Forgiven but the Consequences of Sins Continued by Charles R Swindoll
All the passages below are taken from Charles R Swindoll’s book “David” published in 1997.
A family in trouble is a common occurrence, but it’s never a pretty picture. There are two kinds of trouble a family can experience: trouble that comes from without and trouble that comes from within. Though both can be devastating for a family, the more difficult of the two is trouble from within.
When the clammy fingers of death take their tyrannical toll on our lives and bring pain to our hearts, the trouble comes from without. A fire can burn a house to the ground or a flood can wash it off its foundation, causing struggles that are hard to bear. But I’ve found that those kinds of external troubles often pull a family together rather than separate them.
Not so when troubles come from within. Trouble from within comes in the form of pressure, tension, abuse, neglect, unforgiveness, bitterness, heartbreaking hatred, and all the other difficulties that accompany the carnal life when parents walk in the flesh or act foolishly. . . . or when children respond in rebellion and disagreement and disharmony. When there is friction between husband and wife or between parent and child, that’s a lot harder to bear than external struggles, especially when it is the consequence of someone’s sin in the family.
Before we look once again into the life of David, I want to give you a principle from Galatians 6:7-8. “Do not be deceived” are the first words of these verses—words we read several times in the New Testament. The Lord gives us that warning ahead of time because the devil or the flesh or the world will work havoc on our thinking, deceiving us into doubting the truth God presents. And so ahead of the principle, God says, “Don’t be deceived about this. Don’t let anyone teach you the opposite. Don’t let yourself, or someone else, or some experience lead you to believe that something other than this is the truth. Don’t be deceived.”
Now, here’s the principle:
God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption. . . .(Galatians 6:7-8 NASB)
We reap what we sow, forgiveness notwithstanding. If there is anything we have been duped into believing in our era of erroneous teachings on grace, it is the thinking that if we will simply confess our sins and claim God’s forgiveness, then all the consequences of what we have done will be quickly whisked away. When we fall into the trap of sin, all we have to do is to turn to the Lord and say, “Lord, I confess to You the wrong. And I agree with You that it is wrong. And I declare before You (and You only!) the wrongness of my actions. Now, I claim Your forgiveness and I count on You to get me back on track.” And we think at that point everything is hunky-dory and all the consequences are gone.
But that is not what this verse (or any other verse of Scripture) says. The verse is written to people like you and me living in the era of grace, written to the church. It’s not a law verse. It’s not addressed to Israel. It’s written to God’s people, children of the King, people who are in Christ, living under grace. And the verse says:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption [forgiveness notwithstanding]. . . . (Galatians 6:7-8 NASB)
Grace means that God, in forgiving you, does not kill you. Grace means that God, in forgiving you, gives you the strength to endure the consequences. Grace frees us so that we can obey our Lord. It does not mean sin’s consequences are automatically removed. If I sin and in the process of sinning break my arm, when I find forgiveness from sin, I still have to deal with a broken bone.
Isn’t it amazing how we will accept that in the physical realm? Not a person reading these words would deny that. A broken arm is a broken arm, whether I have been forgiven or whether I’m still living under the guilt of my sin. But the same happens in the emotional life. When a parent willfully and irresponsibly acts against God’s written Word, not only does the parent suffer, but the family suffers as well. And that means internal trouble that seriously affects other family members.
Now let me address the consequence.
The one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption. . . .(Galatians 6:8 NASB)
These are the words I use to describe the consequence: The pain of the harvest eclipses the pleasure of the planting.
Think of your life as being like the life of a farmer. As you walk along, you are planting daily, one kind of seed or another. If you choose to sow the seeds of carnality, you may enjoy a measure of pleasure. Anyone who denies that is a fool. Even Scripture declares that sin has its pleasure. As I mentioned earlier, the pleasures are short-lived, but sin has its pleasure. That’s one of the things that draws us into it. It is exciting. It is adventurous. It brings stimulation. It satisfies the body; it stimulates the desires of the flesh.
What we don’t like to face, of course, is that the pain that comes in the harvesting of those sinful seeds eclipses the short-lived pleasure. Nothing concerns me more than today’s propensity for using grace as a tool to justify sin or to take away the pain of the consequences. Too much teaching on corrective theology and not enough on preventive theology.
By way of example, think of an experience common to all of us. Every parent goes through the experience of teaching the kids to drive. It is a nerve-racking and difficult process, no matter how gifted your kids are. Now parents have a choice in how to teach their children how to drive. They can teach them in a corrective manner or in a preventive manner.
If I chose to teach my oldest grandson how to drive correctively, I could say to him, “Now, Ryan, I want to show you first of all, before we get in the car, the insurance policy that I have taken out on the car. So . . . when you have the wreck, which you’re surely gonna have, here’s the phone number of the agent. And after the accident, Ryan, I want you to be sure to call me.” And I go into detail about all the things that need to be done after the wreck. That would be a “Corrective Driving Course.”
On the other hand, I could say, “Now, Ryan, we’re going to prevent a lot of problems ahead of time. If you drive by these rules and regulations I’m going to teach you, and if you obey these signs, you could very likely go a long period of time without even a slight scrape. Can’t guarantee it, but it would sure be better than the other way.” That would be a “Preventive Driving Course.” I think you’d agree, the preventive method has it all over the corrective, right?
Most of us were taught 1 John 1:9 long before we learned Romans 6. Why? Because we have been trained to sin. Sounds heretical, doesn’t it? But look! From our earliest days we have been taught that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). So, when you sin, claim it. Claim God’s forgiveness.
That’s a marvelous verse. I call it our bar of soap in the Christian life. It keeps us clean. It certainly is the answer to the problem of sin once it has happened.
But it’s not the best answer. The best answer is in Romans 6: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (vv. 12-13).
Meaning what? Meaning, as I yield myself to God, when sin approaches, I can say, “No.” And in the power of Jesus Christ, I can turn away from it. I don’t have to sin hour after hour, day after day.
Part of the reason we don’t get the full truth of Romans 6 is that nobody’s talking about the consequences. Grace does not take away the consequences of sin.
If David could rise from the grave today, he would say “Amen” to that last statement. The sin in David’s life led to trouble the likes of which few fathers on earth will ever experience.
PROBLEMS IN DAVID’S PALACE
Let me show you some of the stairsteps that went down in David’s life, leading him to a life of misery as a result of his sin.
“David,” Nathan said, “you are the man!” The prophet stood before the king and told him what no one else would tell him. “You’re the one who took Bathsheba. You’re the one who had Uriah murdered. You’re the one who’s lived like a hypocrite. You’re the man, David!”
And David said to Nathan, “I have sinned.” Three words he should have said the morning after he slept with Bathsheba. I am convinced the consequences would have been much, much less if he had declared his sin, openly confessed it before God and the people and laid his life bare. But he didn’t. And now, a year later, Nathan says, “You’re the man, David!” And David admits, “I have sinned.”
But wait. Wait a minute. Look at the prediction Nathan makes in spite of David’s confession. Under the guidance and inspiration of God, the prophet declares, “The sword shall never depart from your house.”
Never? NEVER. “I thought he was forgiven,” you say. Hey, he was. Nathan says so: “The Lord has taken away your sin; you shall not die.” That’s forgiveness. But the consequences are still there. “The sword will not depart from the house.”
Am I saying that everyone who sins will have the same consequences? No. God, in His sovereign manner, fits the consequence for the person. It’s His choice. It’s His move. It’s His plan. Why He chooses some to go this way and some that, I do not know. That’s not our concern here. All I know is, in David’s case, He led him down a path of misery so that he would never forget (nor would we in retrospect) the consequences of that series of acts.
“The sword shall never depart from your house. … Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household.”
(2 Samuel 16:10 NASB)
Twice, mention is made of David’s own house. The Good News Bible renders this passage with this bad news: “I will cause those from your own family to bring trouble on you.” The Living Bible speaks of David having to live under a constant threat from his family, since God said, “I will cause your household to rebel against you.”
David has been forgiven, but his problems are not over. Trouble will come upon David’s household. Remember my words in the opening paragraph of this chapter? There are two kinds of problems a family can endure: trouble from without and trouble from within. For David, the trouble comes from within, and I don’t think words can express the awful pain this man lived with as he saw the misery that unfolded as a result of his own sin. No doubt he would have echoed the words of Eliphaz from Job 4:8: “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it.”
Many years ago, my friend, John W Lawrence, wrote a small but very insightful volume entitled Down to Earth: The Laws of the Harvest, in which he traces the truth of harvesting what we have sown. He says this about David:
When David sowed to the flesh, he reaped what the flesh produced. Moreover, he reaped the consequences of his actions even though he had confessed his sin and been forgiven for it. Underline it, star it, mark it deeply upon your conscious mind: Confession and forgiveness in no way stop the harvest. He had sown; he was to reap. Forgiven he was, but the consequences continued. This is exactly the emphasis Paul is giving the Galatians even in this age of grace. We are not to be deceived, for God will not be mocked. What we sow we will reap, and there are no exceptions.1
Do you see what faulty theology has led us to believe? We have set ourselves up with a sin mind-set. We have told ourselves that grace means those consequences are all instantly removed, so we let ourselves be sucked under by the power of the flesh, rather than believing what Paul teaches, that we don’t have to sin day after day after day. We sin because we want to. We have the power in the person of the Holy Spirit to say no to it at every turn in our life. If we choose to say yes against the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we may be certain we will live in the backwash of the consequences. Unfortunately, so will innocent people who are closely related to us. It is those domestic consequences that create what has come to be known as dysfunctional families.
David lived through such consequences. We begin to look at the downward trend in his life in this chapter. In doing so, we see eight steps of consequences in David’s misery. The first step was marital infidelity.
“Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your companion, and he shall lie with your wives in broad daylight.” (2 Samuel 12:11 NASB)
The Hebrew word for “companion” is an intimate term and most likely referred to one of David’s own children. In fact, that is exactly what happened years after David’s adulterous affair. His own son, Absalom, cohabited with some of David’s wives. The grim account is found in 2 Samuel 16, and I want you to notice where it took place.
Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house; then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself odious to your father. The hands of all who are with you will also be strengthened.”
So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.
(2 Samuel 16:21-22 NASB)
Where did David first fall into sin? On the roof of the palace. Absalom’s sordid display says, “I’ll rub his nose in it.” What a shameful thing. What a consequence to bear!
The second was the loss of a child.
So Nathan went to his house.
Then the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David, so that he was very sick. …
Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. …
(2 Samuel 12:15, 18 NASB)
It was bad enough to have the experience of marital infidelity. But on top of that, came the loss of the newborn baby, which added to the grief of this forgiven man as well as Bathsheba, the mother of the child.
The third consequence is that one of David’s sons rapes his half-sister. David married many wives and had many concubines, as we learned earlier. From these relationships many children were born. While we do not possess a full genealogical record of all David’s wives, children, and concubines, we do have a record of the relationship between Absalom and Amnon and Tamar. Those three were David’s children, but Absalom and Tamar came from one mother; Amnon, another.
Amnon was attracted to his half-sister Tamar, the blood sister of Absalom. The reason I mention Absalom is that he later comes to her defense and this tells you why.
Now it was after this that Absalom the son of David had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar, and Amnon the son of David loved her. (2 Samuel 13:1 NASB)
It was a disgraceful, disgusting kind of love. Better defined, it was incestuous lust.
And Amnon was so frustrated because of his sister Tamar that he made himself ill, for she was a virgin, and it seemed hard to Amnon to do anything to her. (2 Samuel 13:2 NASB)
With the help of a friend, Amnon set up a scenario that brought Tamar into his presence, where the boy faked illness.
“Come, lie with me, my sister.”
But she answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel. …”
However, he would not listen to her; since he was stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her. Then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred. . . .(2 Samuel 13:11-12, 14-15 NASB)
In embarrassment and disgrace, Tamar went to the family member who loved her, her brother Absalom.
So Tamar remained and was desolate in her brother Absalom’s house.
But Absalom did not speak to Amnon either good or bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister Tamar.
(2 Samuel 13:20, 22 NASB)
Step four, a brother hates a brother. Lust has led to rape; rape has led to hatred; and now hatred leads to the next step, which is murder.
Absalom and Amnon did not speak for two years. For two full years this bitterness and hatred ate away at Absalom.
Now I want to ask something. Where in the world was David during all this? The only thing I find in reference to David as it relates to his daughter being violated by his son is this:
Now when King David heard of all these matters, he was very angry. (2 Samuel 13:21 NASB)
That’s all! Classic passivity. Incredible paternal preoccupation. His head is somewhere else. It has been for a long time. These kids have raised themselves, without the proper parental authority and discipline. As we discussed earlier, this is just another consequence of sin in David’s life.
What kind of palace did David provide physically for his umpteen wives and children? It was fabulous. They probably had every material thing they wanted. But money cannot buy the best things in life. Things couldn’t solve the problem within the relationships of that home. Amnon raped and then hated his sister. Absalom hated his brother, and he did so for two full years. They didn’t even speak.
What a nightmare of a home the palace must have been! No one has done a more realistic job of describing it than Alexander Whyte, in a piece he wrote on Absalom. Read it and weep!
Polygamy is just Greek for a dunghill. David trampled down the first and the best law of nature in his palace in Jerusalem, and for his trouble he spent all his after-days in a hell upon earth. David’s palace was a perfect pandemonium of suspicion, and intrigue, and jealousy, and hatred—all breaking out, now into incest and now into murder. And it was in such a household, if such a cesspool could be called a household, that Absalom, David’s third son by his third living wife, was born and brought up. . . .
A little ring of jealous and scheming parasites, all hateful and hating one another, collected round each one of David’s wives. And it was in one of the worst of those wicked little rings that Absalom grew up and got his education.2
And the result? After two long years Absalom carries out his deceptive plan. Absalom is quite a guy, and he plays his father for a fool. He suggests a plan where all of them would go to shear sheep together.
Absalom came to the king and said, “Behold now, your servant has sheepshearers; please let the king and his servants go with your servant.”
But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son, we should not all go, lest we be burdensome to you.” Although he urged him, he would not go, but blessed him. Then Absalom said, “If not, then please let my brother Amnon go with us.” (2 Samuel 13:24-26 NASB)
Now if David had been on top of things in his own household, he would have known that Absalom had not spoken to Amnon for two years. He would also have been aware of the hatred brewing among his children. You’ve got to be rather thick as a father not to know that a son isn’t speaking to another son for two years. And talk about lack of control …
But when Absalom urged him, he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him. (2 Samuel 13:27 NASB)
“He urged him.” Meaning what? He badgered him. He begged him. He pled. He intimidated. He used guilt. David’s children manipulated and intimidated him, and look at what happened.
And Absalom commanded his servants, saying, “See now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, `Strike Amnon,’ then put him to death. Do not fear; have not I myself commanded you?”. . . . And the servants of Absalom did to Amnon just as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose, and each mounted his mule and fled.
Now it was while they were on the way that the report came to David, saying, “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left.” (2 Samuel 13:28-30 NASB)
Tracing the downward steps, we now have Absalom murdering Amnon, a brother murdering a brother. “The sword will never depart out of your household, David.” And here he is groaning under the ache of it all.
Now if that’s not bad enough, after Absalom kills David’s son he then flees. So we have step six: rebellion.
When Absalom fled, he went to Geshur. That’s where his grandfather lived—his mother’s father, who was a king in Geshur. He can’t live at home, so he’ll go stay with granddad while he licks his wounds and sets up his plan later on, to lead a revolt against his daddy. And that’s precisely what he does.
Step seven, Absalom leads a conspiracy against his father.
Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, and did not see the king’s face. (2 Samuel 14:28 NASB)
Then, through a chain of events, Absalom wormed his way to the king’s doorstep and began to steal the hearts of the people. He stood at the gate of the king, and as people came to seek David’s counsel, Absalom intercepted them. He hugged them and kissed them and won their hearts and got them on his side. He said bad things about his father, all of them false and/or exaggerated. And before long, he had the majority vote. And of all things, David abdicates the throne!
And David said to all his servants, `Arise and let us flee, for otherwise none of us shall escape from Absalom. …’ (2 Samuel 15:14 NASB)
Later, the final step in this devastating chain of consequences comes when Joab murders Absalom. The sword has not departed from David’s house.
Surely David regrets the day he ever even looked at Bathsheba and carried on a year of deception. And finally, in the backwash of rape, conspiracy, rebellion, hatred, and murder, he’s sitting alone in the palace, no doubt perspiring to the point of exhaustion, and in comes a runner bearing bad news.
The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” . . .(2 Samuel 18:32 NASB)
David feels guilty over this son of his. And despite all that has happened, despite the young rebel’s treachery and rebellion, he is concerned for his son.
The Cushite answered, “Let the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up against you for evil, be as that young man!” (2 Samuel 18:32 NASB)
Which is a way of saying, “Your boy is dead.” And what follows is probably the most grievous and pathetic parental scene in the Old Testament.
And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, “0 my son, Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, 0 Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33 NASB)
David is a beaten man. He’s strung out, sobbing as if he’s lost his mind. Every crutch is removed. He’s at the bitter end, broken and bruised, twisted and confused. The harvesting of his sins is almost more than he can bear.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. (Galatians 6:7 NASB)
If you have taken lightly the grace of God, if you have tip-toed through the corridors of the kingdom, picking and choosing sin or righteousness at will, thinking grace covers it all, you’ve missed it, my friend. You’ve missed it by a mile. As a matter of fact, it’s quite likely that you are harvesting the bitter blossoms, the consequences, of the seeds of sin planted in the past. Perhaps right now you are living in a compromising situation, or right on the edge of one. You are skimming along the surface, hoping it’ll never catch up. But God is not mocked. It will. Trust me on this one . . . it will.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NASB)
Turn to Him right now. Turn your life over to Him. Broken and bruised and twisted and confused, just lay it all out before Him. Ask Him to give you the grace and strength to face the consequences realistically and straight on.
I counseled with a young man a number of years ago who sat alone with me in my office. With a curled lip and a grim face he stared coldly at me as we talked about his relationships at home. He’d been sent to me by his parents, in hopes that I might “talk some sense into his head” (their words). I could hardly break through that thick hide. He was angry . . . bitter to the core. Obviously, he had deep wounds.
I said to him, “Tell me about your dad.”
He uttered an oath and cleared his throat as he turned and looked out the window. “My dad!” he said. “My one great goal is to kill him.” His voice trailed off as he added, “I tried once and I failed, but the next time I won’t.”
Seething with emotion, he began to describe time after time after time after time when his father had ridiculed him, embarrassed him, and even beaten him. Now he was taller than his dad, and it was just a matter of time till he got even.
A chill ran up my spine as I listened to this modern-day Absalom vent his spleen. The more we talked the clearer it became . . . this young man, not yet twenty years old, was the product of a tragic set of circumstances in a home most people would consider Christian. But, deep within those private relationships were all the marks of sinful habits: parental neglect, abusive behavior, unresolved conflicts, lack of honesty, forgiveness, understanding, and most of all, true love.
I have often wondered whatever became of that young man. His father, not unlike David, was well-respected in the community and among his professional peers. No one would have guessed there was such trouble at home . . . unless they got close enough to that son to see the scars.
To everyone else, David was king. To Absalom, David was Dad. Wonder how he would describe David if he, being dead, could speak? [209-223]
1. John W Lawrence, Life’s Choices (Portland, Ore.: Multnomah Press, 1975), 39
2. Whyte, Bible Characters, 309.