There are no other words quite as precious as forgiveness. They are discovered deep in the dank depressions. Dirty, smelly, crusty covered in the slime of sin. Buried under years of ignorance, months of misunderstandings, hours of self-righteousness, they are trampled upon as each day passes. We will probably step right over them, looking to the bright clear sky for answers, but there in the mud the treasure of heaven and earth hide.
And every once in a while, someone digs around in the sludge beneath our feet. He reaches into the black abyss that we would rather ignore. But he searches with purpose. Not simply to stir up our sorrow. Not to display our disappointments. No, he is looking for that treasure that we couldn’t see in the mud below. He is searching out that which is more valuable than rubies and diamonds.
This scavenger of the spoken jewel is nothing to look at. He, himself, is covered in the rags of dust and grime. His voice is raspy, his battered hat shelters his eyes. Years of digging have left unhealed blisters on his fingers. Permanent black lines outline his ragged fingernails. His gaze is cast low, always so low, because he is constantly sifting through our filth.
But he finds it. Despite our annoyed kicks and shuffles, he grabs ahold of the most brilliant treasure under heaven. A simple pure word beaming with light. A glistening word that washes it all away. A word that looks into your frozen, confused, non-repentant eyes and it says, “I forgive you”.
A dirty wandering man has wielded the most potent power of the Almighty God. He found this treasure, not in your wallet or your locked safe, not cherished on a golden chain close to your heart, not proudly written on bright orange T-shirt for all to see. He found this treasure buried under layers of your sinful secrets, weighted with years of lies and unbelief, concealed beneath your false hopes and broken dreams. He found these words in the middle of that darkness, your mess.
“I forgive you,” He says. And you have always been. The gleaming light of the Gospel breathes away the forbidding dust. You know who you are once again. Life restored and made whole. The man who bears the treasure, now gently places this word in your mouth. He touches the jewel of forgiveness to your lips and points to the feet of another. He turns you around, back down to the ground. There, in the mud, you begin to search and scour and scrape – to recover the precious word of forgiveness for your neighbor.
But, a shadow lurks just beyond. A dark one watches our clumsy treasure hunt and plots his attack. This evil devil hates the treasure that has freed you. This deceiver wants you to lay dead in the dust with him. So, this enemy schemes to destroy the scavengers who have found the most precious jewels of life.
The enemy will tear off our scavenger’s battered hat. He will dress him up in a relevant respectable suit. Fame and prestige, prosperity and good looks, the one who dredged though the mud is now too important for all that. Although he still tries to sift under our feet, we won’t allow such a learned man to dwell there. His flashbulb glory outshines the real treasure that is deep in the mud. And the Devil giggles at his own tricks.
The Evil One will distract the scavenger with soft shiny things all around. Pleasure and leisure, a vocation free from the pain of always digging, he craftily dangles a nice life above the mud. Fulfilled by vanities, satisfied with the shadows, the scavenger might forget why he was ever toiling in the muck. Sinners will just remain trapped in their sin. And the Devil sighs relief.
The Father of Lies pricks the heart of the scavenger, creating bitterness for those whom he digs. Exhausted, worn down, angry, hurt, disappointed, untrusting, the scavenger loses the desire to search any longer. Although he knows the treasure is great, the Evil One whispers that these people are not worthy of such a treasure any longer. And the Devil smiles at his promise of doubt.
But this battle will remain, until the end. God preserves those who dig for forgiveness, even though they are battered and beaten. His kingdom comes, whether we pray for it or not, and our scavengers will keep searching in our mud.
Today, my prayer is for the scavengers of the Gospel. They have known where to look for crystal clear forgiveness, but the Devil fights against their search. He scars and defames our scavengers, so the precious words might become unclear. But there is something the Evil One has not yet learned about this treasure. Just as they proclaimed it to us, we also dig and search and scavenge for them.
Proclaimer of the Gospel, I forgive you. The sludge beneath your feet buries that same incredible gem of life and righteousness, and here I dig for you. I forgive you for each proud and boisterous moment, every insincere word, and every ashamed indiscretion. The Devil cannot destroy what the Son of God has restored. You are made new by the eternal satisfaction for sin in Christ, by the precious treasure at God’s right hand, by His simple word spoken for you. Proclaimer of the Gospel, you, too, are free.