By Eric Geiger: Excerpted with permission from How to Ruin Your Life: And Starting Over When You Do by Eric Geiger. Copyright 2018, B&H Publishing Group.
When a man leaves his wife for another lover, forgiveness from the Lord is available. But his children’s view of marriage is altered, the way they look at him is changed, and holidays are a regular reminder that consequences remain.
When a woman neglects her family for her career, forgiveness is free and abundant when she turns to the Lord, but the pain she caused her family can remain and the regret she has does not easily go away.
When an employee, longing to climb the corporate ladder, lies and manipulates his way into an open position, forgiveness is free, but the lack of integrity will cost him as he looks for new jobs.
A friend of mine from high school is in prison for the rest of his life for murder. He has confessed faith in Christ, received forgiveness, and the Lord sees him as pure and perfect because Christ is his Savior. But as he woke up this morning in a jail cell, the consequences in this life remain.
God sent a prophet named Nathan to confront David in his sin. Like any good preacher, Nathan set up David with a killer illustration: “David, there were two men in a certain city. One was filthy rich. He had tons of cattle, tons of sheep, lots of money, and could afford anything he wants. The other guy was poor. He only had one lamb and he loved it. He treated the lamb like a daughter, fed the lamb from his own plate and even snuggled with it. One day the rich man had a guest visit and instead of slaughtering one of his many animals, he killed the poor man’s lamb for his dinner party.”1
When David heard the story, he burned with anger. As king, he would not tolerate that type of ridiculous and selfish and evil behavior in one of the cities under his watch. He wanted justice and restitution, so he fiercely declared: “As the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! Because he has done this thing and shown no pity, he must pay four lambs for that lamb.”2 David’s sense of justice was incredibly ironic. David missed the point of the illustration. In his blindness, he was angered by another’s sin while being hardened to his own.
We are often the same way. We can be exponentially more disgusted with the sin in other people’s lives than we are with the sin in our own. Our own sin can fail to anger us the way someone else’s sin does. “You are the man!” Nathan replied.3 You are the man! Guys will sometimes use that phrase with each other after a good play on the court, after a good performance on the job, or when hearing that one of their buddies has landed a first date. Guys typically enjoy hearing the sound of that phrase, but not this time. This time the phrase stung deeply. “David, you are the one who has done this evil. And the Lord’s message for you is this: You did this evil after I anointed you as king, after I rescued you from Saul, after I gave you the palace and the throne. I was good and gracious to you, yet you despised me and did this evil. Because you despised me, the sword will never leave your house and I am going to bring disaster on you and your family. You did this in secret, but your discipline will be in public.”
Just as God’s promise to David that his kingdom would never end has been fulfilled in Christ, God’s promise to David about the consequences of his sin were also fulfilled. The son he had with Bathsheba died as an infant. One of his sons, Absalom, murdered another one of his sons, Amnon. Absalom publicly humiliated David by pursuing the crown and planning his father’s assassination. When Absalom was brutally killed, David mourned bitterly, “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!”4
David knew that the strife and struggles he faced through the rest of his life were because of the Lord’s discipline for his sin. One day, when he was publicly mocked and his men wanted to kill the mocker, David replied, “The Lord told him to do it.”5 David was keenly aware that his sin had far-reaching consequences. He was forgiven, but he lived with the consequences of his sin for the rest of his life. His sin was erased but the consequences in this life were not.
Consequences often remain even after forgiveness has been received.
- Nathan’s confrontation of David is in 2 Samuel 12.
- 2 Samuel 12:6.
- 2 Samuel 12:7.
- See 2 Samuel 18 to read the account of David’s son, Absalom, death.
- cf. 2 Samuel 16:10.
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