Forgiveness, what a tantalizing word and one which has been misused, abused and diminished for so many centuries. What does it mean to forgive? I examine this question from both Greek and Hebraic mindsets. First, the Greek mindset.
The two most common Greek words, used in Scripture to convey forgive and forgiveness, are apoluo and aphiemi. Although their meanings vary, depending on their context, they both have the understanding of ‘release’. Thus, a person who is forgiven is released or set free from whatever injury caused. In the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament), we find several examples. In Matthew 26:28 we read: “For this is my blood, which ratifies the New Covenant, my blood shed on behalf of many, so that they may have their sins forgiven.” In this passage, we read the Blood of Messiah Yeshua releases one from the hold of sin. Then, in Mark 1:4 is found: “So it was that Yochanan the Immerser appeared in the desert, proclaiming an immersion involving turning to God from sin in order to be forgiven.” Here we find the same meaning of release, involving immersion in water.
In the Hebraic mindset, there are two primary words used for forgiveness. These are nasa, to lift up and salah, healing. We find examples of these in the TaNaKh (Old Testament). First, we read in Psalm 25:18 King David’s entreaty to Yahweh: “See my affliction and suffering and take all my sins away.” In this verse, a derivation of the Hebrew word nasa, sa, is used with the word ‘and’ to produce v’sa. In this context, it means to take away or lift off. Then, in Micah 7:19, we read: “He will again have compassion on us, He will subdue our iniquities. You will throw all their sins into the depths of the sea.” In this verse, there are two additional understandings of forgiveness. The first is that of conquering or subduing our sins, as shown in the Hebrew, boz, used in the phrase, He will subdue, yikhboz. The second understanding may be found in the word tashlich, cast away, which gives rise to the Feast of Tashlich, during the Festival of Yom T’ruah.
Whether we use the Greek understanding of release or the Hebraic understandings of lift up or cast away, the fact remains the act of forgiveness itself comes from Yahweh alone. Only He can forgive sin. However, we have been given the command and the privilege to forgive others, who have sinned against us. The story of Joseph and his brothers is a prime example of forgiving others. We all know the story – Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, as his father loved him more than the others, sold him into slavery in Egypt, where he eventually became a leader, second only to Pharaoh in power. It is this statement, found in Genesis 50:19-21, which displays the essence of forgiveness: “But Yosef said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid! Am I in the place of God? You meant to do me harm, but God meant it for good — so that it would come about as it is today, with many people’s lives being saved. So don’t be afraid — I will provide for you and your little ones.’ In this way he comforted them, speaking kindly to them.” In Galatians 6:1, Rav Sha’ul weighs in on forgiveness, when he writes, “Brothers, suppose someone is caught doing something wrong. You who have the Spirit should set him right, but in a spirit of humility, keeping an eye on yourselves so that you won’t be tempted too.”
In both instances, when Joseph forgave his brothers, and Sha’ul teaches his students to forgive their brothers, the key ingredient involved is love. Without love, there is no humility, another key aspect of forgiveness. Beloved, withholding forgiveness are acts of selfishness and self-absorption, and are ultimately self-destructive. Remember Adonai Yeshua’s words to us, Matthew 6:14,15, “For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours.”
CONSIDER: Are you harbouring hatred to those who have wronged you and/or your family? Are you unable to forgive someone who has done some wrong to you? Forgiving others is not merely an act of loving obedience, it is a healing mechanism. Those who do not forgive, have a psychological cancer growing within them, which may, if prolonged, turn into a physical problem.
ACTION: Go first to Yahweh and ask Him for direction in working through the pain, to forgive others. Remember, forgiving others is an act of obedience to God’s commands and an act of healing self. The ones we forgive are under no obligation to receive or accept our forgiveness.
PRAY: Beloved Abba, Our Mighty Father, I harbour so much hurt and pain in my heart, as a result of __________’s actions. I pray you give me the love, humility and courage to go out-of-myself and extend forgiveness towards ________. In Your Precious Name I pray.
May the God of Avraham, Isaac and Jacob bless you richly.