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When We Have Not Done It Right the First Time
Please read along in your Bible as you study this article.
It is so much easier when a job is done right the first time, isn't it? Whether it is a home repair or a business relationship, doing everything right the first time makes things run much more smoothly. However, we are people and we make mistakes. When we make our mistakes in areas of God's law, that is sin. When we sin, we need to correct ourselves (Matthew 21:28-29) and we need to apologize to those we have harmed (Luke 17:3-4). We need to resolve to do better and do it.
When we do that, there will be positive spiritual results.
Remember that Paul was speaking to Christians here, Christians who had been through a number of problems. When we truly repent of sin, we receive spiritual strength. Let's study a few examples of people in the Bible who did not do it right the first time. We want to learn some lessons about what may happen when we try to correct our mistakes.
One thing to notice as we look at each of these examples is that in almost every case, some consequences of the sin still had to be suffered. Often God does not take away all of the effects of the problems we sin our way into.
David and Transporting the Ark of the Covenant: Looking to God's Word
The ark of the covenant, which Israel was supposed to keep in the tabernacle, had been captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). It had been away from where it was supposed to be for twenty years (1 Samuel 7:2). King David wanted to bring it back to its proper place, which was good, but he and his people brought it back the wrong way. They put the ark on a cart to be pulled by oxen, but God had told them to carry the ark on poles (Exodus 25:14). When the ark was in danger of falling, Uzza touched the ark, which was wrong. He died as a consequence of touching the ark as they transported it the wrong way..
We need to consult the LORD about the proper order through the study of His word! The next verses show that David and his people transported the ark the right way the second time, and they were successful.
Josiah and the Book of the Law: We Can Be Right Again
Later in history, King Josiah of Judah was trying to lead the people to worship God properly again. Many of the people had stopped worshipping God. Josiah led the people to repair the temple. As they did, they found the Book of the Law that had been neglected for a long time
Something similar could happen to us. Imagine that we had not picked up our Bibles for so long we had completely forgotten where they were. Obviously, God's people were not paying attention to what He had said. They had sinned, and they would need to be punished.
The people would have to be punished, but Josiah would be forgiven and spared. Josiah would not be able to stave off the punishment that was coming to Judah, but he would himself be justified in the sight of God because he had done what was right. He made a valiant effort and he was pleasing to God. Sometimes we might make such a mess that putting everything right seems impossible, but Josiah shows us that we can do it if we look to God's word (as David did) and do what is right.
David and Bathsheba's Son: Moving On When All Has Been Done
David was usually a good man, but for a time he did some evil things. He committed adultery with a woman and then had her husband killed (2 Samuel 11). Nathan the prophet confronted David about these things.
After that, Nathan told David of his punishment and David repented of what he had done.
David was sorry, but he still had to bear many consequences. He would have great trouble with his family, such as when his son Absalom would rebel against him (2 Samuel 15-18). Also, his child would die. Beyond that, Uriah, the man he had caused to be killed, would still be dead. Even though there were consequences to be suffered, David was truly forgiven of his sin by God.
David continued to pray for his stricken son.
Once the child was dead, David went on with life. We often have to suffer the consequences of our sin, but once we have done what we can do to set it right, we have to move on. Note that David worshipped God immediately after finding out that God had not granted him his request. In Philippians 3:13, Paul said that he was "forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead". Paul certainly had some things in his past which were painful, but he was determined to get beyond them. This does not mean we should be callous or uncaring about our sin; we need to apologize to others and give back anything we might have taken. Once we have done what we can to make things right, we need to go on instead of wallowing in our failures in the past.
Ezra's National Confession: It Can Take Some Time
Ezra lived in a time when the people of Judah were trying to rebuild their land. He came to teach them God's word. After initial success, he found out that many people had broken God's law about not marrying foreigners.
Deuteronomy 7:1-4 is one place where God forbid Israel from marrying with many of those nations. Ezra publicly took a stand against the sin and made a great prayer of confession to God. He then told the people that they must separate from the wives they had wrongly married.
The people agreed to do right again. They were willing to correct their mistakes, but it would take time. Ezra 10:16-17 seems to indicate that it took three months to separate all of the guilty people from their wives. It was not a fun job! Sometimes correcting mistakes does take time, but that is no excuse for not doing it. While we are not explicitly told of the consequences for the people, we can see that there probably would be consequences for those who had to divorce their wives, especially those with children. Also, it may have made it easier for the people to sin again the same way shortly afterward in Nehemiah's day, perhaps 15-25 years later (Nehemiah 13:23-27).
The Parable of the Prodigal Son: Some Will Not Forgive
This parable started in 11. The younger son suffered as a result of his sin but was willing to come back and do the right thing. The older son still held a grudge against him, even though the younger son still had consequences to suffer (31). Some people don't want to forgive. Some people will hold onto their anger toward someone who wronged them until they die. Even if the people we have wronged by our sin feel that way about us, we still need to do what is right. God does not hold grudges and He will accept us when we truly repent, turning to Him.
What about those who will not forgive? Jesus told a parable about two servants who owed debts (Matthew 18:23-35). One servant was forgiven by his king of a huge debt (10,000 talents, perhaps 500,000 pounds of precious metal). That servant then mistreated another servant who owed him far less (100 denarii, or 100 days' wages). The king (representing God) punished him for his ungrateful actions. When we sin, we owe God ten thousand talents, a debt we could never repay. Any offense anyone else commits against us is tiny by comparison. We owe God ten thousand talents and we should not put ourselves in position to be condemned over one hundred denarii. Some people on earth may not want to forgive (such as the older brother in the first parable), but God (the father in the parable) does, and that is what really counts for eternity.
The Application to All of Us
We all have sinned (Romans 3:23), and we all need forgiveness. It is
a debt that we cannot pay ourselves. Jesus died on the cross for our
sins. He causes the ten thousand talent debt we have to God to be
canceled when we obey the gospel plan of salvation. If we will believe
in Christ (Acts 16:31), repent of our sins (Acts 2:38), confess Christ
(Romans 10:9), and be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins (1 Peter
3:21), we will be forgiven and be pleasing to God.
All Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version.