Will God Forgive the Most Sinful of People?2
Will God Forgive the Most Sinful of People?
Many of us have heard people say "I've done too many bad things for God to
forgive me." This kind of thinking
generally comes from those who have been entrenched in sin and who may have actually done things that only a select few have done. On the one hand, this kind of thinking devalues and misunderstands our God's compassionate, merciful and forgiving nature. On the other, it reveals an erroneous belief system that has God as being One who only forgives people who have managed to avoid the depths of sin.
Perhaps this kind of sentiment is actually an excuse that someone will give so that they will not have to come to Christ and turn away from sin. Perhaps it's actually genuine, and they truly believe that this is what God is like and that they are
beyond His mercy and forgiveness.
One of my favourite Bible passages that sheds light on this topic and reveals God's all-encompassing, magnificent forgiveness is 2 Chronicles 33. The chapter begins by introducing us to Manasseh, a young boy who became King at 12 years of age. He would eventually go on to reign in Jerusalem for 55 years.
In verse 2, the account tells us that,
"He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel."
The extent of King Manasseh's slide into depravity and rebellion against the Lord was almost unparalleled. Verse 3 says,
"For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had broken down, and he erected altars to the Baals, and made Asheroth, and worshipped all the host of heaven and served them."
Then in verses 5-7,
"He built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. 6 And he burned his sons as an offering in the valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger. 7 And the carved image of the idol that he had made he set in the house of God."
We are also told that as a result of his position and role as King, he ultimately led the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, verse 10 states that the Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. In spite of Manasseh and the people's sin, God in His mercy gives these wayward individuals an opportunity to repent and turn back to Himself.
God in His sovereignty raised up the Assyrian King and his army, to capture Manasseh and to take him as a slave into Babylon. Verse 11 tells us that he was brutally treated as he was caught with hooks and bound with chains. The result was that Manasseh was in great distress and through his distress, he
humbled himself before the people and cried out to the Lord his God for mercy.
Can anyone today say as Manasseh did that they have brought idols into the
temple of the living God? Can anyone today say that they have turned God's
people away from Him and into idolatry? Can anyone today say that they have burned their own children in the fire as an act of sacrifice and worship to idols? It would be unlikely that many people have ever sinned against God in the same way that Manasseh had. If God only forgives people whose sins aren't too great, then Manasseh is in trouble and beyond forgiveness.
Verses 12-23 really bring clarity where there is confusion regarding the forgiveness of God available to mankind.
"And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to Him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God." The remainder of the chapter speaks of Manasseh's repentance unto righteousness as he brings about reforms in Jerusalem to the glory of God.
It is accurate to say that his plan of restoration didn't begin when the Lord was moved by Manasseh's treaty. It was the Lord who first brought Manasseh low, by raising up the Assyria King, who had him dragged off to Babyon. It was also the Lord who allowed and ordaind the suffering and pain that caused Manasseh to cry out in anguish to the Lord. The Lord our God doesn't just forgive, but He
orchestrates our circumstances so that we will seek Him and cry out to Him for mercy and forgiveness. We should know that no one no matter how sinful, is
beyond the measurable forgiveness of God.
Our awareness of sin and the extent of it, shouldn't drive us from the Lord but rather to Him. While men may not forgive you, nor desire for you to be restored, the One true God will forgive and restore you. This was made possible by God the Father sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross so that whoever believes in Him will have their sins forgiven and will be saved for all eternity.
Just as Manasseh's penitent prayer evoked the forgiveness of God, so too, after that penitent prayer, he also sought to live a life of repentance by removing sin and corruption while at the same time replacing it with God-honoring ways of
living. In this sense, repentance and forgiveness should never be one-off events, but rather they should be present realities in every believer's life as we all seek to glorify God.
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August 15, 2023Will God Forgive the Most Sinful of People?