Secret Confessions: Forgiveness (Part 1): What Is Forgiveness?: What Are Some Of The Examples Of Forgiveness In The Stories That Occurred During And Prior To The Time Of The Patriarchs Of Israel (Abraham, Isaac, And Jacob)?
Forgiveness is a subject that frankly can be very confusing. Forgiveness means many different things to many people. Here are some possible answers to the question, what does forgiveness mean to you?
- To forget about what someone else has done to me. Don’t talk about it with them, just bear the injury and move on.
- To take someone to a court of law, who has injured me in character, person, or property.
- To take revenge on someone, who has done me wrong.
- To talk to others about someone else, letting them know about how they have hurt me.
Understanding this topic from a biblical perspective will help us to understand how to address issues that involve situations in which we have been hurt by others mentally, emotionally, and physically.
As I grew up, I was the recipient of much abuse. In my early years my father abused me verbally. He was a man of many talents. He was a real estate broker, carpenter, and an owner of various types of businesses (e.g. clothing, restaurant, junk, etc). Over time he purchased a house, owned a nice car, and was living the American dream.
In my early high school years, I got a part time job working for my cities newspaper. During my senior year, I left the newspaper and was able to secure a part time job working as a printer for a local retail store. At this time, my father demanded that I work for him in his restaurant. This was the beginning of a tumultuous relationship. I didn’t like to cook, and neither did I like to work running a small restaurant. There were days when I worked alone, cooking, washing dishes, cleaning, and closing up the restaurant. It seemed like I was never able to please him as far as my job performance was concerned. I was criticized quite often. This criticism affected me in everything I did. As a result, I had a very low self esteem of myself in any endeavor, which included my school work and social relationships.
Eventually I went to college and it was during this time that he sold the restaurant business. I graduated after 4 years with a secondary teaching degree in mathematics. After graduation I sent out many resumes, had a few interviews, but no job offer. My dad had since gone to work in a factory, which made valves for the Alaska pipeline. He asked me if I was interested in seeing if he could get me a job there, to which I said yes. After a short period of time I got a job there, being hired as a maintenance man. This involved cleaning machines, which accumulated scrap metal, as a result of machining various parts. So here I was, having attended college for four years, and now I was working in a factory. The pay was minimal and there was a metal stench that got all over your clothes and body. I was not feeling too good about myself. Here I am living at home, working in a machine shop making minimum wage, with very few friends, and no girlfriend.
One day I decided that I needed to make a change in my life. Believe it or not, I started to go back to church. I began to attend the meetings of many different denominations in order to find out, what is the meaning of life? I found a church, which talked about being born again or being born anew. They said that if I acknowledged being a sinner, as one who cannot provide any kind of self effort or merit in winning God’s favor, along with believing on Jesus Christ as the God man, who: pre-existed time; came to earth in the form of a man being born of a virgin; lived a sinless life; died on a cross for my sins, along with forgiving them; rose again after 3 days never to die again; and ascended into heaven, that one of the members of the trinity, the Holy Spirit, would come into my life and live. This would be the beginning of a new and wonderful spiritual journey. I confessed out loud my acknowledgement to all that was just said. Immediately, I was flooded with God’s love, peace, and joy. I was a new person!
As I grew in understanding, as to who I was in Christ, and how to think his thoughts, I forgave my father. The image that I had of myself was no longer based on how he treated me, but was based on the new person, who I now was in Christ. I began to understand that everything that had happened to me brought me to the place where I was now.
As time went on eventually I got married, went to bible school, and became a principal of a Christian Day school, which was located in Johnston, RI. On one particular day, my father and mother arrived at my residence in order to see their grandkids, one of whom was a boy and the other a girl. While there they attended a church service with us. After which they went back to their home in Worcester, Ma.
The following Sunday morning began with the usual morning church service. As my wife and I walked in, proceeding to sit in the back of the chapel and hearing music that was being played from the stage, I saw my father and mother up front in the first row clapping and singing. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The pastor then got up and preached a message, an altar call was taken, and then we proceeded back to my residence. My father had a glow on his face, which I had never seen before. I believe that he became born anew on that day.
My dad died of cancer a short time after, but I will never forget that day.
We don’t have to like what people have done to us, but we don’t have to let that abuse be which defines us for the rest of our life. God wants to make us anew, and that can only happen if we confess with our lips belief in his Son. When we do, God will use us to be an example of his love to others. Who knows, God might bring back into our life those people who mistreated us so that we might extend to them Christ’s love.
As Christ was on the cross having suffered physically at the hands men, he said, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. May we forgive others for Christ’s sake, and see a heavenly glow on their face.
What Is Forgiveness?
Throughout this paper we will take a look at the subject of forgiveness. I don’t believe that we can adequately discuss the topic of forgiveness without discussing the topics of atonement and redemption.
All of these words have to do with a debt or payment that is owed with consequences or penalties attached.
The word atonement refers to the payment of the debt by the person who owes it or by someone else, who chooses to pay the debt for them. This payment can be made by sacrifice, by confession, along with restitution (e.g. financial), when needed.
Redemption refers to the freeing of the captive on receiving the price or when the payment is made.
Forgiveness refers to the result of the freeing of the captive or the explanation of redemption. Forgiveness is informing a guilty person that they have been freed from the future punishment that they should have incurred.
An example of this can relate to financial records. When a handwritten document, an IOU with penalties attached was personally signed by the debtor acknowledging the debt, is paid, then the record of the debt can be considered cancelled. This cancellation can be evidenced by either: washing off the writing of the debt and its penalties; blotting out the names associated with it; drawing lines through the names; or driving a nail through the certificate of debt.
As we look at the various scriptures which follow we will see this relationship between a payment owed, atonement, redemption, and forgiveness re-occurring throughout the bible.
Hopefully, when this study is completed you will be better equipped in understanding what the relationship is between a debt, which is owed, the payment that is made concerning it or not, the setting free of the debtor or not, and what the debtor is freed from or not.
When I speak of the word forgiveness I will include the idea of redemption (the freeing of the debtor) in it.
What Are Some Of The Examples Of Forgiveness In The Stories That Occurred During And Prior To The Time Of The Patriarchs Of Israel (Abraham, Isaac, And Jacob)?
Prior to the Mosaic Law being instituted for the nation of Israel, there are the many stories mentioned about Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, etc. Here are just a few of these stories and the relationship between the debt owed, atonement, and forgiveness, which will include the idea of redemption (the freeing of the debtor) in it.
If we look at some of these stories, then we will be able to see God’s unveiling of this topic during this time period. The manner in which forgiveness takes place might be different from the manner in which forgiveness is to take place during the current time that we are living in. So, enjoy the stories and the examples of forgiveness, which are contained.
In Gen 2:16-17; Gen 3:6-24, this first story involves Adam, whose name means red, who was the first man whom God created. He was formed out of the dust of the earth, and hence his name. God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and gave him dominion over all the lower creatures. He was placed in the Garden of Eden, to cultivate it, and to enjoy its fruits, under one prohibition, which was not to eat of a particular tree, known as the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God took one of Adam’s ribs and made a woman named Eve.
The devil, whether taking upon himself the form of a serpent or using a serpent as a medium, deceived Eve into eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam her husband, being aware that Eve partook of this tree’s fruit, also indulged himself.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The penalty associated with this sin (debt) was that: they were to be cast out from the Garden of Eden; they were subject to physical death; at birth every person would be born spiritually dead; the bringing forth of produce from the ground would require painful work; during child bearing the woman would have difficulty, and at child birth she will have labor pains.
God provided an atonement for their transgression before they left the Garden of Eden, with coats of skin. They accepted or received this atonement or payment, and thus they were forgiven. This forgiveness refers to being free from the punishment of going to a compartment of Hades, known as torments at physical death. At death they would go to a different compartment of Hades, called Paradise. Lk 16:19-31
Gen 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
In Gen. 4:2-15, the second story involves Cain and Abel, who were the sons of Adam and Eve. Each made an offering unto the Lord. Cain presented to God an offering that came from the ground. Abel’s offering was of the firstling of the flock. Abel’s offering was accepted and Cain’s was rejected. By the nature of the sacrifices that Cain and Abel offered, it appears that the offering of the firstling of the flock was a type of the sacrifice or atonement of Christ on the cross.
Cain decides to kill his brother Abel, which could have been because of the rejection of his offering by God and his subsequent jealousy. After committing this murder, he shows no sorrow or regret for what he has done.
Cain chose not to make payment for his debt, which would have been to confess to God his transgression, with the result of receiving forgiveness.
No atonement or payment was made, therefore the consequences or punishment for Cain’s transgression was not forgiven.
The consequences that will remain in effect are: that Cain will be cast out from his geographical home being a vagabond (one who wanders from place to place) for the rest of his life, a mark will be placed upon him so that others will not kill him, and when he tries to farm the land, it will not yield to him produce.
Gen 4:8-9 8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. 9 And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?
The third story of forgiveness that we will look at is taken from Gen. Chapters 40-45 concerning a man named Joseph. Joseph is the eldest son of Jacob and Rachel. He was born, in about 1910 BC. He had 11 other brothers, most of whom were stepbrothers.
Joseph was hated by his brothers because:
- His father Jacob made for him, in Gen 37:3-4, a coat of many colors, and they were jealous.
- He dreamed a dream, which indicated to his brothers that at some future point of time, they would be subservient to him.
Jacob sent Joseph to inquire of the other sons, who had initially gone to Shechem with their flocks, and then after which they proceeded onward to Dothan. When his brethren saw him coming, they plotted against him, selling him to Ishmaelite merchants, who were on their way to the Egyptian market. They in turn sold him to Potiphar, who was chief of the state police of Pharaoh, unto whom he became his servant.
During this time, Joseph spurned Potiphar’s wife’s sexual advances, and subsequent false accusation of attempted rape, and was cast into prison for two years. Coincidentally, at this time, two of Pharaoh’s workmen (aristocrats) were also cast into the same prison. When an aristocrat went to prison, he received one slave, who would serve him. Some commentators believe that Joseph was a slave to both aristocrats. Both had dreamed a dream, which Joseph interpreted. One of them, the butler, was reinstated to his position with Pharaoh.
When Pharaoh also dreamed dreams, he sought for someone throughout his kingdom to interpret them, but no one came forth. The butler mentioned to Pharaoh about Joseph as a possible interpreter of his dreams. Joseph was brought before Pharaoh and correctly interpreted his dreams. Because of this, Pharaoh appointed Joseph as food commissioner over all of the land of Egypt.
Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams revealed that there would be 7 years of plenty, during which time he would store up great abundance of corn in granaries, which were to be followed by 7 years of famine.
After 7 years of plenty had come and gone, the land of Egypt and Canaan were starving for hunger. After all of the money was gone, which the people used to purchase corn from Pharaoh, then they brought of their cattle and herds, for which they received bread. When their bread was gone, they gave of themselves and their land to Pharaoh. In return, Pharaoh gave seed to plant crops. The agreement was that they would give “the fifth part” or 20% of the produce to Pharaoh, and they would keep the remaining 80% for themselves. This was not a religious offering or tithe to a particular individual, but this was given to Pharaoh as rent.
During this period of famine, Joseph's brethren came down to Egypt to buy corn, and in due time he revealed himself unto them. He told them that God had allowed the past events to happen so that he would one day be in the position, which he was now in, so that he could preserve for them descendants.
Joseph’s brothers owed a debt to him, because of their mistreatment of him. Joseph was made aware by God that all that had happened was according to His plan in order to preserve not only his family, but their descendants. He did not remember their abandonment of him from an earthly point of view, but from a heavenly point of view.
In Gen. 42:21, it appears that Joseph’s brothers admitted their guilt concerning their transgression of their older brother. Their admission was payment for their transgression. Later, in Gen.45:4,5 Joseph forgave (pardoned) their offense. He not only provided for his families physical needs, but he received permission from Pharaoh to allow them to live in Egypt.
Gen 42:21 And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.
Gen 45:4,5 4 And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. 5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
The last story of forgiveness is taken from Gen 25:27-34; Chapters 27; 28; 29; 30; 31 and centers around two men, Jacob and Laban.
Isaac, the son of Abraham, married a woman named Rebekah, who had twin sons, in approximately 2004 BC. The oldest was called Esau, and the youngest was called Jacob. Jacob was a shepherd, and Esau was a hunter.
Over the course of time Jacob takes advantage of the first born, his brother Esau, and swindles him out of both the family birthright and the family blessing.
The family birthright, which was allotted to the first born son consisted of three advantages:
(1.) He became the priest of the family.
(2.) He had allotted to him a double portion of the paternal inheritance
(3.) He inherited the judicial authority (rule over the brethren and the entire family) of his father, whatever it might be1.
The family blessing refers to a "blessing" that the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) customarily extended upon their children before they died2.
Esau, because of these injustices, determines in his mind to kill his brother Jacob, after his father Isaac dies. Rebekah, upon hearing about this plot, sends Jacob away to stay with her brother Laban. As Jacob goes on his journey he spends the night in a place called Luz and dreams a dream. God conveys to him that he is with him, and will keep him wherever he goes.
Gen 28:15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
Jacob arrives in a place called Haran, where he meets up with his mother’s brother, Laban. Laban has two daughters, Leah the elder, and Rachel. Jacob falls in love with Rachel. Laban will allow Jacob to marry Rachel, but he must first work for him for seven years.
After 7 years, Jacob and Rachel are about to get married. After much festivity, perhaps involving drunkenness, Laban substitutes Leah for Rachel in the marriage tent. Unbeknown to Jacob, he thinks that he has had relations with his wife Rachel. He finds out the next day that it is Leah, who he had relations with. He has been misled by his father-in-law. Laban says that if he wants to marry Rachel, then he will have to work for him an additional 7 years.
Jacob has two choices. He can leave the premises or he can work an additional 7 years so that he can marry Rachel. He is well aware that he has been misled. However, he has received an assurance by God that He will bring him back to his homeland of Beersheba according to His appointed time.
So, Jacob worked an additional 7 years and married Rachel.
Laban confesses to Jacob that he has been blessed materialistically, because of his God.
Gen 30:27 And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake.
Jacob is ready to leave Laban’s house, and return to his own country. Realizing that Jacob has fulfilled his obligations, Laban offers him to stay and work for him a little longer. He asks Jacob to tell him what it would take for him to stay. Jacob makes a proposal concerning the keeping of some of the flock for himself, to which Laban agrees. Jacob works for Laban for an additional 6 years. Little did Laban know that God has given Jacob favor in this agreement. God took away the strong cattle of Laban and gave it to Jacob.
Gen 31:1 And he heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that was our father's; and of that which was our father's hath he gotten all this glory.
God speaks to Jacob and tells him to return home.
Gen 31:3 And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.
Jacob tells his family that God has directed them to leave. He also reminds them that their father had changed his wages 10 times, but in the midst of it all he served him with all of his power. Jacob told them that God has been with him, in not only keeping him safe, but in also putting forth the plan to take the strong cattle away from Laban, and give them to him.
Gen 31:5-9 5 And said unto them, I see your father's countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me. 6 And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. 7 And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me. 9 Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.
So Jacob and his family depart without notifying Laban. When Laban finds out that they have left, he pursues after them and eventually catches up to them. Laban asks Jacob why he left without informing him. Jacob said that he was afraid that he would take his daughters away from his by force. Laban and Jacob decide to make a covenant of peace between them. On the following day Jacob and his family depart.
Laban owed Joseph a debt or payment, because of his dishonest ways. Laban didn’t make payment for his debt. However, Jacob forgave (to release from payment) him. God blessed Jacob by giving him the payment that Laban owed him.
In closing, we have just looked at four examples of forgiveness.
Adam and Eve, who committed the first sin, were not denied an opportunity by God to rely upon an atonement for their eternal destiny. God’s atonement and subsequent forgiveness is available to everyone no matter what transgressions they have committed.
Cain, who killed his brother Abel, had no remorse for what he had done. I believe that an atonement was always available for him to receive, but he had no desire for God to be a part of his life.
Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, but was aware of God’s working in his life. He saw everything from a divine perspective. Therefore, when the time came to forgive his brothers, Joseph was operating in God’s frame of mind in order to do so. The key to being able to forgive others is to get to know our self and our circumstances in the light of God’s perspective. This will bring about an understanding that God has a plan for our life that involves prosperity and adversity. In the midst of either one, if we set our mind on things above, then we will be a blessing to others.
Jacob was swindled and lied to by Laban time and time again. However, he was aware of God’s working in his life, because he worked with God for his life. As he maintained a divine perspective toward his interactions with Laban, he revealed to him divine patience in mistreatment, endurance or sticktuitiveness when times are tough, honesty in his dealings when he was treated dishonestly, and speech which did not complain or disparage Laban’s character.
Do you want to reveal God’s forgiveness toward others?
If you do, then remember you can’t do this by trying to copy these expressions for yourself. God doesn’t want us to be an outward copy, but a copy whose expression comes from within, in our thoughts. Learn to think with God’s perspective in every area of your life and you will exhibit his forgiveness toward others.
Eventually, your life will be known by others, to be like the person, who has become your best friend and example.
1 Peter 2:21-23. 21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
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