In our culture, we tend to say ‘sorry’ when there is a wrong that we committed against another person. Whenever my children do what they aren’t supposed to, they say they are ‘sorry’ or say, ‘forgive me’ and we do just that, we forgive them! I remember growing up with my sister as little children.
She would always do something and then quickly say sorry. She’d come over and hit me and then quickly say, “I’m sorry.” We were taught that we forgave when someone said they were sorry. I couldn’t do anything but stay hit, at least until I learned that an apology needed to be sincere. I won’t say whether or not I hit back, but let’s just say, it led to me being hit over and over again…she was bigger than me.
Sometimes, I think that we take forgiveness too lightly or as something we have to automatically give when asked for. The Bible shows us a different forgiveness. In the Bible forgiveness occurs only after the injured party is made whole or the injured party is satisfied with the efforts to restore the injured party to wholeness. Forgiveness had a high cost.
Let’s look at an example of this in the Bible. Turn to 2 Samuel 21:
1During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the LORD. The LORD said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.”
The back-story to this is found in Joshua chapter 9, the Gibeonites made a peace treaty with Joshua and Israel hundreds of years before that time. The treaty was made through deceit, the Gibeonites posed as foreign travelers and locked in a deal to be spared by the Israelite when they were moving through the land defeating everyone. When the deceit was discovered, the Israelites honored their treaty but kept the Gibeonites as indentured servants. The Bible doesn’t record when Saul went into the Gibeonites and massacred nearly all of the Gibeonites.
When David heard this from God, he responded immediately to the Gibeonites:
3David asked the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? How shall I make atonement so that you will bless the LORD’s inheritance?”
4The Gibeonites answered him, “We have no right to demand silver or gold from Saul or his family, nor do we have the right to put anyone in Israel to death.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” David asked.
5They answered the king, “As for the man who destroyed us and plotted against us so that we have been decimated and have no place anywhere in Israel, 6 let seven of his male descendants be given to us to be killed and their bodies exposed before the LORD at Gibeah of Saul—the LORD’s chosen one.”
So the king said, “I will give them to you.”
In the next verses Seven Sons were chosen from Saul’s surviving children and the Gibeonites took the Seven Sons and hanged them in front of Saul’s city. Even though Saul was dead, it was like hanging them in front of Saul’s house to make a statement against Saul.
The Gibeonites knew exactly what they were doing, having lived with the Israelites for so long, they knew that anyone who was hanged on a tree was considered cursed and they left the bodies there overnight. Deuteronomy 21:22 God says “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God)…”
In Verse 14, “They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan (as well as the seven sons) in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land.”
Here is what God is showing us in this passage.
Sin affects us all
Whether it is your personal sin or someone else’s, it affects all of us. The entire area was under a three year famine, imposed on them by God—even the Gibeonites were not spared. Romans 5:12 tells us that Adam’s sin affected all of humanity.
Sin is remembered
Time did not erase the memory of Saul’s sin from the minds of the Gibeonties. What Saul did to them was still on their minds even though many years had passed since Saul died and life had gotten so much better under David’s rule. God does not forget unforgiven sin.
Sin closes relationship with God
For three years, God had not responded to the prayers of the people. I don’t think that this was the first time that David prayed to God about the situation, but it was the first time that he made a formal inquiry. Sin was blocking communication.
How did they fixed this? Israel had to Atone for this sin with the shedding of blood.
For there to be atonement, blood had to be spilled.
Hebrews 9:22 tells us that, “Without blood there is no forgiveness.” These words sum up the atonement system that God had already establish, it said that if a man’s life was taken by another, then their life was also taken.
Atonement is defined as satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury. The Gibeonites were nearly wiped out by Saul. Of those who remained, inside of their hearts they were not whole. They needed justice; they needed a satisfactory end to this crime against their family. They knew God’s law and it said that without blood, there is no forgiveness.
For there to be atonement, there needs to be an agreement on what will bring satisfaction. The injured party sets the terms.
As a result of this atonement, God restores his relationship with Israel.
When we look at this we see that Atonement must come before Forgiveness. Forgiveness is the act after the shedding of blood.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of Forgiveness in 2nd Samuel 21?
Forgiveness had the opposite effect of sin.
Forgiveness affects everyone, everyone in Israel benefited from the lifting of the Famine. Lives could return to normal.
Forgiveness fades painful memories, the Gibeonites could return to their lives, knowing that God took care of the problem. Remember, they were servants of the Israelites and this wedge of sin caused strife between them.
Forgiveness opens communication with God, God heard them or responded to them now that they were in a right relationship with Him. Sin keeps us from hearing from God and God refrains from responding to us. It’s not that He can’t, it’s that He chooses not to.
This Old Testament passage reflects our position as sinners before God.
We are guilty of sin, some serious, some less serious, but all sinned just the same. Romans 3:23 says “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In 2 Samuel 21, Saul’s seven sons were killed and hung as atonement for their father’s sin. 1 Peter 2:24 tells us that “[Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” God’s one and only Son was hung on a tree as atonement for our sin.
Saul’s sin caused the death of his sons. Our sin caused the death of God’s only Son, the sinless one.
2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
In 2nd Samuel, God accepted the seven sons of Saul as a satisfaction for Israel’s sin. In the New Testament, God accepted Jesus as the satisfaction for all mankind’s sin.
Christ’s atonement now allows for us to receive forgiveness from God.
Hebrews 9:24, “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
Now that we are forgiven, we are restored into a relationship with God and He secures for us an eternal home.
So what does this mean for you, for me?
Our sin has been atoned for. Jesus’ blood paid the price, the satisfying price that God demanded for all of our sins. If you don’t know Christ, then I hope you have been listening closely, because Christ forgiveness is available for your life. Romans 10:9 says “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
For those of us who know Christ and find sin in our lives, the Bible says in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” For both the sinner and the saint, God’s forgiveness will change your life. You will affect those around you, your memories of sin will fade and God will show You more of Himself.