What is sin? The Bible depicts sin in many ways. Last time I wrote about the Hebrew and Greek words that define sin as ‘missing a mark’ and ‘rebellion’. But how else is sin described?
Another word used to describe sin is the Hebrew word ‘avah’. This word literally means ‘deliberate perversion’ or a ‘twisting’.
The word can be used to describe a ‘twisting’ action without reference to sin. For example we read of God twisting the earth in judgement: ‘Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist (avah) its surface and scatter its inhabitants’ (Isaiah 24:1). God also twists people: ‘The LORD has poured into them a spirit of dizziness (avah); they make Egypt stagger in all that she does, as a drunkard staggers around in his vomit’ (Isaiah 19:14). And the Psalmist describes his body as twisted: ‘I am bowed (avah) down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning’ (Psalm 38:6).
So it is not surprising that the word is used to describe the sinful actions of men. Nehemiah gives us an example when the Israelites are building the wall of Jerusalem and yet some foreigners seek to pervert their actions. We read from Nehemiah’s account: ‘When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble– burned as they are?” Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building– if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt (avah) or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders’ (Nehemiah 4:1-5).
So if we break God’s law, we are guilty of twisting it. Thus God can describe sinful humans with these words: ‘Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt (avah), a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him’ (Isaiah 1:4).
And it’s not just Israel. This can be taken as a terrible indictment on the whole human race. We have all twisted God’s word and are literally perverts.
But thankfully the Bible teaches us that God forgives perversions. The Psalmist reminds himself: ‘Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits–who forgives all your sins (avah) and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit’ (Psalm 103:2-4). And God promises through Jeremiah: ‘I will cleanse them from all the sin (avah) they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me’ (Jeremiah 33:8). How is this possible? If we trust in him, at the cross Jesus became our perversions of God’s law in order to forgive us.
So have you recognised your perversions and asked God to forgive you? Joel Radford.