Daily Devo 3/21/13 “The Problem of Partial Forgiveness”

But Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day. So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years. And King David longed to go to Absalom…” (2 Samuel 13:37-39).

God had established David as king over Israel and had blessed David and strengthened his kingdom. David had strayed from God and commit adultery with Bathsheba and is now beginning to reap the consequences of that sin. His family life begins falling apart.

David had many different sons by different wives (2 Samuel 3:2-5). One of David’s sons, Amnon, rapes the daughter of David, Tamar, who was born to David by a different woman than Amnon’s mother (2 Samuel 13:1-19). David is angry about this happening, but appears to do nothing about it (2 Samuel 13:21). However, Absalom, another one of David’s sons who is Tamar’s brother, hates Amnon and devises a scheme to kill him. Absalom’s hatred for Amnon builds up and after 2 years he has Amnon murdered (2 Samuel 13:20-33). Absalom then flees to his mother’s father, Talmai the king of Geshur where he will remain 3 years (2 Samuel 13:34-38; 2 Samuel 3:3).  

During this 3 year period, the Bible says David “longed to go to Absalom” (2 Samuel 13:39). But, he did not go! Joab, the general of David’s army, devises a plan using a wise woman of Tekoa to get the king to see the error of David’s not forgiving Absalom (2 Samuel 14:1-20). David acknowledges this and has Joab bring Absalom back to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14:21-23), but then adds this caveat regarding Absalom, “"Let him return to his own house, but do not let him see my face." (2 Samuel 14:24). So Absalom returns to his own house, but did he was not allowed to enter the king’s presence. David had only partially forgiven his son. Absalom was no longer a fugitive having to stay away to preserve his life, but he wasn’t completely forgiven of his sin either. King David was still holding on to the hurt that Absalom had done and he would not allow Absalom to see him.

After 2 more years, Absalom has Joab plead with the king to let Absalom come before the king (2 Samuel 14:28-33). David finally sees Absalom. However, great damage appears to have been done in their relationship as four years later Absalom will lead a rebellion against King David (1 Samuel 15:1- 12) and David will have to flee for his life again.

As I think about David and his son Absalom, there are a lot of things that they both did wrong. David should have been more active in disciplining his son Amnon who had raped his daughter Tamar. Absalom should have tried to forgive Amnon rather than bearing a grudge against him for 2 years and then killing him. It is very easy to point out what each did wrong. However, the biggest problem was David practiced partial forgiveness towards Absalom which was in reality no forgiveness at all.

As I think about my life and the relationships with others, are there people in my life whom I have only partially forgiven? Perhaps, I may say I have forgiven them, but I am unwilling to speak to them or do things with them?  Maybe I tolerate them being in the same room as me or maybe engage in “small talk” with them, but I keep my guard up when I am around them? Today, I will rejoice that God has given me to power to forgive others. I don’t need to hold onto the hurt they have caused me. I can give that hurt over to God who will help me bear it (1 Peter 5:7), and embrace those who have sinned against me as God has embraced me for sinning against Him!

“"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).