Yours is the power to forgive so that You may be held in awe. (130:4)

The greatest power of a ruler or a judge is not the power to punish harshly, but rather the power to pardon, forgive, or give a second chance. The Hebrew Bible is sometimes read as a book written by a vengeful God who delights in smiting. Such a reading overlooks a major plot point of one of the early stories of the book of Genesis: First, God regrets creating humanity and God also regrets destroying humanity with a flood. Regret is a strange characteristic for a Divine Being who takes delight in destruction. Regret is indicative of a God who learns, and the theological development within the Bible indicates a God who becomes more and more loving as the generations pass.

When God threatens to destroy Israel in the wilderness and begin again with Moses, Moses responds, “Let not the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that God delivered them, only to kill them off in the mountains and annihilate them from the face of the earth.’ ” In a remarkable passage, Moses appeals to God’s desire to maintain a good reputation among the non-Israelites! God, you made promises to these people. What will the Egyptians say if you break your word?

Similarly, our Psalmist suggests that we are more inclined to love and respect a compassionate, forgiving God. Our challenge is to internalize this message and ask ourselves how we too might be more sensitive and caring, letting our loving nature overcome our judgmental side. Better that we inspire respect in those around us than fear.

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