Dear Church,

In last week’s sermon I borrowed from RCA Missionary Tom Johnson a hermeneutical insight surrounding the three words for “sin” in the Old Testament.  As he wrote and as I preached last week, there are three words for sin throughout the Old Testament:  sin – transgression – iniquity.  I guess I should preface this by writing that I just assumed they were all synonymous.  Meaning, all three words meant basically the same thing – sin - and they all were interchangeable.  So many of you came up to me after Sunday morning and asked if I would say them one more time, so I thought rather than saying them, I would write them.

Sin comes from the Hebrew word “hata,” which, if you were at our Ash Wednesday service in 2017, you hopefully remember Willem shooting his bow and arrow and missing the bullseye.  That’s the idea of sin.  Missing the mark.  Transgression is pretty straight-forward.  Again, in the Hebrew it sounds like “pasha,” and to transgress is to willfully cross a boundary or violate a law that is ordained by God.  This means we have to answer not to God the Father, but to God the Judge.  There is a clear black and white distinction when it comes to transgression.  The law says, “Do not murder,” and violating that law would be a transgression.  The word iniquity again comes from the Hebrew and sounds like “avon,” meaning to bend or twist or distort.  Iniquities are bending or twisting or distorting God’s Word to justify sin.  Iniquity is premeditated, continuing and escalating.  With iniquities, we deceive ourselves and insist that sin really isn’t sin.  Iniquities become embedded into our lives as a twisted identity and warped worldview.  As Johnson put it, “We’re more than missing the mark – we’re no longer aiming at the right target!”

As I shared on Sunday, the most common place to find the word iniquity is when it is relates to generational sins.  A common example would be when the Ten Commandments are linked to idolatry as iniquity of the fathers that will be visited upon the children of those who hate God.  The idea is that biblical iniquity brings consequences that the children have to deal with, and unfortunately, soon become entangled with as well. 

I will be completely transparent with you.  I am a very emotional, passionate, high-energy sort of person.  That has been an asset to me throughout my life which has fueled me to set goals and work towards achieving them.  However, that same emotion and passion has also led to outbursts of anger and an uncontrolled temper.  I’m not proud of it, but it’s true.  What is shocking and all the while convicting is that as my kids have grown I have seen that same emotion and passion in them, especially in Willem.  I’ve seen him set goals when it comes to his Junior Golf lessons and achieve them, and I’ve also seen him go nuts while playing Scrabble when the best word he can come up with is “ton,” which only netted him three points.  Now, I realize that he’s just six, so emotional outbursts might come with the territory.  But then again, I wonder if there isn’t a thread of iniquity in there.  Something that has been passed on to him and now is something we both need to deal with?

As we get older, I think we tend to reflect more on what we will leave for our kids and grandkids.  We usually think of this in terms of money, or some sort of inheritance.  But I wonder what other things we might be passing on to our kids?  Are we passing down traits of faithfulness, or generosity, or love?  Or are we passing down iniquities of anger, of stinginess, or of addiction?  Praise God from whom all blessings flow that as the prophet Isaiah reminds us, “Our Savior was not only afflicted for our sins, He was wounded for our transgression and crushed for our iniquities so that the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds, we are healed.”  Thanks be to God.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Matt

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