Lent: Day Nineteen

Music touches the soul in unique ways and if the words are substantial they bite home like mere rhetoric and sermonizing only wishes it could. I was just listening to a song by Full Time Faith, which changed their name to Even Isaac. The song is called Liar. As you know, if you have been following this blog, my recent Lenten experiences have been focused on sin and repentance. Two verses of this song speak directly to my ongoing meditation concerning the sin that continually besets me and my inability to completely break free from its entanglement.

Father forgive them you said on the cross
Could I be forgiven again?
It seems that the changes my heart had to make
Need to be made once again
Words always fail when my heart tries to speak
So I fall on my face, helpless and weak
Bowing before your cross of mercy
Would you waste time touching me?

I’d said so many prayers
I’d broken so many promises
But he still listened to me
His grace covered me whole
Even in all my iniquity
How did you change my liar’s heart?
You changed my liar’s heart

That’s how I feel so often these days, marveling that God can forgive me again, feeling that I have broken so many promises made in so many prayers. But, yet God still listens, still covers me with grace, ever changing my deceitful heart from his cross of mercy. And he does it again, and again, and again.

As I contemplate this I am so ever thankful that Peter asked you, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” and that you, O Lord, replied, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

Forgiving someone four hundred and ninety times sounds like a lot, but I feel I have long since passed that number. Commentators like to point out that 70X7 is really like saying as often as necessary, since in the example that follows, in Matthew 18:23, the amount the King forgives his servant (ten thousand talents) was essentially an amount almost beyond reckoning for the average person.

John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, also wrote The Happy Debtor. He addresses this issue in the first verse.

Ten thousand talents once I owed,
And nothing had to pay;
But JESUS freed me from the load,
And washed my debt away.

In the seventh verse of this hymn, Newton goes on to lament that when given such a gift by Christ, all the efforts that he can make in return are poor in comparison. Yet Christ, he marvels, accepts even such poor returns on the great gift he has given us, while noting that even those poor returns come by grace from he who gives us all things.

Nay more, the poor returns I make
I first from thee obtain;
And ’tis of grace, that thou wilt take
Such poor returns again.

The miracle of forgiveness is a mystery beyond compare, hidden in the heart of God, where, despite our continued sin and constant failure, he continues to forgive our failings whenever we ask, giving us endless chances to start again, and again, and again.

To God be the glory for the incomparable things he has done.