Updated: Mar 30, 2022
Have you ever had one of those moments where you just wanted to rewind something you had done? Maybe you were talking about someone behind their back and you started to notice an alarmed look on the person’s face you were talking to that could only mean one thing-that person you were talking about was right behind you. You then got that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, knowing you really messed up this time and you’re not quite sure how you’re going to get out of this one.
We humans mess up a lot. We often think we can hide our mistakes from God, which is pretty hard to do considering He sees EVERYTHING! It seems easier to try to pretend these mistakes never happened than to have to face Him. We think about Big, Mean God throwing down His wrath like a ball of fire. And we often forget that while He does demand justice-being the perfect God that He is-He also offers forgiveness. All we have to do is ask for it and it’s ours.
Let’s look at five situations in the Old Testament where God showed mercy when people made some mammoth blunders.
Adam & Eve-
Scripture: “So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”
- Genesis 3:23-24
Context: Adam and Eve were the pinnacle of God’s creation. They lived in the Garden of Eden, took care of everything God had created, and had fellowship with God. They only had to follow one rule: Eat whatever you want in the garden except fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What a great gig!
Enter the serpent. He’s slick. He’s cunning. And he talks Eve right into eating from that tree. Adam’s standing right there and decides to take a bite himself. And they do experience the knowledge of good and evil-just like God himself. Except, not quite. God understood all things in His holiness, but man had learned through disobedience. The first emotion they both felt was shame. They tried to cover their shame by creating clothing out of fig leaves. When they heard God walking toward them soon after (Seriously-God walking toward them; how cool is that?!), they hid from Him in their guilt and shame. God confronts them on their sin (their disobedience to what He had commanded), and they are blaming everyone left and right. And God punishes Adam, Eve, and the serpent for what they have done.
God’s Forgiveness Visible: While there are consequences for Adam and Eve’s actions, God-so loving that He is-provides sufficient clothing for them to wear out of animal skin. He is foreshadowing Jesus one day taking the punishment for all of our sin to bring us out of our guilt and shame.
Scripture: “But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’” - Numbers 20:12
Context: “Moses” literally means to be pulled or drawn out. This Hebrew baby was named Moses when the daughter of the Egyptian pharaoh pulled him out of a basket in the water. Pharaoh had ordered all male Hebrew babies to be killed when they were born. Out of desperation, one mom put her baby inside a basket and floated him along the river. Her quick thinking saved her child’s life.
After having a run-in with the law when he was older and living under Pharaoh’s roof, that same child, Moses, ended up meeting with God in a burning bush in the wilderness. God used Moses and his brother Aaron to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt with the goal of ending up in the Promised Land He had set aside for them. And boy did God roll out the miracles. Every day these people got to experience things that only God could do. From parting the Red Sea to keeping from getting old (Where can I buy some of THESE clothes?!), God showed up for them.
And still, the Israelites grumbled. They were tired. They were hungry. Why couldn’t they go back to Egypt where everything was great (Um, did you forget the slavery part, guys?)? Blah, blah blah. God had used Moses to perform several miracles throughout the Israelites’ long journey. God would often tell Moses to do something pretty crazy-like hold up his staff and they would win a battle against the Amalekites. During one of the Israelites’ pity parties, Numbers 20:3-4 says, “They quarreled with Moses and said, ‘If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!’” (Told you these guys were dramatic)
Moses and Aaron met with God, and God told them to talk to a rock in front of the people and water would come out. But Moses was just too angry from all the Israelites’ complaining. He disobeyed God and struck the rock in front of everyone. He allowed anger to take a foothold and totally disobeyed God. And God delivers a crushing blow to Moses and Aaron. He tells them, “Hey, you didn’t listen to me and trust in me, so you will not be taking these people into the land I promised them.”
God’s Forgiveness Visible: Even in the middle of Moses’ disobedience, God shows His mercy. He still allows water to come from the rock for everyone to drink. And when it is time for Moses to leave this earth, God allows Him to see the Promised Land from the top of Mount Nebo and to take part in handing off his leadership role to Joshua. Moses is strong until the day he dies. And Deuteronomy 34 says that after God shows Moses the Promised Land, Moses dies and God Himself buries him. What an example of His loving kindness.
Scripture: “Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison.” - Judges 16:21
Context: Samson lived during a time of Israel’s continuant defiance against God. Dedicated as a Nazarite at birth, Samson was never to cut his hair. God wanted to use him to defeat the Philistines who were oppressing the Israelites, and Samson’s long hair was an outward sign of God’s presence in him. While God’s presence was inside Samson, the dude was STRONG. Like, tear open a lion strong (Seriously, he did that.)
Unfortunately, Samson had a problem. He liked Philistine women. A lot. And the Philistines continuously tried to use this weakness against him. They threatened these women and offered them money to take Samson down.
Delilah was Samson’s true downfall. He was absolutely crazy about her. He was so head over heels that he didn’t even seem to get it when she was asking how he was so strong. Night after night, she tried to find out the secret of his strength to tell the Philistines. They would come in to attack him and he would still show his super strength. He danced around the truth for a while, but he finally gave in and told Delilah he had never cut his hair. Delilah cut Samson’s hair and all his strength left him. The Philistines attacked and were successful this time. The thing is, it wasn’t truly Samson’s hair that made him strong. It was God’s presence. And when Samson decided to put this woman above God in his life, God’s presence left him.
God’s Forgiveness Visible: The Philistine were brutal to Samson, taking away his sight and putting him in prison to do hard, manual labor. Not so easy without supernatural strength. During this difficult time in Samson’s life, he had a lot of time to think and to cry out to God. There’s such a cool moment of symbolism in Judges as Samson’s hair begins to grow back while his faith grows stronger. Samson is called in front of the Philistines to entertain them during one of their celebrations. He sees an opportunity to finally defeat the Philistines for the Lord. He asks God if He will give him back that supernatural strength just this one time to defeat the Philistines. God grants this request and allows Samson to bring down more Philistines in his death than he had during his life. So, where’s God’s forgiveness in this? This still sounds brutal! Imagine being filled with God’s presence and it being ripped from you in a moment. It would cause a desperate loneliness, thirst and desire that nothing could fill. As soon as Samson asks for this presence to enter his life again, God is there. He was there the whole time, just waiting for Samson to ask.
Scripture: “‘Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.’” - 2 Kings 22:13
Context: Named king of Judah at 8 years old, Josiah was one of the few “good kings,” meaning he tried to follow David’s example of how a king should be. However, Josiah was following heretell-he didn’t actually have the first five books of the Bible at his fingertips to follow. Hilkiah, the high priest during Josiah’s reign, found the Torah when the temple was being repaired and gave it to Josiah’s secretary, who then read it to the king. Josiah was devastated after he heard God’s words. He realized that his kingdom was totally screwed up. No one was doing what they were supposed to, and according to God’s word, they were all going to pay for it.
God’s Forgiveness Visible: God speaks through a prophetess and sends word to Josiah that yes, everyone has royally messed up, and He is going to have to bring judgment on them. But because Josiah was so filled with conviction when he found the Books of the Law, God said he wouldn’t let this happen under Josiah’s rule. He would rule in peace and not have to experience the disasters that would come.
Throughout these stories, we see that sin still has consequences. Debts have to be paid. But even in our worst moments when we turn to God and away from our selfish ways, He turns to us and shows His loving kindness. In every story, He is always waiting for us. And He always makes a way. That’s God’s forgiveness visible.
Looking for songs about God forgiving us in our worst moments?
Check out these songs from Red Letter Society:
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