By Not Known
Previously (22 Nov), I wrote that unforgiveness is a sin in the light of the Gospel. However, God forgives justly, and justice demands confession and repentance; restitution and punishment. How then does God exercise justice in forgiveness?
In 2 Samuel 12:13b-23 David was confronted with the threats of two deaths: (1) His own (v13b); (2) His son borne by Bathsheba (v14). Notice that a great exchange was already taking effect in the manner of a substitutionary death – David’s life was spared [“You shall not die”], while his son’s life was to be taken [“…the child who is born to you shall die.”] You might says, “That’s not fair! Shouldn’t David have paid the price for his own foolish sin? Why should the child, no doubt an illegitimate son, die instead?”
We often complain against God like Habakkuk did in 1:13, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and are silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” For King David, however, God’s forgiveness of him took on a new dimension.
David fasted and prayed; he tearfully sought God’s mercy over his son’s life although it was made very clear that he would die (vv16, 21 & 22). After the boy died, David was composed. He seemed to have yielded to God’s will, not questioning his justice since he ought to have died instead. Why?
• David had experienced God’s mercy while serving King Saul. Saul sought to murder him out of jealousy. God preserved his life.
• David could have assassinated Saul on numerous occasions later on, but in mercy he restrained himself.
Now that David was on the receiving end of death for a murder he had committed, he once again experienced God’s mercy in justice. God forgives mercifully. Mercy executes justice with compassion.
When we are wronged, we cry foul on the offender and demand that justice be executed fast and furious. We wave our fists at God’s slowness and inaction. We even take justice into our own hands. But have we ever thought that if God had exercised justice in full as we had demanded, then you and I might well have died long ago for our own offences against others.
In his mercy, God is simply being patient with us that we may realise and repent of our sins (2 Peter 3:9). I believe it was David’s experience of justice in mercy that enabled him to later on forgive his third son Absalom who murdered his first son Amnon and to bring him back to Jerusalem (2 Sam 14:14, 21).
Contrast King David with his army general Joab, and you will see the point. Joab was a serial murderer. He defied David’s order, took justice into his own hands, and stabbed Abner to death (2 Sam 3:26-30). He also vengefully speared Absalom to death (2 Sam 18:14) because Absalom had earlier set Joab’s barley field on fire (2 Sam 14:30). Justice without mercy can be suicidal. Beware of a vengeful spirit. Forgiveness needs compassion.
May we meditate on God’s forgiveness and learn to forgive justly, mercifully, and with compassion.