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Christ Is Lord

He Forgave

“But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.” (Psalm 78:38)

Psalm 78 refers to the release of Israel from Egypt by God’s hand. In it, Israel’s unfaithfulness to the LORD is shown. For example, verses 35-37 say, “And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. Nevertheless, they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant.” Though the LORD had been gracious to them, and had mightily delivered them from Egypt, yet they turned from Him and worshipped idols.

But the wonderful thing in the above verse is what it tells about God’s character. It is revealed in how He reacted to their treatment of Him. And verse 39 explains why He did what He did, “For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.”

First, we are told that He is full of compassion. Or, He is merciful. Mercy is extended only where offense has occurred, it is not necessary for someone who is innocent. He was merciful to them in their sin against Him. Had God not been merciful, His justice would require punishment for their sin. Again, verse 39 explains the immediate reason for His compassion. Psalm 103:14 puts it this way, “For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”

Then, because of His mercy, He forgave their iniquity. Since God is the offended party in all sin, He is the only one that can forgive it. It is wonderful to know that God is willing to forgive. When Jesus taught about forgiveness, He and Peter had a discussion. In Matthew 18:21, 22 we read, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” This kind of forgiveness is not just for us to offer. He, too, forgives to beyond 490 times. The fact is that we have all offended God so many more times than that.

Then we are told that He did not destroy them. God had made promises to Israel about the inheritance which He would give them. Had He destroyed them because of their sin, He would have been unable to keep those promises. Before He made them, He knew in what way they would sin against Him. He made a plan by which He would be able to forgive their sin. Because of this plan He did not destroy them, though surely they deserved it, and even though He had every right to do so.

Many times He turned away His anger. This is one side of a coin concerning God’s dealings with His people. He deferred His anger. We have all endured when someone, even of our family, has done something that has caused us to be angry. But as we consider what was done, and who it was that had done it, we set aside our anger for their sake. It is something we choose to do. As noted before, Jesus spoke of forgiving, and told Peter that he should forgive many times. Here, God turned away His anger many times. He deferred His righteous anger against them.

And, many times He did not stir up all His wrath. This is the other side of the coin. When He did move with anger, He did not stir up all His wrath. In Ezra 9:13, Ezra said, “And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this…” Judah was back in the land that God had given them after seventy years of captivity. Ezra brought up the obvious. They had received less than what their iniquities deserved.

God says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). This is not only physical death, but it is also spiritual death, or separation from Him in Hell. This is why Jesus died. He took in mankind’s place the punishment that they deserve for sin. This was God’s plan from before the foundation of the world. And on this basis God can show the mercy and forgiveness that is His nature. Since His wrath was poured out on Jesus, His justice was satisfied. Sadly, not everyone receives the sacrifice of Jesus as being for them. But, for those that do there is mercy, grace, forgiveness, and assurance of eternal life.

In Romans 5:6-10 Paul said, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

As David said in Psalm 32:1, 2, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.”

This is Who God is, compassionate, gracious, and forgiving. It is He that planned, even before creating us, to reconcile mankind to Himself through Jesus Christ!

Great God of wonders! all Thy ways

Display Thine attributes divine;

But the bright glories of thy grace

Above Thine other wonders shine:


Who is a pardoning God like Thee?

Or who has grace so rich and free?

Who is a pardoning God like Thee?

Or who has grace so rich and free?

Such deep transgressions to forgive!

Such guilty sinners thus to spare!

This is Thy grand prerogative,

And in this honor none shall share:


Pardon, from an offended God!

Pardon, for sins of deepest dye!

Pardon, bestowed through Jesus’ blood!

Pardon, that brings the rebel nigh!

CHORUS (Samuel Davies)