I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Most people seem to have trouble transposing God’s faithfulness in past times to the present. “Sure He’s saved me before,” we think, “But how do I know he will this time? Maybe He’s tired of dragging my sorry self out of the fire. Maybe I’ve finally gone too far and He’s going to sit this one out to teach me a lesson.”
We think this way because we impute our motives to His behavior. Knowing we’re fed up with our behavior, we assume He is too, and that He’ll do to us what we’d do in His place. Not understanding the limitless reaches of His Grace, we think that each transgression of ours could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
In Matthew 18:21 Peter asked how many times we should forgive each other. “Up to seven times, Lord?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” If that’s the standard for us, what do you suppose God’s standard is?
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23) This means that every morning God erases the past and we start with a clean slate. No matter how badly we missed the mark yesterday, today is a new beginning. And not just for a week or month or even a year, but for all our lives.
In ancient times a lamb was placed on the altar every morning to burn all day. This protected the Israelites from being struck down for the unintentional sins they committed during the day. At sundown a new lamb replaced the one that had burned all day. This one burned all night to protect them until morning. And so it went every morning and every evening. As long as there was a Temple and as long as the priests were faithful the people were OK. But since the protection was only retro-active and only covered unintentional sin they still had a tremendous exposure.
But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebr. 10:12-14)
With the death of Jesus our protection extended both ways along the time line and included intentional sin as well. His one sacrifice has made us perfect forever in God’s sight, even as we are still being made Holy. The cross allows God to see us now as we will be after He’s made us immortal and incorruptible. All we have to do when we sin is confess and we are automatically forgiven. And more than that, our sins are immediately forgotten. We are purified from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Our Father loves us so much, He wanted every barrier to the full expression of His love for us torn down. Jesus accomplished that on the cross, except for one. The one remaining is the one we’ve erected. It’s made of pride and guilt and the false belief that His love for us is conditioned upon our performance. Only we can tear that one down. But once we do we can experience the full meaning of Lamentations 3:22-23. His compassions never fail. Not for seven times or even seventy times seven, they are new every morning.