed one of his grandchildren because his son Ham laughed at his nakedness while he was drunk and slept naked in the tent. Noah woke up from his drunkeness and cursed. He could have forgiven him.
When you look back and ask "what did that curse do to the man?" it did something to Canaan.
Isaac was an example of someone who forgave. He forgave Jacob.
Should we wait till the one who offend us apologize before we forgive him? The Lord said "if your brother offend you seven times a day and seven times he comes and said he is sorry, you should forgive him." But the Lord did not wait for the sinners to say they are sorry before he forgave them. In the new testament, we are to forgive even when the offender is not sorry at all. Suppose he did not even acknowledge that he did you any wrong? That is the strongest type to forgive. Yet the Lord expects us to forgive even such. That is the examples we see in the new testament. In the old testament, there was no such forgiveness commanded. Jesus commanded us to forgive. The Lord Jesus forgave those who crucified him when they were not even sorry, when he said "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." They were not even sorry at all. Stephen gave us another example of Christian forgiveness, in Acts chapter 7 verse 60, while they stoned him to death. "And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." This is new testament forgiveness whereby the Lord said we should even love our enemies.
But in the old testament, some even cursed the generation of those who offended them. However, Isaac was one example of a man who forgave. He forgave Jacob. Jacob didn't repent for what he did to his daddy, but Isaac did not reverse the blessing he had given. You must remember the bible said, Isaac loved Esau. If you really love somebody like that, it will hurt you to see Esau's blessing robbed from him by an impostor, which would have called for a reverse of the blessing in many human minds. Isaac really loved Esau, but he refused to curse Jacob. However it may be because God wouldn't let him.
Another example of someone who forgave was Esau. We must remember that Esau also forgave Jacob. We may not realize what this forgiveness did for this men, but God has said in his word, "forgive and ye shall be forgiven". Think of what Jacob did to Esau, the same thing he did to his daddy. Esau forgave Jacob because when Jacob came back from where he fled to, many years later, Esau was not holding him to it. He could have held it for ever that he would kill this man no matter when he saw him. But when he saw him again, he had forgiven him, and did not hold him to it.
Now when you come to look at Esau, he was not a slave to Jacob, as the blessing subscribed, at least not in their lifetime. Maybe by forgiving, it really helped Esau. Ofcourse we know the blessing is futuristic to the time of the Messiah, but when it was prayed over Jacob, it sounded as if, Esau would be miserable for losing such blessing. Esau forgave Jacob. In the end, Esau didn't serve Jacob, neither did the Edomites serve the Israelites much, except in the days of David, Solomon and few other kings. God could have used the forgiveness which Esau forgave Jacob to lift off the curse of a lost blessing from Esau. When the word of God says "forgive, and ye shall be forgiven", there is a lot hanging upon this scripture.
Another example of someone who forgave was Joseph. We all know what happened to Joseph from his brethren. He was sold into slavery. That was not easy to forget. He didn't forget it. But when he finally became the prime Minister of Egypt, his brothers came to bow before him, what they wished they would never do, the main reason why they sold Joseph into slavery. "And they said one to another, Behold this dreamer cometh. Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams." (Gen.37:19-20).
Joseph forgave them. They were thinking after their father died Joseph might take it on them. (Gen.50:15-18). Those who knew God and walked with God have learnt that they must forgive.
David was another example of one who forgave. He forgave King Saul. Twice he had opportunity to kill Saul when Saul was pursueing after David, because he heard that God had anointed David to be the next king of Israel. Saul did not want that to happen. David refused to kill Saul even when others urged him to do it. It was forgiveness. He forgave Saul, perhaps because of Jonathan, Saul's son who was a friend to David. In the end it worked out well for David. Forgive and you shall also be forgiven.
There are occasions when some people also did not forgive. We may not be able to tell what happened to them because they did not forgive. But it is still wise to forgive. Take it out of your heart.
One example of somebody who did not forgive was Noah. Another example was Jacob. No record of Jacob forgiving anyone who hurt him. There was an occasion in the bible where Jacob did not forgive his first son Reuben. Reuben sinned against Jacob his father when he went into his father's couch, meaning he went and slept with one of his father's concubines. Jacob remembered it even till the day of his death. When Jacob was blessing his children, he did not bless Reuben but said "he would not excel". (Gen.49:1-4).
In another example, David did not forgive Joab the captain of his army for killing men which David did not approve. He passed it down to Solomon to get rid of Joab by the sword. He also did not totally forgive Shimei, the man who threw dust and stones at David when David fled Jerusalem before the face of Absalom. He also passed it down to Solomon to get rid of him. (1Kgs.2:5-6,8-9). We may not know the damage such unforgiveness did to those men, but in the new testament, we are given a stronger instruction by the Lord Jesus Christ.
"If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you your trespasses."
This is very important. There has been parents who keep what a child did to them in their heart for a long time. It is not right to keep wrath in the heart for so long. It is unhealthy. Forgiveness is very important. "Forgive!" When you keep an evil deed in your heart for very long time, it hinders progress. It hinders the progress of the children. It's like hanging a curse upon people. You must use your mouth to bless always.
"But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Mat.6:14-15)
In the parable of the unforgiving servant, (Mat.18:23-35), the Lord showed that if we do not forgive men, we will not be forgiven, because we owe God a lot.
"Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him."
"So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." (Mat.18:35).
This is very serious. We've got to be serious with this. What causes disunity among brethren? It could be, this man did something to this fellow some years ago. He may say "I've forgiven him", but they are no more friends. If it was really forgiven, should they be no more friends? If that man said he has forgiven the fellow, should they be no more friends? But God says, if ye forgive not, your heavenly Father will not forgive you. We've got to pray for the believers. I know it is really hard on mankind. I remember my earthly daddy had three close friends with whom he walked and they grew up together and married about the same time. We grew up to know them as friends. But when "politics" entered their life, they became enemies. After politics was over, they tried to settle the problem. It never was the same again. It is very difficult for mankind. The scripture says "a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle". (Prov.18:19). It is hard to win them back. But God says this is serious! If ye don't forgive, how will you ask your heavenly Father to forgive you?
But we've got to obey the bible. Otherwise we are putting ourselves in jeopardy of not being answered by the Lord.
"When ye shall stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." (Mk.11:25).
In this passage, the Lord linked prayer to forgiveness. "When ye stand to pray". It becomes important to search our heart before we pray: is there somebody we harbor hatred against in our heart? It is important that we forgive such person immediately in our heart before we pray. You may say "I don't want to see that fellow anymore" because of what was done months ago. The devil does not allow people to forget past hurts. That part is what you must constantly work on. It may be hard, but pray for yourself and work on it. Go meet the fellow, and clear it off your heart.
There was a time the Holy Ghost forced out a smile out of me when I was bitter against somebody. When I saw the fellow coming, the human nature wanted to frown the face at the fellow, but the Holy Ghost forced a smile out of me. Then I knew that it is very important to the Lord. It is very important for us to settle our quarrels, and forgive one another. The word is very important which says "if ye don't forgive your brother, your heavenly Father will not forgive you your trespasses." Someone may say, if I don't do this, God will not cast me out. You may not lose your salvation, but the blessing which you should be receiving of answered prayers is in jeopardy. When you are not submitting to the bible, you lose the effectiveness of your prayers. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." (Jn.15:7).
Let's begin to apply this precept in our families, dealing with one another with forgiveness. Settle your quarrels before the end of the day: "let not the sun go down upon your wrath".
"Take heed to yourselves. If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him." (Lk.17:3)
We don't have to wait till our brothers repent, according to the new testament. The Lord Jesus forgave those who crucified him when they were not even sorry. Some folks will say "he never say he is sorry, that is why I can't forgive him". If we are to be like Christ, we've got to forgive, whether they repent or not. We must say "I have forgiven that fellow, and will not hold him to it anymore." Get it out of our hearts.
Apostle Paul wrote: "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (Col.3:13).
"And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Eph.4:32).
The example of the Lord Jesus must be followed, when people refuse to accept that they have done you wrong. You may confront them and they may not accept the fact that they are wrong. Mostly among couples breaking apart. Husband never think he is wrong, the wife never think she is wrong. If that is adhered to, the marriage will break. Forgiveness is necessary when people are sharing things together, or living together. In every human interaction, we can successfully live in harmony together only when we use "forgiveness" in dealing with one another.
"Then said Jesus Father forgive them for they know not what they do". The Lord Jesus was praying for those that did not repent yet, when they were nailing him to the cross. Stephen did the same thing when he prayed for those who stoned him to death. We know that one of those who stoned him was Saul of Tarsus, who later became Apostle Paul.
Another example was that Jesus forgave Saul of Tarsus. If it is nowadays, men might pray "Get him God, Get him", when he was on his way to arrest Christians. God forgave him. Paul himself said He was the chief sinner.
Also In Job 42:10, "The Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before."
Have you wondered why forgiving his friends was linked to turning the captivity of Job?
Let's pray that the body of Christ learn to forgive and therefore whole-heartedly fellowship with one another, "even as God for Christ's sake, hath forgiven us." Amen.
Bro. Julius Adewumi
Gospel Distribution Ministry