David wrote some wonderful words that ought to penetrate our souls and fill us with peace. In Psalm 86:15, we read, "But you, O Lord are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness."
This is a balm for every spiritual wound. A comfort in every fall or sinful lapse. In our weakness, we may think that God is stern, quick to anger and stingy in love and faithfulness. The opposite is true, of course. God "delights in mercy" (Mic. 7:18). In other words, it makes God supremely happy to bear with us in our infirmities, to pardon our many sins.
Only a God who is slow to anger would put up with a people like us. We provoke Him daily with our unbelief, our impatience, our lack of brotherly love. At times, we may think we have exhausted His long-suffering. But he is abounding in love and faithfu lness. "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him" (Psa. 103:11).
Isaiah invites the sinner to forsake his way and "turn to the Lord and He will have mercy on him, and to our God for He will freely pardon" (Isa. 55:7). That invitation of abundant pardon is still open today. Mary, in her great song, expressed this well: "His mercy extends to those who fear him from generation to generation" (Luke 1:50).
"But you don't know what I've done," someone might say. "I sinned terribly against the Lord - even while professing to be a Christian. How can God ever forgive me?" God can forgive you because He has bound Himself to do so. He has entered into covenant with us. It is a New Covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ. Under the terms of that holy agreement, He has promised "their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more" (Heb. 10:17).
Forgiveness of Manasseh
God's past mercies to others should encourage the despairing. Look at the forgiveness He extended to Manasseh. A king of Judah at age 12, he forsook the pious ways of his father, Hezekiah, and "did evil in the eyes of the lord following the detesta ble practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites" (2 Chron. 33:2).
Despite the advantage of godly parentage, he rebuilt the high places, reestablished Baal worship and bowed down before "the starry hosts" (v. 3). He even put pagan altars in the holy temple of God (v. 4), performed human sacrifices (with his sons, no l ess) and practiced witchcraft (v. 6). The Bible tells us "he led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites" (v. 9).
This man led an entire nation into apostasy. If anyone deserved to be destroyed on the spot, it was Manasseh. If anyone had forfeited all rights to mercy and forgiveness, he did. Or did he?
After being taken captive by the Assyrians, Manasseh finally cried out to God for mercy. "Sure," we may reason that God would say, "now that you're sitting in a dungeon with a hook in your nose, now you suddenly call on me. Well you can forget p ardon. You can just rot in that dungeon. It serves you right."
No, even for this despicable king, God was full of compassion. He forgave Manasseh's gross immorality and idol worship. The Scripture says, "the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea" (v. 13). The God who delights in mercy granted abu ndant pardon - even to him. Our merciful God even restored Manasseh to his kingship! Read the full account in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20.
That should be great news for all of us. God has freely pardoned one of the worst examples of humanity. The wretch cried out and God speedily pardoned him. Amazing grace! God saves the worst of men.
Will He Forgive Me?
"But I've committed the same sin so many times," another might say, "I've asked God to forgive the same offense over and over again. I can't bear to ask Him to forgive me another time." There is actually a fallacy in that kind of reasoning. Keep in mind that God forgives our sins "and remembers them no more" (Heb. 10:17). If you've committed the same sin a thousand times, he keeps no record of it (Psa. 130:3,4). Every time is as if it were the first offense.
It seems reasonable that God will forgive with the same type of "seventy times seven" standard (which is really indefinite) that He requires of us (Matt. 18:22). We don't believe that God binds upon us any duty of mercy that He is unwilling to bind upon Himself.
Be of good courage! The Lord who daily forgives that repeated sin will give you the mastery over it. In the meantime, He will continue to deal with you graciously. "You will again have compassion on us, you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl our iniquities into the depths of the sea" (Mic. 7:19).
Others may fear that they have wandered so far from the faith that there is no return. God will never forgive them, they reason, because they have been out of the communion of His people for so long. Some may even feel that Hebrews 6:4-6, a frightening passage about falling away utterly, may apply to them.
These people should realize that the subjects of this text were on the verge of giving up Christianity permanently and going back into Judaism. They were close to hardening their hearts toward the faith. But if you want to come back to God through Jesus the Savior, you have certainly not hardened your heart toward the faith. Your interest in repentance is proof of this. David wrote, "For you, Lord have never forsaken those who seek you" (Psa. 9:10). Seek Him and He will not forsake you. That's a divine promise.
Others may feel they have committed the unpardonable sin. But, again, if you are seeking God, that is a sign that He has not given up on you (Psa. 9:10). Christ will cast out none who come to him in faith, seeking to be a disciple. He said, "Whoever comes to me, I will never drive away" (John 6:37).
Paul taught that no one can from the heart say "Jesus is Lord," apart from the activity of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3). If he is your Lord, the Spirit has not left you. If you are believing in Christ you are in Christ. Pardon is fully available to you from the God who delights in dispensing it.
The only barriers to receiving forgiveness are unbelief, impenitence and the love of sin. Let's sweep them away and call upon our merciful Father in heaven. Then we can truly say, "You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call upon you" (Psa. 86:5).