Forgiveness and Restoration, OT Style!

In 2 Samuel 21 there is an interesting scenario played out that I feel illustrates the fact that sometimes, well maybe more than sometimes, we have a role to play in the process of restoration and forgiveness.  It is certainly a theme we find throughout Scripture yet I was surprised to find it this defined in the Old Testament. As believers, I feel like we tend to forget that we can , and often times should, be involved in the process of God’s forgiveness and restoration.  We are able to help facilitate this process more than we think.

I encourage you to read 2 Samuel 21:1-14 for yourself to get all the details, but here’s the basic plot line.  400 years before the scene we read about in this passage, Joshua had made a treaty, or covenant, with the Gibeonites who were in the land when Israel took possession of it. Although the Gibeonites had deceived Joshua into making this covenant, it was nonetheless transacted and covenant making is NO small matter to God.

God had allowed a famine to come upon the land and when David inquired as to the reason why God explained, “It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites.”  2 Samuel 21:1b (NKJV) Now, when Saul attacked the Gibeonites he was probably trying to do what he thought was right and rid the land of the heathen. But in his zeal, he committed a serious sin because he broke, or violated, the covenant made between Joshua and the Gibeonites 400 years earlier.  Oops…big oops!

So, the famine ensued, and David decided it was time to restore relationships with the Gibeonites in hopes God would forgive the sin committed by Saul and rescue the land from starvation and famine.  Again, you’ll have to read the story for the details but in essence what happened was this; David went to the Gibeonites and asked them, “What shall I do for you?” That was a pretty open-ended question to someone that had basically been annihilated by an associate of yours! However, David did as the Gibeonites requested and God restored the land and rescued it from famine.

It is true that God will forgive us of all our sins if we confess our sins to Him.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  I John 1:9 (ESV)  But when it involves relationships, the Bible also teaches that we should become involved.  Consider this passage, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.  Matthew 18:15 (ESV)

The lesson learned from 2 Samuel 21:1-14 is that sometimes, along with prayer and God’s intervention, it takes action on our part to enable forgiveness and bring about restoration. For example, “23 …if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”  Matthew 5:23-24 (ESV)  God can forgive, but sometimes we must take the necessary steps in order to reconcile ourselves to one we’ve offended or one who has offended us.

Hopefully, we won’t let relationships get to the point where someone has to die for things to be mended!

Praise Follows Pain…At Least It Should

Periods of pain in our lives come and go, but in each painful circumstance we would be remiss if we didn’t follow the journeys of pain with times of praise.  Or maybe, even exercise praise in the midst of our pain.  Allow the painful times in your life to draw you into a deeper worship of the Father, it will cultivate a richer walk in this life and open up a brand new perspective through which you will see His purposes much more clearly. 

You could almost think of it as a new dimension.  Remember the old Twilight Zone lead in line, narrated by Robert Sterling:

“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.”

Well, while we’re not exactly crossing over into another dimension of “sight and mind,” per say,  I do believe that when trials enter into our life we do crossover into another dimension of relationship with our Heavenly Father. So, maybe we actually do enter into another dimension of sight, mind, soul and spirit. But it certainly is NO twilight zone, it’s more like a God-zone!

I’ve pulled a few passages from the Bible, mainly the Psalms, that I believe illustrate this point of crying out to God in the midst of pain and then responding by praising Him, maybe before the deliverance from that pain comes.

(All Scripture is taken from the ESV, English Standard Version translation)

1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.   Psalm 40:1-3

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.  Psalm 43:5

15 …call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”  Psalm 50:15 (Emphasis added)

6 Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.  7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.   Psalm 28:6-7

There are MANY other examples in Scripture of times of trials followed by praise, as well as times of praise in the midst of trials.

Does God expect us to praise Him for the trials? Perhaps Job said it best, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”  Job 1:21

God might understand when we don’t feel like praising Him in the midst of difficulties or trials but when we choose not to, it is our perspective that suffers and I feel we miss out on what might be some of the most intimate times in our lives with our Heavenly Father.

Who Really Needs the Gospel?

The easy “Sunday School answer” to this question could be, “Everyone who doesn’t know Christ as Savior and Lord.” And that would be correct, but only partially. The fact is, we ALL need the gospel. The bigger question is, “Do you live your life each day as if YOU need the Gospel?” I’m not talking about the one time transaction as a believer, a follower of Christ, a Christian who has chosen Christ as Savior, but I’m talking about how you live your life.

I heard the following today, “The gospel is for people for whom, nothing is going right.”

Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matthew 2:17b (NKJV)

Luke recounts Jesus’ reading (of himself) from the book of Isaiah where he said, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Luke 4:18 (NKJV)

And Romans 3:23, that you’re probably very familiar with proclaims,”For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

What I see is that the gospel comes not just for all people, but for those who are in desperate need of it and that my friend is you and me.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I tend to find myself living as if I don’t need the gospel in my life. I rely on the comfort of things around me or let myself not be desperate enough for the things of God. I do find myself living as if I don’t need the gospel.

If it’s true the gospel is for those whom nothing is going right then do we think about our “need” of the gospel when everything is going right for us? Or do we let the comfort of our lives replace the desperation we should have for the gospel of God in our lives and by extension, the lives of those who don’t know Christ as Savior? We have a responsibility to communicate this great gospel to the lost.

I’ve challenged myself at the beginning of this new year to daily consider this great gospel, and the great salvation I have through Jesus Christ.  I’m going to try to NOT let the trappings of this world, things, comforts, material possessions, work, play, friends, accolades, busy-ness, and yes even, “doing church,” replace my daily need for the power of the gospel in my life!

I want to be desperate for it because after all, we ALL really need the gospel.