70 times 7…forgive 490 times???

Forgiveness.  That’s a tough word these days.  There are so many in our world now that don’t care for the rights and dignity of others.  Instead, people are trampled underfoot like paper bags so that another may succeed in a particular venture, even if it’s just getting a TV set or a position in line.

So, I was pondering today….nah nah nah.  Let me give some background.  (Yes, I will interrupt myself like that, and let you see my thoughts.  I find it engaging when I read, so I figure others might find it engaging as well!  =D)

I have a particular person in my life whose life choices have the consistent occasion to intersect with mine. (Yes, some of you know whom I’m talking about.)  This person’s life choices are not very healthy as far as how they affect others, since I will not judge this person’s actions explicitly.  Consequently, my sinful side (aka my “flesh”) is constantly trying to plant a tree of bitterness in the garden of my life.  I REFUSE TO LET THAT TREE GROW!

And it is with all that sitting on me, as today’s intersecting events pushed me into yet another corner, that I began to ponder the words of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ/Messiah.  In Matthew 18, Jesus is posed with the question I think so many of us would ask, if it hadn’t already been asked!  LOL!

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” – Matthew 18:21-22

Ok.  For a little bit of context, I’m going to delve into a bit of some patterns.  I’m a patterns guy and that’s how I tend to process my world.  When we see seven in the Bible, it often (NOT ALWAYS!) represents a number of completion, more specifically the rest with the completion; six days of creation and God rested on the seventh, the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25) came after seven periods of seven years, every seventh year the land was to be given a break from farming, etc.  God used this number in many places as a point of rest and a point of completion.

But what about seventy?  Is that something important?  Ha ha ha! I am SO glad you asked!

70 has denotations of wholeness; the 70 “persons of the house of Jacob” who went into Egypt (Genesis), 70 days of mourning for Joseph’s death (Genesis), 70 leaders over Israel (Exodus and Isaiah), and some of the enslavements of Israel (Isaiah, Jeremiah).  But today, I’m pushing toward a more clear reference; Daniel 9.

Seventy weeks are determined
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness,
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy. – Daniel 9:24

And as Daniel goes on, we see these seventy years are divided into 7 weeks, then 62 weeks, and a final week.  Now, we could go on to a whole other discussion on this, but rather than getting into the numbers, I want to look at the whole.  If you read Daniel 9, you’ll see that Messiah was prophesied to come and be “cut off” in the 69th week. Therefore, anyone who then understood or now understands that Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth is the Messiah can see His appearance as being in the 69th “week”.  (It’s worth noting here that these “weeks” are not literal 7 day periods.  It is clearly noted in Daniel, if you read carefully, that these are representative periods of time wherein each day is a year as seen clearly.)

So, here we are again, with Jesus in the 69th week, knowing that the 70th week will not come until the end of all time.  And someone asks about forgiveness.  What does Jesus respond?  “Hmm…well, you should forgive them until they have offended you some categorically big number that you will never possibly count to, especially if you take 1 Corinthians 13 (which has yet to be written by a man named Saul/Paul) and you don’t keep a record of the wrongs…..”  {deep sucking breath}  No.  He doesn’t do that!

Reading Matthew 18 again, His reply is:

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” – Matthew 18:21-22

He points directly at Daniel!  He says that we are to forgive until the end of all things!  We don’t just forgive until the offense is over, but we forgive until the end of all times, until Christ returns!

OOOOOUUUUCCCCHHHH!!!  I don’t know about you, but it is hard for me to continually forgive sometimes.  I get wounded, and it feels like I’m being slaughtered to just keep forgiving.  But the reality is that forgiveness can be healing because it forces us into a new perspective.

“Whoa, Ben! A new persepective?!?  Pain is pain!”

Yeah.  Pain is painful.  This is true!  But have you ever loved something so dearly that you were willing to endure some great amount of pain to see blessing and turnaround in that person’s life?  If you haven’t, then I encourage you to purpose yourself to do so with wisdom   Such love does not come because you stumbled onto it; it comes from purposed action to show love amidst pain.  This love is only possible through true humility.  When you realize that the pain another has caused you is no worse than the pain you have caused others, forgiveness begins to flow.

Think of it in the way that Jesus explained,

Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” – Matthew 18:23-35 (emphasis mine)

Take a look at those numbers!  The calculations I can find show that 1 talent would be worth about 16 years of average wages (think minimum wage), whereas 1 denarius was a day’s wage.  So, 10,000 talents (60,000,000 denarii) would be 160,000 YEARS of minimum wage labor. 100 days work versus 160,000 years!  But look further!  The Master SELLS the man, his family, and their property.  This man will be working through the rest of his life, but he’ll, at least, have his life, and very possibly with his family!  But the man throws his fellow servant in jail!

Wow!  If I am unwilling to forgive a little thing (a hundred days wages) that my brother or sister has done to me, how can I expect God to be willing to forgive all the crud (more than I could ever work off in a hundred lifetimes) I throw at Him?  But before I leave this point to settle in, God isn’t passive!  He doesn’t wait for US to forgive before forgiving us.  He forgives us, sets the example, and then asks us to FOLLOW Him!  How cool!  How incredible!  The One who was given the MOST hurt, stands before us and says, “I forgive you, forgive others as I have forgiven you!”

I don’t know about you, but I am supremely blessed by that reality!  As a recovering perfectionist, it’s nice to know that my Father doesn’t expect me to be perfect, but to follow Him as He TEACHES me what’s perfect.  I am a student; I am a disciple of the Christ!

Cool, huh?

– Matt 19:26 –

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