Exodus 34:6 And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
Before we proceed with the issue of God's forgiveness, we will address briefly the last verse of our passage for today, which has often been a stumbling block to many. Children are never punished for the sins of their parents except as they participate in their wrong-doing. This fact is clearly stated in the the Bible, and should be understood by all, lest a misinterpretation of God's character inevitably be the result. Let's read:
Ezekiel 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
Our passage of scripture for today however, teaches us that only God alone can forgive sins. Since the former system of sacrifices in the old testament was put to an end at the cross, we are no longer required to confess our personal, private sins in the hearing any man or priest, for this is productive of the greatest evils. We are instructed and encouraged in the Bible to forgive our fellowmen who trespass against us, but our forgiveness does not acquit a person of wrong. Only God alone can grant the complete remission of sins committed against others.
This sacred truth was brought to light in the experience of David who had grievously sinned against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah. Although Bathsheba apparently forgave David, yet he himself had to address the wrongs done, in the presence of God, for when we sin against others, we sin against God. The tenor of David's prayer therefore focused very heavily on the sin committed against God, although done to persons. Let's read:
Psalms 51:1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. 9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
David thus found pardon with God, for he acknowledged the fact that sins against others ultimately affects God who created every person. When Joseph was being tempted to commit adultery with Potiphar's wife, he remonstrated by saying, "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God".
In our day we should therefore understand that wrongs done to others should be addressed in the context of the bigger picture, for as stated before, God is the one who is ultimately wounded, and He is the only one who can truly pardon our sins. Often when prominent politicians or well-known public figures or clergy, are found committing sexual sins against their spouse or others, we usually only hear of confession to those who were thus wounded, but we scarcely hear of the wrongs done to God through a violation of the rights of others.
As a general rule of thumb whenever private, personal sins are committed, they should be confessed to God alone. However when public sins are committed, public confession to God should also be included, that's why after Peter had denied Jesus publicly three times, he was moved to reaffirm publicly, his love for Christ three times also. Let's read:
Matthew 26:69 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. 70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. 71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. 72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. 73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. 74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
John 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Peter, like David and so many others were forgiven entirely of their sins by God, and their example should serve as an encouragement to us who desire God's forgiveness too. We therefore end our brief commentary with a passage of scripture encouraging us to seek God's forgiveness and pardon as we follow the scriptural instructions pertaining to this issue. Let's read:
Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
May this experience be ours as long as life shall last. God Bless!