“Happy is the man whose sin Jehovah will by no means take into account.”
The verse the Apostle Paul is quoting in this passage is a Psalm which continues: “In whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Ps. 32:2)
In order to benefit from the joy of being granted true forgiveness, we must first turn around from our evil course. (Eze. 33:11; Acts 3:19; Ep. 4:22-24)
This implies being humble enough to recognize the error of our ways and a willingness to put in the effort to change.
Once we have demonstrated our repentance, we are able to feel the joy that comes from being reconciled to God through Jesus. (Rom. 5:11)
The knowledge that God loves us and assumes the best in us when we try to please him can carry us joyfully through difficult times. (Rom. 5:2-6)
“[…] For this son of mine was dead but has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they started to enjoy themselves.”
In the illustration of the prodigal son, neither the repentant son nor his compassionate father dwell on the bitter past.
They focus on the present and rejoice in each other’s company.
When someone who wronged us, insulted us or even ruined our name and reputation, comes back humbly ready to make amends, are we able to bury the past?
Or what if we are like the prodigal son who squandered everything valuable and lost all sense of self-worth?
Do we trust in Jehovah’s mercy and let him heal us emotionally and spiritually, letting him use us to do his will again? Or do we resist his holy spirit and stubbornly hold on to negativity, even against ourselves?
Jesus’ illustration shows us the wisdom of focusing on the present and moving past sadness and anger. (Lu. 15:11-32)
“[…] If you had understood what this means, ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless ones.”
Often we think of mercy as an accessory to justice. But really, justice is a means for God to express his mercy toward us.
Because of his mercy, Jehovah God sent his only-begotten son to earth to die for our sins. (Ro. 5:8-11)
Jesus thereby satisfied God’s law of ‘a life for a life,’ replacing Adam as our first father, and opened the way for us to reconcile with God. (De. 19:21; 1 Cor. 15:45)
God’s law was founded on mercy, so Jesus highlighted mercy as the underlying principle in the application of his law.
If we are motivated by a sincere desire to aid those who are at a spiritual or material disadvantage, our heavenly Father takes notice. (Prov. 19:17; 2 Cor. 4:1,2)
“[…] Although I have fallen, I will rise up; Although I dwell in the darkness, Jehovah will be my light.”
When we sin against God, we can recover spiritually not by our own merits, but by God’s own undeserved mercy.
We should not take a spiritual fall in such a way that we believe it is impossible to recover.
Certainly, if our spiritual standing depended solely on ourselves, then in our imperfection, we might never be faithful. (Ro. 3:23)
But because God reaches out to those repentant in order to draw them back close to him, we can trust that full spiritual recovery is possible. (Mic. 7:18,19)
To benefit from his help, we must show humility and patience. (Mic. 7:9)
“You should not gloat over your brother’s day on the day of his misfortune,
You should not rejoice over the people of Judah on the day of their perishing,
And you should not speak so arrogantly on the day of their distress.”
Many Bible prophecies are directed toward the nation of Edom because they were distant relatives of the nations of Israel and Judah.
Edomites descended from Esau, the twin brother of Jacob (Israel). (Ge. 36:1; De. 2:4-6)
As such, God expected mutual respect between the Edomites and his people.
But this did not end up being the case; there was often war between both nations. (1 Sam. 14:47; 2 Sam. 8:13; 2 Ki. 14:7; Amos 1:11)
In this particular prophecy, Jehovah God warns the Edomites that when judgment came upon Jerusalem, they should not rejoice.
Nowadays, God’s servants do not war against others, but try to bring people a message of peace and hope. (Matt. 24:14)
Sometimes we are in situations where people who used to be friendly/receptive to God’s message are suddenly and inexplicably rude to us.
We should not rush to judge those people, saying they deserve whatever judgment may be coming their way, nor rejoice in the idea of their future calamity.
“This is why every loyal one will pray to you
While you may yet be found.”
Who does God consider to be a “loyal one”?
The previous verse is referring to someone who confesses their sins to God and whom God pardons (Psalm 32:5).
Since we are all imperfect sinners, to remain close to Him I must first recognize and value the extent of His mercy and kindness toward me.
If I trust in Jehovah, He will ‘surround me with His loyal love’ and, despite my errors, I will be able to rejoice joyfully among the righteous (Psalm 32:10,11).
In effect, it is possible for God to consider us, mere sinners, as being “upright in heart,” so long as we do not try to deceive Him.
And when we recognize the immense value of this, we may even find happiness (Psalm 32:1,2).
“Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself on my account? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the calamity during his lifetime. […]”
~1 Kings 21:29
The point I’d like to highlight of last week’s reading is the mercy Jehovah extended toward King Ahab of northern Israel, despite Ahab’s evil ways.
“[…] There has never been anyone like Ahab, who was so determined to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah, egged on by his wife Jezebel,” (1 Ki. 21:25).
Jehovah is able to see past a person’s sins and give him a chance to change time after time because he sees his full potential.
If someone humbles himself, Jehovah is always ready to make peace with that person.
In Ahab’s case, he did not fully grasp the privilege of being forgiven, for he continued to endanger true prophets’ lives and ended up going to war against God’s will, where he died (1 Ki. 22:26-28, 34, 35).
Truly Jehovah is “good and ready to forgive,” so long as we follow through with repentance by changing our ways of the past (Ps. 86:5).
When you are in great distress and all these things have happened to you in later times, then you will return to Jehovah your God and listen to his voice.
Jehovah knew that eventually the Israelites’ descendants would lose faith in him and be ‘scattered among the peoples,’ (De. 4:27).
There, they would offend him when they fell into the practice of idol worshiping (De. 4:28).
But he would not forsake them.
“If you search for Jehovah your God from there, you will certainly find him, if you inquire for him with all your heart and with all your soul. […] For Jehovah your God is a merciful God. He will not desert you or bring you to ruin or forget the covenant that he swore to your forefathers,” (De. 4:29, 31).
Within the congregation, this may apply to those who either in the past or future commit serious sins against Jehovah and break the pact they made with him upon baptism.
What recourse do they have when later on in life they find themselves alone and in trouble?
God himself extends the following invitation:
“[…] If you return to me and observe my commandments and obey them, though your dispersed people should be at the end of the heavens, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place that I have chosen to have my name reside,” (Ne. 1:9).
The congregation doors are still open “and he will not turn his face away from you if you return to him,” (2 Ch. 30:9).
If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has fallen under its load, you must not ignore it and leave. You must help him release the animal.
But the seventh year you should leave [the field] uncultivated and let it lie fallow, and the poor among your people will eat of it, and what they leave, the wild animals of the field will eat.
Six days you are to do your work; but on the seventh day, you are to cease from your labor, in order that your bull and your donkey may rest […]
You must not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
These verses are particularly moving as they highlight how Jehovah’s compassion extends to all living creatures.
His law protected even those who have no voice: animals.
Thus we humans are provided with some insight as to what he considers to be the ethical treatment of animals.
Though it is true that God put every living thing under the authority of humankind, he did not authorize us to abuse animals or expose them to cruel, anti-natural conditions, (Gen. 9:2,3).
This is why he prohibited the Israelites from boiling a goat in its own mother’s milk, for that milk was originally intended to nurture the goat, not kill it.
Truly, “the righteous one takes care of his domestic animals, even the mercy of the wicked is cruel,” (Prov. 12:10).