The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. 3 Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help;
Seven times. Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord SEVEN times! After they did the evil thing (more often than not, worshipping some other god) the Lord put them into the hands of some conqueror or other, and they cried out for help. And then not only did God forgive them, but sent a Judge to save them!
I find this repeated willingness of God to forgive Israel so comforting. Yes, they paid consequences for their actions, but when that was done and they asked God for help, the help was forthcoming. They were forgiven over and over again.
I find it comforting because it tells me that I, too, will be forgiven. I will face consequences. I will need to own up to what I have done, and ask forgiveness. But when those things have taken place, I, too, will be forgiven.
So in Matthew 18:21 when Peter came to Jesus and said, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” the reply had to be Yes. Even seven times seven times. Because if God could forgive Israel seven times, who chased after other gods forgetting all that the Lord had done for her, then surely I can forgive some much lesser sin against me at least that often.
Forgiveness may be the greatest of all the blessings the Lord showers upon us. Forgiveness is love wrapped up in grace and mercy, poured out by a compassionate God. It is a healing balm, the water of reconciliation, washing away our guilt and fear. And for this, I am so grateful.
Forgiving God, just as you forgave Israel every time she wandered away from you, so too you have forgiven me. And so too I must forgive those who sin against me. May I keep in mind the depth of your love for me and all your people whenever I am asked to forgive. Amen