What does it mean to forgive someone and what are the consequences for not forgiving someone? Does forgiveness have the same meaning as to oversee? We often hear the saying “forgive and forget” but little do we grasp the real meaning thereof.
When we forgive someone, in essence we forget and pardon the wrong doings although we might remember their actions. We declare in the presence of God that those wrong doings does not carry any weight in our lives and we set the wrong doer free and ask God to do the same.
Jesus is our ultimate example; when he was brutally crucified and bore the shame of the world on His shoulders, He exclaimed: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” Luke 23:34.
Jesus, the Son of God, became the Son of Man to dwell amongst us, to teach us His ways, to show us that His Word is about love and a loving relationship with Him. He even loved the ones that crucified Him and forgave them without blinking. His will, as He made clear in that short but powerful prayer, is to have us forgiven and in right stand with God unconditionally.
Forgiveness is therefore a key cornerstone within relationships, no matter who the relationship is with. The same applies to our relationship with our Father in heaven. He wants us forgiven and He requires of us to forgive others so that He may also forgive us all our trespassing.
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25
Nasaw and Calach
There are two root words used most often in the Bible with reference to forgiving and forgiveness. The first one is referring to the one whom is forgiven. The Hebrew word “nasaw” (Strong’s number 05375) means:
to lift, bear up, carry, take
to lift, lift up,
to bear, carry, support, sustain, endure
to take, take away, carry off, forgive
to cause one to bear (iniquity)
to cause to bring, have brought
An example of that word found in the Bible is:
“Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin” (Psa 85:2)
To replace some of the meaningful words found in the Strongs dictionary with the word forgiven, in this verse, it could read as follows:
1. Thou hast carried our iniquity…
2. Thou hast taken away our iniquity…
3. Thou hast endured our iniquity…
The same word “nasaw” is used in the following verse as the word bear:
“And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.” (Lev 5:17)
The next Hebrew word, “calach” is used to describe the action of the one who forgives. In the Strongs dictionary its meaning is as follows:
to forgive, pardon
to be forgiven
To keep this message simple, the one that forgives pardons the forgiven of his wrong doings while the forgiven person has had his sins carried, taken away and lifted up. The words used to describe what happens when we are forgiven, how our sins are taken and carried away, sounds like a divine intervention ‘cause who can take and carry away our sins but Christ?
It’s about a relationship
Forgiveness then, is an element of God’s nature that He wishes us to express to others. When we as mere humans forgive someone else of what they have done unto us, we express the love of God to those persons and we are blessed at the same time. We have lifted a burden not only from that person but also from ourselves because now we can be forgiven by our heavenly Father for what we have done wrong in His eyes.
God requires of us to live a forgiving life; just as love should abound in our relationships with one another, so too, a forgiving spirit should we seek always. This we will do not because we only need God’s forgiveness but because we love Him; remember that a forgiving spirit is all about a relationship with the One that we love above all, the person Jesus Christ that died for us when we were yet sinners.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
“…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13
God’s true forgiveness
I think that the ultimate example of true forgiveness is when God pardoned the Jewish nation for their constant falling away from His commandments, and still God forgave them time and again, over and over. Why did God forgive them so many times? I can only think of one reason and that is His love for people! He was willing to die to proof that kind of deep love to us so that we may have a direct relationship with Him.
Remember this famous question my Peter towards Jesus about forgiveness?
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” Matt 18:21
In the Jewish mindset of that time, it was custom to forgive someone three times, just to be absolutely sure that they have forgiven that person as the law requires of them. It was kind of a Jewish tradition and surely is a good thing, but Peter probably thought that he was going to score brownie points by quoting seven times, instead of three.
Can you images Peters reaction when Jesus replied with the following:
“…I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Matt 18:22
What Jesus said was seventy times seven, 490 times in other words. What could Jesus possibly have referred to? I believe that He showed them and us today also, how deep God’s desire to forgive us really is.
In the book of Daniel chapter 9, we read about a certain prophecy, which is also called the Messianic prophecy. In this prophecy Daniel is shown a vision of a time period of seventy weeks, seventy times seven days in other words.
The prophecy tells us that a period of seventy weeks is given to Israel to repent and if they harden their hearts towards God and do not repent in that time, God will destroy the holy city and the figurative fig tree will die. Firstly I have to say that the period of seventy weeks is not 490 literal days but 490 literal years, as a prophetic day resembles a literal year. Israel was therefore given a period of 490 years to repent and God was even more merciful by setting the start date of the prophecy many years into the future from the time it was given.
That 490 year period began in the year 457BC and ended in around 33AD, with the stoning of Stephen. We read in Acts how Stephen died and what his remarkable last words were:
“And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:59-60
Stephen saw Jesus in a vision before he died and he pleaded to God not to hold this sin against them. What was he talking about, the sin of stoning him or the sin for not accepting the Messiah as a nation? I believe both, because the 490 year period was over in that exact same year, and immediately after this incident in Acts, the gospel went to the gentiles.
The message here is not about God’s judgment on Israel, but rather on God continued forgiveness to His chosen nation Israel. He pardoned their rejection of His laws and commandments and their rejection of the Messiah and even warned them in advance about it, for century upon century!
When Jesus then said to forgive others not seven times but seventy times seven times, He meant that we should forgive others time and again, over and over without holding back. God Himself showed us the example of true forgiveness and of patience towards sinners and of love for one another. God will forgive us our sins when we have forgiven others, repented and asked God for forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is permanent and forever, He said that He will remove our sin as far as the east is from the west and to that promise we may hold on without doubt!
God never holds back when it comes to forgiveness and He has proofed it to us time and again, over and over, and He sealed that promise with His own blood that flowed on the cross at Calvary. Make a forgiving spirit part of who you are and see your relationship with God through Jesus Christ multiply. It’s all about relationship with Him, the everlasting One.