I was reading Psalm 130:4 this week, which says: But with you there is forgiveness, so that you may be feared. That’s odd – what does fear have to do with forgiveness? If anything, shouldn’t forgiveness breed the opposite of fear? Before you default to translating “fear” as “awe”, remember that the most common usage of the Hebrew word, yirah, is to designate fear.
With that in mind, it is helpful to think from two perspectives. First, from Satan’s perspective: the Satan we find in the Old Testament (Job and Zechariah) is the being who accuses humans in front of God. Indeed, Satan would like nothing better than to see us punished according to God’s own law. So, what foils his plans? – forgiveness!!! God’s forgiveness strikes fear into the heart of Satan because it saves us from punishment. Pretty “awe”some!!! Now, think of forgiveness from our perspective. When you approach a God who knows your every thought and every deed, it can be scary. Yet, because God forgives us, we stand in awe. But I wonder how much we take this for granted. In the Old Testament, there is no sacrifice for intentional sins. Rather, you were supposed to approach the aggrieved party, make restitution, and ask for forgiveness.
It is scary to think of asking forgiveness from everyone we have wronged. That would require us to swallow our ego and be transparent – now that is truly scary! But how much better would the world be if we did just that (especially our marriages). And, on top of that, imagine if we all approached God, not by simply saying a quick prayer for forgiveness, but with the same egoless and transparent attitude that we would use with the person standing in front of us.
Associate Pastor Emeritus, Greg Zehner