The Good News of Jesus Christ

Category: Forgiving Page 2 of 3

God Forgives a Vow

God forgives people without a request. And this forgiveness can be a law and partially dependent on men.

Now “forgive” does not always mean to carry, lift, or take away. It also means to pardon or spare. We see this kind of meaning when we look at how God forgives women of their vows. When women made vows and were daughters or married, they were subject to their fathers’ or husbands’ authority. Hence, the Bible says, “…if her father refuses to let her fulfill the vow” and “…if her husband refuses to let her fulfill the vow which she vowed, the Lord will forgive her” (Numbers 30:5, 8). So if a daughter or wife made a vow and their fathers or husbands forbade them, God would forgive them. This act of forgiveness differs from the act of forgiveness Moses requested for the Israelites. For here, no one asks God to forgive. God forgives automatically upon the refusal of the father or husband. Still, we cannot say God’s will is absent in this action. He is the one who gave this law to the Israelites to follow. So God still wants, by his will, to forgive. Only here, forgiveness does not happen upon request. It happens because of a law of God. It is interesting that forgiveness, here, partially depends on the will of a man. In fact, if the father or husband did not refuse the daughter’s or wife’s vow, the daughter or wife would be bound to the vow. And if the daughter or wife did not fulfil her vow, she would be guilty of the sin of breaking a vow to God.

Request to Forgive

Forgiving is a choice that depends on what God wants.

After the Israelites made a gold calf to worship as a god, Moses knew they deserved punishment. Yet Moses did not wait to hear how God would punish them. He at once pleaded for God to forgive the Israelites. He said, “…if you will only forgive their sin” (Exodus 32:32). Now it might seem like a simple conclusion, that God can forgive sin. But the request of Moses tells us much more. The request of Moses tells us God can forgive sin. But whether he forgives sin or not depends on his will. For Moses says, “if you will,” not “since you must.” This means God’s act to forgive is not because of an obligation, but because he wants to. But one might say “God is bound to forgive those who sin by his very nature.” Yet if this were so, no one would go to hell. Since God knows all the actions of people, he would know of all the sins people. In this case, hell would be unnecessary if God had to forgive sin. For all sins would be forgiven. To be sure, God made the road to forgiveness easier with Jesus Christ. Still, God does not have to forgive sin. The request of Moses shows us God can either forgive sin or not. This is what the “if” implies. So Moses knew it was God’s choice whether to forgive Israel. Moses knew forgiveness was not a given.

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