There is much debate these days over reparations for the national sin of slavery. People seem to take polar opposite sides on this one, but is this something that we seriously need to consider? Could it be that much, not all, but much, of the racial tension and hostility today has roots in the unaddressed shame of what happened to our brothers and sisters of color during slavery? But let’s not stop there: what about the treatment of Native Americans? What should we do with the more recent holocaust of millions of innocent pre-born babies that have been slaughtered through abortion? Whatever the issue, God has given us a process to restore his blessing upon our lives: repent and repair.
Going Deep // Focus: 2 Samuel 21:1-3
During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. The Lord said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.” The king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them. (Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to spare them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them.) David asked the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? How shall I make atonement so that you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?”
What do we make of a chapter like this? God has revealed to King David that divine disfavor in the form of a three-year drought has afflicted Israel because of the sins of the former king. Specifically, King Saul had sorely mistreated the Gibeonites, a group of foreigners that Joshua had covenanted to protect during Israel’s subjection of the Promised Land. (Joshua 9:15) We don’t know what he did, but it was so morally offensive to God that he sent a drought, and it was so brutal that the Gibeonites wanted to take their revenge against the household of Saul. And God permitted it.
Again I say, what are we to do with that? I don’t know that any biblical scholar can give an adequate answer to that, and anyone who presumes to speak for God on the matter is probably wrong, but one of the insights that I have gleaned from reading the Old Testament is that much of the brutality we sometimes come across is frankly the result of what happens when men forget God. When the law of God is set aside, in the individual heart and in the national conscience, and there is no controlling moral authority, the people and their leaders begin to what seems right in their own eyes. And that is always disastrous.
Another spiritual insight from this story is that God takes our covenants quite seriously. When we set aside what we have sworn to do because of the inconvenience it creates for us, or because we suddenly don’t like it, or we want to renegotiate our contract, or we are lured by a far better deal, we have become morally offensive to the covenant-keeping God. And there will be consequences. In the case of this chapter, Israel was now suffering, many years after Saul’s covenant violation.
Now as we fast-forward to the twenty first century, granted, America is not a theocracy like Israel. We do not have leaders who are God-hearted like Joshua and David. Our governmental leaders do not call for the high priest to consult the Urim and Thummin to determine the mind of God. In fact, a growing number of leaders want to do away with “the mind of God” completely. Be that as it may, does God still hold us nationally responsible for violating his covenant in how we have treated groups of people? My sense is, yes he does.
There is much debate these days over reparations for the national sin of slavery. People and leaders seem to take polar opposite sides on this one, but is this something that we seriously need to consider? Could it be that much of the racial tension and hostility today has roots in the unaddressed shame of what happened to our brothers and sisters of color during slavery? But let’s not stop there: what about the treatment of Native Americans? And, in my opinion, what should we do with the more recent holocaust of millions of innocent pre-born babies that have been slaughtered through abortion?
Since God’s Word is true and unchanging, we can rightly assume that we suffer nationally and culturally today because of national sins for which both people and leaders have not repented. Now that doesn’t answer the question of reparations—and that is a very complex issue. But what I do know is that when we authentically repent, these seven steps must be taken:
- Acknowledge what I did by stating the offense. (“I did ‘it’”)
- Admit that I was wrong. (“I was wrong”)
- Express regret for my offense. (“I am sorry”)
- Ask: “Will you or when you can, will you forgive me?” Wait for their answer.
- Ask: “Will you hold me accountable? I give you permission to hold me accountable from now on.”
- Ask: “Is there anything else?” (With the intent, “Is there anything else you want to share with me or say to me that I may have done?”)
- Ask, “what can I do to make it up to you?” (As much as it is possible, be willing to make restitution.)
Of course, you and I cannot force our national leaders to do this, but we can pray that they will have the moral courage to figure it out. And, when we personally sin, or when we become aware that there is corporate sin within our family, we can and should follow these seven steps to God-honoring relational repentance.
What would happen if we covenanted to live this way, as individuals, in our families, churches, business, and for sure, in our nation? I think we would see a revival of God’s general grace upon us like never before.