PROVISION FOR FORGIVENESS OF SINS
A Powerful Alliance
A young man in the Middle Ages confessed the sin of gossip to a monk. The monk instructed him to place a feather on every doorstep in town, then to go back and retrieve each one. “Why, the wind will have blown them all over town by the time I go back,” objected the lad. The monk replied, “So has your slanderous word become impossible to retrieve as well.”
A murderer can be forgiven, but the dead remain dead. A gossip can be forgiven, but the wounded remain wounded. A profligate can be forgiven, but his wasted years remain wasted. Sin leaves an easy-to-follow trail of consequences even after we have been forgiven. The price God paid to hear our confession—the death of His Son on the cross—does not automatically cover the cost or erase the consequences of what we have done.
Israel left a trail of consequences forty years long in the sands of Sinai. When God was ready to destroy the Israelites for their obstinate behavior and lack of faith, Moses pleaded with Him to forgive them (Num. 14:13–19). He argued that greater good would come to God’s name and purposes through forgiving than through destroying the people of Israel. God agreed with Moses, with a caveat: “I have pardoned them according to your word, but . . .” (14: 20–21).
That was a “but” that Israel didn’t want to hear. Although God’s forgiveness removed the guilt of the Israelites’ sin, it did not remove the roadblock to inheriting what their obedience would have secured. However, wandering for forty years was better than floundering for eternity.
Consequences remind us of what confession gains—the forgiveness of sin—but also of what yet remains—the sorrows of sin. Forgiveness and consequences together forge a powerful alliance against the temptation to sin again.
He allows consequences not in order to haunt you, but in order to teach you.