The Lord is slow to anger and great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. Nahum 1:3
The character of God never changes. This verse is in the Old Testament but we must remember that the God of the Old Testament is the same God as the God of the New Testament. And this God is righteous and just and I believe this Scripture to be as true today as it was more than 2000 years ago. The Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. Yes He is slow to anger and very patient, but He will not leave the guilty unpunished.
Too often we forget this and therefore the tendency is to be soft on sin. We hear things like, ‘Oh it doesn’t matter because God forgives sin.’ But we should remind ourselves that God does not forgive sin, if there is no repentance. Unless someone ‘repents’ God does not forgive, He judges. Thus it seems that one thief on the cross was safe, and the other one would face judgment. And repentance does not just mean saying sorry! It means a change. It means not only being sorry about the sin, but a real desire to make amends (if we can) and to turn away from what we have done. It means a having a horror and disgust about what I have done, and a willingness to turn to God, asking Him to prevent me ever doing it again. Thus we not only pray ‘forgive us our sins’ but we also pray ‘lead us not into temptation’. In other words, I know what I have done is wrong and I want to ask for help from God so I don’t do the same thing again.
And the reason God is able to forgive if I repent, is that Jesus died on the cross and took the punishment for my sin. Therefore, God still punishes sin, but in my case, Jesus took my punishment. But if I do not repent and confess my sins, then I must remember that ‘the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished’.
There seems to be such a muddle about forgiveness today. If we see someone committing a great sin against someone else, we sometimes say ‘well, I forgive that person.’ What? You can’t forgive that person – it is God who forgives, or not. We cannot put ourselves in the place of God. We are told to forgive those who sin against us and in so doing we free ourselves from bitterness. We liberate ourselves, not the other person! And we pray for them, Lord forgive their sin, just as Stephen did when he asked God to forgive the sin of those who were stoning him. But if someone sins against another person – not me personally – I cannot claim to forgive them, or I am putting myself in the place of God! I can pray for the victim that they will be able to forgive, and I can pray for the perpetrator that they will repent so that God will forgive them, but I have no right to claim that I forgive them
In the Gospels we hear people say of Jesus, ‘who is this that forgives sins?’ They knew that only God has the right to forgive sins, and we should remember this too. So, I can forgive someone who sins against me personally – this is clear from the Lord’s prayer. But as for others, I leave them in God’s hands – if they repent and accept all that Jesus has done for them, then God will forgive. But if they do not repent and refuse the sacrifice that Jesus made on their behalf, there remains nothing but judgment. The Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.
And so this Easter the message goes out again – that Jesus died for YOU – because the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Understand that you are guilty before God – just as I am – and race for protection from His wrath and punishment, by accepting Jesus as your Saviour and Lord. Look around at the state of the world today and remember that although God is slow to anger, He will not leave the guilty unpunished and soon He will judge. What will that mean for you?