Forgiven But Unforgotten

II Samuel 13-14 provides some difficult material concerning Absalom, Tamar, and Amnon. Amnon attempts to court Tamar and ends up sexually assaulting her. David does nothing about this for two years until Absalom (Tamar’s brother and Amnon’s half-broter) kills Amnon for his crime against Tamar. Abaslom is indeed guilty of murder, but some of the blame falls on David. Remember, according to II Samuel 13:23, David neglected justice for two entire years.

Absalom flees to Geshur, and David desires to destroy Absalom for Amnon’s death according to verse 39. (The Hebrew word translated as “go out to” in most English translations, more literally means “to consume.”) In chapter 14, however, Joab sees this preoccupation growing in David, and he puts a plan into action to restore David’s family. He hires a wise woman of Tekoa who relates a story very similar to the events of his own life, begging for mercy for her son’s life. David acquiesces to mercy, and, in II Samuel 14:12, she begins to lead David into making application of her story to himself and Absalom. In verse 14, she reminds Him that God shows mercy and does not always require life for life. David should be so merciful.

Forgiving Without Forgetting

This message applies to David on multiple levels. Not only does it apply to his current conflict with Absalom, but David himself is worthy of death for his sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. He sees God’s mercy in his own life, recognizes his life being spared, and decides to do likewise with Absalom. The story, unfortunately, does not end here, though.

In chapter 14:24, David orders Absalom to come back, but David keeps him in a state of household exile for another two years. His punishment is not physical exile, but he treats him as such. From the point of Absalom fleeing until he sees David again, five entire years pass. Is it any wonder Absalom begins to conspire against his father? Do you think David’s actions do not weigh on Absalom’s heart?

Mercy, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation

These chapters are really about mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. David had been forgiven by and reconciled to God in His mercy. David does not do the same for Absalom. This chain of events begins because David ignores Amnon’s wrongdoing, prodding Absalom into taking matters into his own hands. We cannot let our own past sins prevent us from addressing wrong as David’s history with Bathsheba clouds his judgment with Amnon.

Finally, we should be as merciful with others as we hope God would be with us. We cannot “forgive” and continue to punish after repentance. Remember the adulterous relationship Paul condemns in I Corinthians. Once the issue is resolved, Paul writes in II Corinthians 2:7 that the repentant sinner’s brothers and sisters should comfort him and confirm their love for him. David’s perpetual punishment makes room in Absalom’s heart for sin. Paul says we should never allow that opening to form. We cannot continue to punish after we forgive. DOing so is detrimental to our relationships and our souls, and it is not how we would want God to treat us.

When we repent, God shows mercy, forgiving us and reconciling us to Him. We should be so merciful when those close to us repent of their sins.

lesson by Tim Smelser