WHAT FORGIVENESS MEANS
Maybe the most beautiful word in the Bible is forgiveness. Forgiveness of our sins because of the atoning work of Christ on the cross is the essence of the Gospel. Knowing we can be forgiven and have a fresh start gives us immeasurable hope for our future.
In the New Testament the Greek word for forgiveness means “to let go.” God lets go of our sins, He does not hold onto them. When we confess our sins we are freed from guilt and condemnation. When we repent we make a u-turn and go in a new and better direction.
In the Old Testament there are three Hebrew words for forgiveness. These three words give us an even fuller and richer understanding of God’s forgiveness. All three can be found in the Psalms, fitting since the Psalms reflect so beautifully on God’s mercy and bring such comfort to us.
The first word for forgiveness is Nasa meaning “to lift up.” Psalm 25:18 says, “See my troubles and my misery and forgive my sins.” God lifts up our sins and takes them into flight never to be seen again. It is ironic that the transliteration of the Hebrew word is spelled like our acronym NASA (National Aeronautical Space Administration). Our space program lifts vehicles into flight far beyond our atmosphere, just the same as God does when he lifts our sins far beyond this world.
The second word for forgiveness is Kophar meaning “to cover.” Psalm 78:38 says, “Yet God was kind. He kept forgiving their sins and didn’t destroy them.” God’s forgiveness covers over our sins. The blood of Jesus spilt on the cross covers over our sin stained lives and provides complete forgiveness for all our sins. Forgiveness covers our sins so they can never be seen again.
The third word for forgiveness is Salach meaning “to send away.” Psalm 103:3 says, “The Lord forgives our sins, heals us when we are sick.” The picture here is of the scapegoat. On the Day of Atonement the high priest would lay his hands on the goat and confess all the sins the people had committed. Leviticus 16:21 says, “Lead the goat into the desert so that it can take away their sins.” The scapegoat carried the sins of the people and was sent away never to return. God’s forgiveness means our sins have been sent away.
The real beauty of God’s forgiveness is that it is two-fold. When we confess our sins and accept Jesus into our life we receive eternal life. And as we follow Jesus when there are times we fail, mess up and sin we can receive God’s continued forgiveness. God is faithful to always let go, lift up, cover over and send away our sins.
About Rick McDaniel
Rick McDaniel is a noted author, international communicator and church leader. He is the founder/senior pastor of Richmond Community Church in Richmond, Virginia. The church is known for its contemporary and innovative services and has a worldwide reach through www.highimpactchurch.tv. McDaniel has earned three degrees including an advanced degree from Duke University and is the author of six books including his latest "Turn Your Setbacks Into Comebacks." He has traveled and spoken at conferences and churches worldwide spanning six continents.
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