My kids were quick learners. They soon cottoned on to the power of the ‘S’ word, as a quick way out of serious bother. Clever defendants know it too, when they are up before the magistrates. Apparently they plead ‘not guilty’ until they know how strong the evidence is against them. If there’s a security video that gives them away, they quickly change their plea to ‘guilty’, to ensure a lesser sentence. The cunning ones find out that the word ‘sorry’ is the safest bet when you’ve been well and truly copped.
Pharaoh knew the power of the word ‘sorry’ too (Exodus 10:16-20). He clearly could not get away with defying almighty God; the locusts had come and were devouring the land: his own power diminishing with their economy. The only way he could move forward was to apologise and hope he’d be let off the hook this time as so many times before. The word ‘sorry’ sprang quickly to his lips. Did he mean it? Of course not! Like the criminals in the dock, he just wanted the quickest way out. Well. I suppose there is a sort-of-sorry.
- Sorry I got caught out
- Sorry for the outcome
- Sorry I’ve had to pay for doing wrong
Pharaoh wanted forgiveness because he didn’t like the outcome of the plague of locusts. But he had no change of heart. There was no genuine repentance; he had no intention of changing his ways.
Yet God still heard him, and took away the punishment. Not because he believed Pharaoh was genuinely sorry, but because of grace – sheer grace – for Pharaoh, and also for the people under him who had suffered so much. God is kind. Much kinder than we realise, and certainly much kinder than we deserve. When we ask for forgiveness, he is listening. The ‘s’ word is the word he is listening out for. He responds. It’s part of his nature. Of course we all say it when we’ve got ourselves in one more pickle. That seems to be part of our nature. But when we say sorry, and we really, really mean it, I think God throws a party in heaven!