I have spent time recently reading through the life of David in 1 and 2 Samuel. It is a fascinating study of the power of faith, the danger of temptation and sin, the amazing grace of our Lord, and forgiveness and restoration, among other themes seen in his life. One thing recently stood out to me. It is the power of forgiveness.
Many of us can quote the Lord’s prayer from memory. There is one line in it that has always been just a little bit scary to me. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It appears that Jesus is telling His disciples to pray that their forgiveness be based on the manner of the forgiveness they offer to others. I believe that Jesus was encouraging the disciples to model a life of forgiveness in their prayer lives that would later be seen in Jesus’ own prayers for the forgiveness of those who beat Him and nailed Him to the cross. We see a similar theme in David’s life as well.
David had been King of Israel for a little while, and during one of the times where the army was off at war, David, for whatever reason, stayed home. One night he goes for a stroll on the roof of the palace and looks out and sees Bathsheba bathing on her roof. Many of you are familiar with what happens next. The adulterous relationship, the unplanned pregnancy, the conspiracy to murder Bathsheba’s husband Uriah, and the following cover-up. It reads like a best-selling novel or a hit television series. After many months, David is confronted by Nathan the prophet who reminds David that even though he covered up his sin, God still knew about it. David is overwhelmed with sorrow and genuine repentance. God forgives him, restores him, and yes there are still consequences to the actions.
One of these consequences is the split of the kingdom of Israel when one of David’s sons Absalom rebels and tries to take over the kingdom. David has to go on the run, again, and his family is forever scarred. Part of this, however, seems to have been avoidable. Absalom had murdered his half-brother Amnon because of what Amnon had done to Absalom’s sister Tamar. We won’t go into the details of the mess this family had become, but you can read about it in 2 Samuel 13. Absalom then flees for fear of his life because of what he has done in killing his brother.
At the end of 2 Samuel 13, after Absalom has fled for his life, we see a glimpse into David’s heart. “So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years. And the spirit of the king longed to go out to Absalom, because he was comforted about Amnon, since he was dead.” 2 Samuel 13:38-39. Seeing this, Joab, one of David’s trusted advisors and friends, puts together a plan to get David to see that he needs to reach out and forgive Absalom. It has already been three years that Absalom has lived in exile for fear of his life. So Joab enlists the help of a woman to play the part of a widow who has two sons who fought and one killed the other. She tells of how the entire village has risen up against her telling her to hand over her other son so he can be put to death for killing his brother. This would mean that the woman’s husband, and both male heirs would be dead, essentially ending her family line. David has compassion on her and declares that “as the Lord lives, not one hair on your son shall fall to the ground.” 2 Samuel 14:11
The woman then explains that she is not really in that situation and that she was sent to show David that this is how he was treating his son Absalom. David is convicted and agrees to send Joab to bring back Absalom from his exile. The problem is, he doesn’t fully forgive and restore him. 2 Samuel 14 tells us “So Joab arose and went to Geshur and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. And the king said ‘Let him dwell apart in his own house; he is not to come into my presence.’ So Absalom lived apart in his own house and did not come into the king’s presence.” 2 Samuel 14:23-24 David let Absalom come home but he had to live in a separate house and never enter the king’s presence. This became the source of Absalom then later starting a total rebellion and staking his claim to the throne of Israel. He gained so much backing that David and his family was forced to flee and go on the run.
The rebellion of Absalom was a direct result of the unforgiveness of his father David. David had committed adultery, been involved in a conspiracy to murder Uriah the Hittite, was confronted with his sin, and offered forgiveness and restoration. Then when faced with one of his son’s committing a similar sin, David offers him a bitter branch of partial forgiveness. Absalom could come home, only after 3 years in exile, only after David has to once again be confronted with his own sin, and then only if Absalom never saw or spoke to David again. The result of this partial forgiveness? A divided family and lives destroyed even beyond what had already happened.
Imagine if you will, you place your heart and eternal soul in the hands of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins that He offers you. You believe in what Jesus did on the cross in paying for your sins, you repent, and receive the forgiveness of your sins. Only you find that it isn’t unconditional, it comes with some conditions attached. If your sins are too bad, you aren’t allowed to pray to God the Father because He doesn’t want to see you or hear from you. You see other people experiencing the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit, but that is only because their sins weren’t as heinous as yours. All of sudden, the unconditional forgiveness that God promised isn’t so unconditional.
Or how would you feel if you know that you were forgiven for a specific sin, but when it comes to someone in your life who committed a similar sin against you, you refuse to forgive them. Jesus spoke about this in one his parables. He spoke of a man who was forgiven an incredibly large debt. When the man was released from his debt, he immediately went and found someone who owed him an incredibly small amount and has him thrown into prison until he can pay him back. There is an absurdity when we hear these things. We think, why would the forgiven man react this way? Yet, we are more like David. We love to be forgiven, yet we struggle to forgive. So, let us remember the words of the Lord’s prayer and seek to forgive others in the same manner with which we have been forgiven by God. Unconditionally, completely, genuinely, only then can we truly love one another.
Here are two passages to help put this in perspective.
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:11-12
So, if you have been holding on to unforgiveness, holding a grudge for a slight someone committed against you, today is the day to release it and let it go. Offer the same forgiveness to that person that your Heavenly Father offers to you. Then, and only then, can we truly bear each other’s burdens during times like this.