Summary: Part 1 of 8 in a series covering "words" in the Bible that are all too often overlooked, marginalized, or ignored.
INTRODUCTION: We live and breathe words; words can light fires in the minds of men, words can wring tears from the hardest hearts, words can provoke us to action, and paralyze us with fear… they provide a voice to our deepest feelings. There is an almost unquantifiable power in words, they have started and stopped wars, built and lost fortunes, won and lost empires and taken and saved lives. Big words, small words, all have impact, even ones that we often view as insignificant. Scripture is a vast library of words, not our words, but God’s, words that will outlive all of us, ones that speak life, speak God into our lives, and shape our very being.
BACKGROUND: What is the most “beautiful” word in the Bible? Well I guess the answer would depend on who you ask, for there are several words that would fit that description quite well, faith, hope, love, peace, grace, salvation… and the list goes on and on. But by far the greatest word in all of scripture is “forgiveness,” for in it all of these above are played out in real life. Like all the colors of the rainbow, the word “forgiveness” includes all the attributes of God, His wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth! – consider the words of the Psalmist (130:4)
Forgiveness is the most beautiful because it cancels out the effect of the saddest word in the Bible; sin. It shines as a light in the darkness. It is also the most beautiful word because it is the costliest word, for forgiveness requires a price to be paid, and that price is a death. (Hebrews 9:22) Before God could pronounce it, Christ had to die! It is the most beautiful word, not simply because human reasoning says so, but because the Bible, God’s story so clearly illustrates it, forgiveness is the crimson thread running thought it!
A BETRAYED BROTHER
• Never in the pages of the Old Testament was there ever a more heartless and cruel crime than the one perpetrated against Joseph by his brothers (Genesis 37)
• Torn from family and friends, cast into the chains of slavery, accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and his reward for maintaining integrity was to be cast into prison… quite a life huh?
• Then God stepped in in a mighty way, and Joseph went from the “prison” to the “palace” almost overnight – and then when it didn’t appear things could get any stranger – in walk his brothers
• The years which Joseph spent in slavery and prison could have been the occasion for a “slow burn” that might have ignited into an explosion of anger at the sight of his brothers, could have, but didn’t
• The high point of Joseph’s relationship with his brothers comes in chapter 45, for it is here that there is a reconciliation brought about between them – repentance on their part, forgiveness on his
• Reconciliation was achieved through his sincere and total forgiveness of his brothers for the great evil they had committed against him.
• Joseph’s words and actions are filled with hope and encouragement, (Genesis 45:5) he assures his brothers that their sin against him had not thwarted the purposes of God.
• “You sold me,” Joseph said, “but God sent me”
• Their purpose was to destroy, but God’s was to save… it was his ultimate purpose!
A DYING THEIF
• The saddest hour the earth ever saw was when Jesus hung on the cross between two common criminals, rejected and forsaken by those He created and those He loved
• There sin struck it’s most violent blow, and pronounced it’s most powerful word “death”
• Yet that day, so awash in tragedy, that even creation itself lamented, we see another word spoken, one more powerful than even death… “forgiveness” (Luke 23:39-43)
• The thief was wanting to be saved, not from the cross, but from his sins, he knew his punishment was just, the texts says as much
• It was eternity that was on his mind, and his plea was incessant “remember me” is an “imperfect verb” it was a repeated statement, remember me…remember me…remember me…
• Jesus’ answer to this penitent man is direct and to the point “Truly I say” this is a commitment from Jesus, as if He’s saying “I will not fail you, I have determined to go through with it!”
• To this man Jesus says “amen” – “so be it” – this is a solemn binding decree
• There is no doubt about it… forgiveness is the most beautiful of word – we see it not only for this man, but as a prayer from Jesus Himself, “father forgive them” (Luke 23:34)
• Now this statement is somewhat puzzling to many readers, simply because Jesus, being God could have forgiven them, He did it before… why didn’t he just do it now?