As odd as it may seem for a native Floridian, I am not a beach person. Maybe that is why I made the mistake I did.
I was away to a camp retreat for women, when it suddenly dawned on me en route that I had forgotten to pack a bath towel. Rather than delay our progress shopping, we swung by a pharmacy at an exit where we had already stopped for gas, and I picked up the only type of towel they had available--a beach towel.
The next night as I took my turn with the shower shared by thirty other women in our cabin, I discovered that beach towels do not work like ordinary towels. I blotted my wet skin and lifted it to discover all the water droplets sitting on my arm exactly as they had before I used the towel. I tried again, same result. Finally I tried pushing off the water. Some, but very little, rolled onto the floor. Slightly encouraged I kept wiping. Eventually I was--well, dry is not the word--but damp instead of soaked. I am positive, though, that most of the drying was a matter of evaporation because I worked at it for nearly 15 minutes.
The strangest things can bring me a moment of inspiration. So when I got home, I did a quick study on the word “wipe.” It is an interesting word, in both Testaments.
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word is machah. Jehovah said to Moses, whoever has sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book, Ex 32:33. “Blot out” is the same word often translated “wiped.” Yet in Psalm 51, David uses it when he asks God to “blot out” his transgressions, and in Isaiah 25, God says in a Messianic prophecy that he will “wipe away” his people’s tears.
In the New Testament, the word is exaleipho. Peter says in Acts 3:19 that we must repent if we expect our sins to be “blotted out.” Jesus tells John in Rev 3:5 that he will not “blot out” the names of those who repent. Then we are told that when we reach our reward God will wipe away all tears from [our] eyes, Rev 21:4, all the same Greek word in exactly the same three uses as the Hebrew.
God’s mercy is not like a beach towel. He will blot out my sins completely. On the other hand, if I do not live as I should, he will blot me out completely. You cannot use “completely” in one phrase without using it in the other. I cannot say, “Don’t blot me out completely. Don’t wipe my name out of your book,” while expecting God to wipe away my sins as completely as an expensive, absorbent towel wipes the water from my body because his Holy Spirit chose the same word for both actions in two separate languages.
Justice demands that something be blotted out. God’s grace makes it possible that it not be the sinner, but merely his sins. Amazing grace indeed.
And in this mountain will Jehovah of hosts make unto all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering that covers all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He has swallowed up death for ever; and the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of his people will he take away from off all the earth: for Jehovah has spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is Jehovah; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Isa 25:6-9.