Elohay Selichot: The God who forgives

Written by Charles Ekong

04/03/2024

Frequent readers will attest I’m a big advocate of examining the ideologies we hold. How and what we think is initially a product of nurture and environment. Unsurprisingly, some of those ideologies will be faulty. As such, we must do the intellectual work of examining and editing our beliefs constantly because they ultimately determine the outcomes of our lives. As a follower of Jesus, the plumb line for my thought patterns is the word of God. So, I must regularly examine my ideologies against Scripture and ruthlessly eliminate any which doesn’t align with God’s nature and character. That said, thought patterns can be insidious. As such, we can be ignorant of their effect until God shines a light on it. That’s what happened to me recently. 

During a quiet time last week, I was investigating the etymology of a Hebrew word in a passage I was studying when I stumbled on a blog on a somewhat unrelated subject. The blog was expounding on the name Elohay Selichot: The God who forgives as found in Nehemiah 9:17. It’s not one of the more common names of God, so intrigued, I read on, and in the next few minutes, God shone a light on a faulty paradigm I didn’t even know I held. It’s interesting because one of the first things most Christians learn is that God forgives [Exodus 34:7]. But sadly, many of us skim over Bible verses about the forgiving nature of God and, at best, mentally assent to them. So, they have little or no impact on our ideologies. As such, the liberating effect of the forgiving grace of God isn’t evident in our lives. 

Why do we need a God who forgives? Simply put, we’re damned if He doesn’t forgive us when we wrong Him. The Bible describes three ways we wrong God: sin, transgression and iniquity. Sin, although generally used to describe disobeying God’s commandments, is simply missing the mark. Transgression is the violation of a prohibition. Lastly, iniquity is moral evil – perversity or obstinance. Unless God intervenes, the penalty for all three is death [Ezekiel 18:4,20]. As was the case with Adam, the first to sin, the sinner initially dies spiritually because sin severs our connection with God, the source of life. Then, his soul, without a spirit connected to God and submitted to His will, sinks into depravity as sin pervades his nature [Jeremiah 17:9]. Then, whether it’s 930 years like Adam or one day, the body eventually dies. Whoever hasn’t kept God’s laws perfectly has sinned [James 2:10-12]. From Adam to date, no human being except Jesus has met God’s standard of righteousness [Romans 3:23]. So, we all need forgiveness desperately [1 John 1:9].

We were all dead in our sins after Adam’s fall and, therefore, hopeless [Psalm 51:5]. But God, in His great love, stepped in and saved us [Ephesians 2:1-10]. He sent His Son to pay the price for our sins on the cross [Romans 5:6-11], and He paid for our sins once and for all [Hebrews 10:10]. So, today, because of the blood of Jesus, God forgives and continues to forgive anyone who genuinely desires forgiveness, irrespective of their sin, iniquity or transgression [Colossians 1:12-15, Psalm 32:5]. These are fundamental Christian doctrines I thought I understood. But I had mental assent, not revelation. I’d never truly understood what being forgiven meant. So, new insight came as I read that the word Nehemiah used for forgiveness could also be translated as pardon – which means release from penalty, cancellation of punishment or absolution. I finally understood that when God forgives a wrong, He also forgets it [Isaiah 43:25]. In legal terms, He wipes the record clean – so that from His perspective, it’s like the sin never happened. As a result, the one forgiven is unreservedly free [John 8:36].

Unfortunately, though God forgives and forgets our sins, we sometimes struggle to forgive ourselves, let alone forget what we did. These memories can lead to shame, guilt and regret. Our adversary knows this and does all he can to keep our focus on them, especially if we’re living with the consequences of our failings. If we’re unaware of his ploy, we’ll beat ourselves up or wallow in self-pity for something God has expunged from our record [Isaiah 44:22]. We may even tell ourselves we deserve what’s happening to us. Jesus either paid the price for all our sins, or He didn’t. The Bible tells us He did [Isaiah 53]. So, it’s illegal for us to pay for it again because the cross settled every legal claim or accusation from the devil or anyone else for our sins. That’s where I am today. Now, for the first time in my life, I can look at the consequences of my mistakes and tell myself: “I don’t have to accept or remain where my mistakes put me. God has forgiven me and given me the power to change my story, and I’m channelling all my energy into doing just that.” That’s such an exhilarating revelation for me. 

Maybe you need forgiveness, or you’re struggling to forgive yourself. Or people have said you don’t deserve forgiveness. Then, let me introduce you to Elohay Selichot: He’s not just the God who forgives; He’s also the God with the power to forgive [Isaiah 1:18, Luke 5:24]. Even if you’re the world’s worst sinner, there’s no price you can pay for your sins that’ll be greater than the blood of Jesus already poured out for you [Ephesians 1:7-8]. So, gratefully accept what Jesus did, turn away from your sins and embrace the life God has for you [Acts 3:19]. Discard every contrary ideology [Romans 12:2]. Don’t let the consequences of your past failings define you. Refuse to wallow in shame, regret and guilt for something God has chosen never to remember. 

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