By Larry J. Curry
What must be done once sin enters our life? This question must be answered by all of us since sin is a universal problem. Either we as Christians admit to sin or deceive ourselves as liars (1 John 1:8). We should ever be thankful that forgiveness is available to all men through the shed blood of Jesus (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4) and is applied conditionally. More will be said about this later. Sin brings with it both guilt and consequences. It separates us from God and causes grief and sorrow (Isa. 59:1-2). Our primary concern in this article is the overcoming of the consequences as seen in 1 Samuel 12:19-25 which reads as follows:
Then all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king,” And Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And you must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which cannot profit or deliver, because they are futile. For the Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way. Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king shall be swept away” (NASB).
The following illustration, heard by this writer long ago, will serve to demonstrate the difference between guilt and consequences. It seems a teen-ager decided that mom and dad did not know much about life, and were incapable of knowing what was best for him. (Sound familiar?) His refusal to obey put them in a quandary as to what would be most effective in bringing about a change in attitude. Their decision was that each act of rebellion would result in a nail driven into his bedroom wall. He bragged about the first few to his friends, but even they soon saw very clearly the awfulness of his actions. Finally, with tears in his eyes, he went to his parents, confessed his wrongdoings, and asked that the nails be removed. His happiness could not be complete since every nail removed left an ugly hole in the wall. And so it is with sin in our lives. The Father readily forgives us of our sins, but consequences remain even as those holes in the wall remained. Having demonstrated the difference between guilt and consequences, I submit to you that many who have received forgiveness of sins have trouble overcoming the consequences. Let’s now examine the text to see the divine remedy for this problem.
Confession of Sin (vv. 19, 20)
The Israelites here confess their sin of asking for a king (8:6-19). Without the acknowledgment of one’s sin, there can be no forgiveness. This was true in the Old Testament system of animal sacrifices and the annual atonement (Lev. 16:20-22). It is equally true in the New Testament. Lately we hear that God will grant forgiveness of some sins of the Christian automatically, but we have yet to hear the passage that so teaches! Brethren, let’s give that false doctrine back to the Calvinist from whence it came, and teach what the Bible teaches – repentance, confession, and prayer (Acts 8:22; James 5:16; 1 John 1:7-9). Further, let me suggest that this confession is equally necessary in overcoming the consequences. For example, such is demonstrated time and again when dealing with alcoholics. Until one admits (confesses) the problem (sin), he can never be helped. Admittedly some sins such as fornication, alcoholism, drug abuse, and use of tobacco have greater and more far-reaching consequences perhaps than others, but all have them (Prov. 13:15). We need to think of these consequences before we sin. In the case of fornication there is the possibility of disease, unwanted pregnancy leading some to justify (?) abortion, loss of one’s reputation, etc. In the case of drug abuse, alcoholism, and use of tobacco, there is disease, shortened life, loss of influence, etc. However, once committed and forgiven, we must forget it since God has. Israel’s request for a king was going to be honored and now they had to live with the consequences. Their sin amounted to a rejection of God even as our sins are a rejection of God’s way for us. Yet, forgiveness will be granted by God when we meet His conditions.
Returning To God and Staying (vv. 20b, 21)
In these verses Samuel admonished them concerning the present and the future since the past could not be changed. Their need now was to turn to God and not away from God. Turning away would lead to futility as they would sink further and further into sin. For a description of this process read Romans 1:18-32. We, too, must realize that the same thing can happen to us. Examples could be cited by all of us of people whom we helped to restore only to watch them turn away from God, thinking that the consequences were too much to bear. Let us remember that the pleasures of sin are only temporary (Heb. 11:24) and that to go back into the world is to become worse than when we started (2 Pet. 2:20-22; Luke 15:11-32). The solution for us is the same as it was for them – draw near to God (Jas. 4:8; 1 Pet. 3:12). And in doing so, draw near to His people who are concerned about our spiritual well-being.
Guaranteed By God’s Steadfastness (v. 22)
Lest we should ever doubt the soundness of this advice, let’s notice the divine guarantee. We are concerned about the guarantee that comes with the products we buy and rightly so, as a good guarantee brings peace of mind. The guarantee here is the Lord and His greatness and His promise to be with His people (Deut. 31:6, 8; Heb. 13:5, 6; 1 Pet. 2:9, 10). The problem then lies not with God but with us. We lose our faith (Heb. 3:12), cease to believe God cares (1 Pet. 5:7), or that He will stand by us even if nobody else does (2 Tim. 4:16, 17). God’s preservation is conditioned on our faith (I Pet. 1:3-5). Just as a product guarantee is good when acted upon, so also are the promises of God. Just as Israel needed reminding of this so do we! May we heed Samuel’s words.
What Can The Faithful Do (v. 23)?
Samuel assures the people that he will continue to pray for them. How easy it would have been for Samuel to be resentful of God’s forgiveness of them (cf. Jonah 4:Iff). After all they were not satisfied with his leadership. Let’s be sure that we react as did Samuel and not Jonah. Those who turn to God confessing their sin and relying on His steadfastness, need to also be able to count on us. Remember James said to “pray one for another” (Jas. 5:16), and Paul prayed for the loss of the Jews (Rom. 10:1, 2). Besides, as Samuel observed, to fail to do so is to sin ourself (v. 23). There is no room in the Kingdom for a smug, better-than-thou, I-would-never-do-that, attitude (Luke 18:10-12). We must remember that it could be me (Gal. 6:1)! Then, too, we must desire to help instruct them in “the good and right way” that is spoken of in v. 23 (NASB). As a child I remember occasions where confession was made in an assembly and after a prayer and dismissal, all who desired passed by to offer a word of encouragement, give a warm embrace, etc. Brethren, this is only the beginning of our work of strengthening them (Gal. 6:2).
The Choice Is Ours (vv. 24, 25)
As in every situation, man is free to choose the path ‘which he will pursue. Samuel reminds them in v. 24 of the many things God has done for them as a means of motivating them to make the right choice. Indeed, do we not have some precious blessings given to us that should motivate us to serve God – a Savior, the Bible, the Church, heaven and many others? Then let’s obey God cheerfully! Too many Christians have just enough faith to make them miserable to say nothing of nauseating our Lord (Rev. 3:15, 16). Samuel also warns of the consequences of continued disobedience (v. 25). History records that as a nation Israel made the wrong choice! We likewise must remember the goodness and severity of God (Rom. 11:22) and the wrath of God (2 Thess. 1:6-9). The choice is ours!
We all find ourselves at crossroads in our lives. Once sin has entered our life we must do what God has said and be forgiven. Then we must turn to Him and His people to find the strength to overcome the consequences. Suicide becomes the answer for many at this crossroad after sin has marred their lives. We must seek to show them the divine solution to their problem so they too can have life after sin.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 12, pp. 359-360
June 16, 1983