December 12: Forgiven and Forgiving
Jeremiah 23:1–24:10; Romans 3:21–31; Proverbs 18:1–24
Idioms are often unhelpful because their overuse has robbed them of meaning. But the idiom “putting up walls” has a twist in Proverbs: “A brother who is offended is worse than a city of strength, and quarrels are like the bars of a fortification” (Prov 18:19).
The writer of this proverb gives us imagery that helps us understand how people react to offenses. Regardless of whether we intend to, we can raise a great structure, like a “city of strength,” in the gulf between ourselves and others. Such barriers make it difficult to reach those we have offended, which may suit us perfectly. But we’re called to live differently.
None of us can live perfectly in this life, so conflict is inevitable. If we have the insight to see that “we all fall short of the glory of God”—and more specifically, how we have fallen—we’ll see we have no right to hold a grudge (Rom 3:23). When rifts develop in relationships, we need to own our sin and bring it to God. His forgiveness and His reconciling work make it possible for us to be vulnerable with others and seek their forgiveness—even if they have also offended us.
When we choose to humbly admit our failings, we break down “the bars of a fortification” and create space for reconciliation. We might be spurned, or we might be forgiven. The other person may take responsibility for their fault, or they may not. But either way, we rest secure in God’s forgiveness.
Have you offended someone? Have you neglected to confess your sin and seek forgiveness? Reconciliation is a picture of what God has done for us—He has returned us to Himself. Be like the peacemaker: Seek and offer forgiveness.
Have you offended someone without asking forgiveness? If so, how can you step forward to confess your offense to God and the offended person?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
- Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, saith the Lord. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel unto the pastors that feed my people, Ye have scattered my flock, and thrust them out, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit you for the wickedness of your works, saith the Lord. And I will gather the remnant of my sheep out of all countries, whither I had driven them, and will bring them again to their folds, and they shall grow and increase: And I will set up shepherds over them, which shall feed them: and they shall dread no more nor be afraid, neither shall any of them be lacking, saith the Lord. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely, and this is the Name whereby they shall call him, The Lord our righteousness. Therefore behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, which brought up children of Israel out of the land of Egypt. But the Lord liveth, which brought up and led the seed of the house of Israel out of the North country, and from all countries where I had scattered them, and they shall dwell in their own land. Mine heart breaketh within me, because of all the prophets, all my bones shake: I am like a drunken man (and like a man whom wine hath overcome) for the presence of the Lord and for his holy words. For the land is full of adulterers, and because of oaths the land mourneth, the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right. For both the Prophet and the Priest do wickedly: and their wickedness have I found in mine House, saith the Lord. Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven forth and fall therein: for I will bring a plague upon them, even the year of their vistation, saith the Lord. And I have seen foolishness in the prophets of Samaria that prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem filthiness: they commit adultery and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of the wicked, that none can return from his wickedness: they are all unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets, Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is wickedness gone forth into all the land. Thus saith the Lord: of hosts, Hear not the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you, and teach you vanity: they speak the vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace: and they say unto everyone that walketh after the stubbornness of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord that he hath perceived, and heard his word? Who has marked his word and heard it? Behold, the tempest of the Lord goeth forth in his wrath, and a violent whirlwind shall fall down upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord shall not return until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall understand it plainly. I have not sent these prophets, saith the Lord, yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, and yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had declared my words to my people, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the wickedness of their inventions. Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God far off? Can any hid himself in secret places, that I shall not see him, saith the Lord? Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord? I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesied lies in my Name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How the long? Do the prophets delight to prophesy lies, even prophesying the deceit of their own heart? Think they to cause my people to forget my Name by their dreams, which they tell every man to his neighbor, as their forefathers have forgotten my Name for Baal? The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream, and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully: what is the chaff to the wheat, saith the Lord? Is not my word even like a fire, saith the Lord? and like an hammer, that breaketh the stone? Therefore behold, I will come against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my word every one from his neighbor. Behold, I will come against the prophets, saith the Lord, which have sweet tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I will come against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their flatteries, and I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they bring no profit unto this people, saith the Lord. And when this people, or a prophet, or a Priest shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the Lord? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the Lord. And the prophet, or the priest, or the people that shall say, The burden of the Lord, I will even visit every such one, and his house. Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbor, and every one to his brother, What hath the Lord answered? and what hath the Lord spoken? And the burden of the Lord shall ye mention no more: for every man’s word shall be his burden: for ye have perverted the words of the living God, the Lord of hosts our God. Thus shalt thou say to the Prophets, What hath the Lord answered thee? and what hath the Lord spoken? And if you say, The burden of the Lord, Then thus saith the Lord, Because ye say this word, The burden of the Lord, and I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say, The burden of the Lord. Therefore behold, I even I will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence, And will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame which shall never be forgotten. The Lord showed me, and behold, two baskets of figs were set before the Temple of the Lord, after that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babel had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah with the workmen, and cunning men of Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babel. One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe, and the other baskets had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so evil. Then said the Lord unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs: the good figs very good, and the naughty very naughty, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil. Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Like these good figs, so will I know them that are carried away captive of Judah to be good, whom I have sent out of this place, into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land, and I will build them and not destroy them, and I will plant them, and not root them out. And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart. And as the naughty figs which cannot be eaten, they are so evil (surely thus saith the Lord) so will I give Zedekiah the King of Judah, and his princes, and his residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt: I will even give them for a terrible plague to all the kingdoms of the earth, and for a reproach and for a proverb, for a common talk, and for a curse, in all places where I shall cast them. And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence among them, till they be consumed out of the land, that I gave unto them, and to their fathers. (Jeremiah 23:1-24:10)
- But now is the righteousness of God made manifest without the Law, having witness of the Law, and of the Prophets, To wit, the righteousness of God by the faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all that believe. For there is no difference: for all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. And are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Whom God hath set forth to be a reconciliation through faith in his blood to declare his righteousness by the forgiveness of the sins that are passed, Through the patience of God, to show at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and a justifier of him which is of the faith of Jesus. Where is then the rejoicing? It is excluded. By what Law? of works? Nay: but by the Law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the works of the Law. God, is he the God of the Jews only, and not of the Gentiles also? Yes, even of the Gentiles also. For it is one God, who shall justify circumcision of faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make the Law of none effect through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the Law. (Romans 3:21-31)
- For the desire thereof he will separate himself to seek it, and occupy himself in all wisdom. A fool hath no delight in understanding: but that his heart may be discovered. When the wicked cometh, then cometh contempt, and with the vile man reproach. The words of a man’s mouth are like deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom is like a flowing river. It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to cause the righteousness to fall in judgment. A fool’s lips come with strife, and his mouth calleth for stripes. A fool’s mouth is his own destruction, and his lips are a snare to his soul. The words of a talebearer are as flatterings, and they go down into the bowels of the belly. He also that is slothful in his work, is even the brother of him that is a great waster. The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth unto it, and is exalted. The rich man’s riches are his strong city: and as an high wall in his imagination. Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before glory goeth lowliness. He that answereth a matter before he hear it, it is folly and shame unto him. The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity: but a wounded spirit, who can bear it? A wise heart getteth knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeketh learning. A man’s gift enlargeth him, and leadeth him before great men. He that is first in his own cause, is just: then cometh his neighbor and maketh inquiry of him. The lot causeth contentions to cease, and maketh a partition among the mighty. A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and their contentions are like the bar of a palace. With the fruits of a man’s mouth shall his belly be satisfied, and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they that love it, shall eat the fruit thereof. He that findeth a wife, findeth a good thing, and receiveth favor of the Lord. The poor speaketh with prayers: but the rich answereth roughly. A man that hath friends, ought to show himself friendly: for a friend is nearer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:1-24)