- The Fifth Forgiveness Saying
- Where does the practice of forgiveness end and non-forgiveness begin?
- Amos and the rabbinical limit of not forgiving more than three offenses
- Thankfully, to Adonai people are not as expendable as nations
- The rule of forgiving seventy-seven times symbolizes Unlimited Forgiveness
The Fifth Forgiveness Saying:
וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו פֶּטְרוֹס וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אֲדֹנִי כַּמַה פְּעָמִים יֶחֱטָא־לִי אָחִי וּמָחַלְתִּי לוֹ הַעַד שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו יֵשׁוּעַ לֹא־אֹמַר לְךָ עַד־שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים כִּי עַד־שִׁבְעִים וְשֶׁבַע׃
Petros approached Him and said to Him, “Master, if my brother sins against me, how many times should I pardon him—up to seven times?” Yeshua (the Salvation of Adonai) said: “I will not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy-seven.”
הִשָּׁמְרוּ לְנַפְשׁוֹתֵיכֶם כִּי־יֶחֱטָא לְךָ אָחִיךָ הוֹכַח לוֹ וְאִם־יִנָּחֵם מְחֹל לוֹ׃ וְכִי־יֶחֱטָא לְךָ שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים בַּיּוֹם וְשָׁב אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים בַּיּוֹם וְאָמַר נִחָמְתִּי וּמָחַלְתָּ לּוֹ׃
“Guard yourselves! If your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he is remorseful, pardon him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day and repents to you seven times in a day and says, ‘I am remorseful’ pardon him.”
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Master, how often shall my brother sin against me and I pardon (forgive) him? Up to seven times?” Yeshua said to him, “I will not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy-seven.” [Therefore] “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day and repents to you seven times in a day and says, ‘I am remorseful’ pardon him.”
Where does the practice of forgiveness end and non-forgiveness begin?
The Fifth Forgiveness Saying of Messiah begins with Shim’on Petros essentially asking the Master what is the ceiling on forgiveness? At what point have I forgiven my ‘brother’ (i.e. a ‘fellow’ Jew) enough times, so that it’s all-right (justified) to practice unforgiveness?
Amos and the rabbinical limit of not forgiving more than three offenses:
By rabbinical standards Peter’s suggestion that he forgive seven times was quite generous (the number seven indicating “fullness,” “completeness,” and “perfection”). The conventional belief was that a person should not be forgiven more than three times. This was so because in the opening chapters of the Book of Amos, there is a series of condemnations on the various nations, “for three transgressions and for four” (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6). From these passages it was determined that Adonai’s forgiveness extends to three offenses and then, on the fourth offense, He punishes the sinner. It was not appropriate for persons to think themselves more generous than Adonai, so it was deduced that forgiveness was limited to three times.
Thankfully, to Adonai people are not as expendable as nations:
But nations are not people. Peter’s generous offer to forgive seven times was insufficient. Furthermore, followers are responsible for more than just forgiveness. They are to be actively engaged in helping others to live their lives according to Adonai’s will.
The rule of forgiving up to seventy-seven times symbolizes Unlimited Forgiveness:
The Hebrew term seventy-seven (שִׁבְעִים וְשִׁבְעָֽה) has as its source Genesis 4:24, “If Cain is avenged seven-fold, then Lamech (לֶ֖מֶךְ-lemek) seventy-seven-fold.” By recalling this number from the Torah the Messiah is reminding us of Adonai’s requirement that we are not to sit in the seat of His Judgment. We are not allowed to pursue personal vengeance. For Adonai has said:
לִי נָקָם וְשִׁלֵּם
Vengeance is Mine, and Retribution!
So if it is not in our human prerogatives to pursue vengeance and retribution, “What is it that we can pursue?” In the previous passage of the Torah, Lamech brags that he will make certain that he is avenged an additional Ten times more than Cain! In great contrast, the Messiah Yeshua, the Savior of All Men (HaMoshia l’chol Adam), turns this statement of revenge completely around and He transforms the seventy-seven number into a declaration of forgiveness; instead of vengeance. Lamech symbolizes those who pursues peace through acts of radical vengeance, violence and terror. The followers of Messiah are expected to pursue peace through His supernaturally empowered acts of forgiveness and reconciliation. On the one side we have the Sar Abaddon, the Prince of Destruction, who is at war with Adonai and our people (Israel). On the other side we have the Sar Shalom, the Prince of Shalom, who is at Peace with Adonai. If you are a follower of the Messiah you must pursue shalom through Messiah Ben David’s ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation! For it is written by the Messiah’s ancestor David, the Prophet-King (Psalm 34:14):
סוּר מֵרָע וַעֲשֵׂה־טֹוב בַּקֵּשׁ שָׁלֹום וְרָדְפֵֽהוּ׃
“Depart from evil and do good; seek shalom and pursue it!”
The will of our heavenly Father, communicated by His Holy Servant the Messiah, and His prophets. is for His nation and people (Israel) to pursue shalom (all of the time)—-not vengeance, terror, death, and destruction. No matter what the cost! So we are to pursue shalom (שלום) first at home in Israel, with the Immediate Family; and then, second, we are to pursue shalom (שלום) everywhere else with the Extended Family. We are to pursue shalom with all men, and the sanctification (הַקְדֻשָּׁה) without which no one will ever see Adonai! Such a claim by Messiah on His followers (which Adonai expects all of the nation and people Israel to be) is a directive of unlimited forgiveness and shalom.
Therefore, there is yet one more requirement that the Messiah has put on us: we must add to our forgiveness of others Messiah’s command that we are to be “vigilant” to help our brothers (and sisters) to become remorseful for sin. The command to “be vigilant” (הִשָּׁמְרוּ לְנַפְשׁוֹתֵיכֶם, הִשָּׁמְרוּ לָכֶם-guard yourselves) indicates that Yeshua’s followers (Israel and believing Gentiles) are required to defend others from entering into or abiding in sin. This means Messiah expects His followers to always be actively in pursuit of forgiveness-reconciliation-and-shalom with all of our brothers and sisters (immediate, by Abraham and Sarah; and distant by Adam). Furthermore, we have no doubt that this radical call for a dedicated universal pursuit of shalom applies to—-everyone! Not just to Jews. Therefore, in addition to offering forgiveness “seventy-seven” times, a number indicating limitless forgiveness, Israel and the followers of Messiah are expected to remain vigilant in looking out for the interests of others.
The words “be on your guard” indicate that Yeshua’s followers (an all Israel) are required to defend others from entering into or abiding in sin. This requires substantive corrective action. The offending person (who sins) is to be corrected (rebuked) and led into repentance. Thus true forgiveness although limitless must be preceded by correction, conviction and sincere repentance before it can become fully in effect for the offending person. In this manner of relational life all of the members of Israel’s immediate family (Jews) and by adoption our extended family (the Gentiles) are expected to always diligently pursue forgiveness-reconciliation-and shalom in all of our relationships. (Shalom שלום, shalom שלום.)