Yom Kippur, September 29, 2017
S’lichot, forgivenesses are both one and multifaceted—the manifest glory of the love of God. Forgivenesses are absolutely crucial to love—the very nature of God and the greatest commandments —and hence to our relationships with our God, with our neighbors, and with ourselves. V’eemru (and let us say)?
The Talmud says: “There were no happier days for the Jews than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.” Is everybody happy? Why would the ancient Rabbis consider Yom Kippur a happy day?
For one thing, for a whole day, we get to be like the angels, who eternally worship God the King, never pausing for the mundane necessities of physical life, such as eating, drinking or reproducing.
Some of us even wear white—just like the angels—Art even dresses the Torah scroll in white!
True, the Torah says, “On the tenth of the month you are to afflict yourselves.”
But I remind you (and myself) of my saying, “Tribulation good, wrath bad!”
Afflicting ourselves may feel a bit like tribulation. Yet the Bible has a very positive view of tribulations and afflictions for the soul. Willingly afflicting ourselves shifts our focus from our bodily needs so that our souls may shine more clearly in the presence of HaShem. V’eemru?
Moreover, on this day, HaShem, the great Judge and King, forgives all our sins. He lets you walk, notwithstanding all the crimes you’ve committed!
Furthermore, through s’lichot, you may remove the burden of unforgiveness from your soul, so that on this day you may truly love your neighbor, as Yeshua does, and you may truly love yourself, as your heavenly Father does. V’eemru? Is everybody happy?
S’lichot is the plural form of s’licha (in Israel, s’licha can mean “excuse me”). S’lichot refers to penitential prayers that Orthodox Jews say—not only on Yom Kippur (such as Al Chet) but also before Rosh Hashanah. I guess the idea is that Jews keep asking for forgiveness so that it is certain they really, really mean it, and HaShem will really forgive them.
Yet HaShem is one. So He only needs to forgive us once for all. Hebrews 10:10 says, “By His will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Messiah Yeshua once for all.”
When Yeshua said as He was offering Himself on the tree (in Luke 23:34), “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” He forgave all of our sins, once and for all. V’eemru?
Once for all, God has sent His one and only Son, Messiah Yeshua, to make atonement for all our sins, removing the barrier between HaShem and humanity—once for all.
What could possibly make you happier than knowing God has cleansed you forever from the stain of sin and restored you as an heir of God and co-heir with Messiah Yeshua? V’eemru?
Yet in Matthew 18:21-22, when Peter asked Him, “Master, how often shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Yeshua said to him, “No, not up to seven times, I tell you, but seventy times seven!”
God forgives all, once for all, through the atoning sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua. Yet we get to forgive others many times—if necessary, seventy times seventy times!
Sometimes, s’lichot is like peeling an onion. How many of you have had to forgive the same brother or sister many times? Sometimes I have to forgive the same offense many times! Oy!
How many of you ever get offended? Yeshua said, “Offenses will come!” The key is not to stay offended. No matter what, I forgive others, because Yeshua has forgiven me, so much! V’eemru?
He even taught His disciples to pray, “Forgive us…as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Immediately after teaching this prayer, the Master warned , “For if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” Well, I don’t know about you, but that motivates me!
Forgivenesses are good for the soul. Rather than let unforgiveness become like a chain rattling within yourself, or a bitter root that pollutes your soul, keep forgiving until all is truly forgiven. V’eemru?
When you finally release your unforgiveness, it will be an inner transformation, so that what was ugly will become lovely.
Forgivenesses are absolutely crucial to love, which is the very nature of God.
Because God’s very nature is love, He resolved to forgive us even before we sinned: “the Lamb was slain before the creation of the world.” Revelation 13:9
So you never have to wonder if He will forgive you—He already has, when the Lamb was slain.
Yet how can you say that love God, if you do not love your brother? And how can you say that you love your sister, if you have not forgiven her, if you are holding a grudge?
Brothers and sisters: let us obey the Lord, and forgive as Messiah forgives. V’eemru?
Then we can say our prayers of s’lichot with true conviction, and HaShem will forgive us.
Some people wonder, can you can forgive your brother, if he doesn’t ask you for forgiveness?
Consider: Yeshua forgave you, before you ever asked Him. Romans 5:8 says, God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us.
By dying to forgive us, Yeshua wasn’t condoning our sins, He was atoning for our sins.
Our wrong actions still have consequences, and HaShem allows us to experience the consequences in this life, even as He forgives us, so that we may have eternal life. V’eemru?
Similarly, unconditional forgiveness doesn’t excuse bad behavior; but it does set your soul free. V’eemru?
Unconditional forgiveness is not the same as transactional forgiveness, or reconciliation. Reconciliation is another kind of forgiveness—which requires that the two parties meet, openly confess wrongdoing to one another, and ask each other for forgiveness, possibly with restitution.
Reconciliation is an important ministry for those who love God and Yeshua—yet it’s rarely works unless someone first comes with unconditional forgiveness.
However, the Lord’s Prayer is not about transactional forgiveness. You can say this prayer in your private prayer closet, and you must certainly pray it with conviction from within your own heart. When you do, the Lord will deliver you from the evil of unforgiveness.
So it does not depend on the other party asking you to forgive. Rather, it’s following the example of our Lord Yeshua, who forgave us from the tree of sacrifice, while we were yet sinners. V’eemru?
Lest anyone think such forgiveness is too difficult for mere human beings, such as yourself, the Bible provides many inspiring examples.
When Jacob returned, Esau forgot his oath to kill his brother, and embraced him.
When Joseph’s brothers returned to him, Joseph wept—he had already forgiven them—so these were tears of joy and acceptance.
When Hosea’s wife Gomer committed adultery and sold herself into prostitution, Hosea was still willing to buy her out of slavery and bring her back home.
When the prodigal son returned to his father, confessing that he wasted all he had been given,
the father welcomed him back with a celebration.
Many times Pamela and I have forgiven our prodigal daughter and would still welcome her home.
In the heart of Abba Father, the other side of teshuvah is always s’lichot.
The good shepherd forgives the sheep for wandering off. And I can tell you, as an undershepherd,
I have forgiven many of His sheep. Gladly!
When you forgive your neighbor, then you can say that you truly love your neighbor as yourself.
Some people say that to fulfill this commandment, you must first love yourself.
Brothers and sisters, I think it’s the other way around: when you truly love your neighbor, no matter what, then you truly love yourself.
For it is when you love your neighbor enough to forgive him, then you know you are doing what Messiah Yeshua would do. He is the lover of your soul. He renews your soul through s’lichot.
For God did not design you to be covered with shame, but with glory… the glory of Messiah!
Yet before you can truly forgive, let alone love your neighbor as God does, you must truly know, how much Abba Father has forgiven you—so that He sent His one and only Son to die for you.
Yeshua has observed, “Those have been forgiven much, love much.”
You have been forgiven, much… so much…. V’eemru?
Take a moment to consider how much you have been forgiven!
Pray with me
[Pray that Abba and Messiah would forgive me, move me to forgive others, and then forgive myself.]
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Scripture references are mostly from The Tree of Life Version (TLV) though occasionally other versions. Verse citations provide Jewish numbering, with Christian numbering in parentheses.