Wow! What a powerful little story! And yet, this should be the norm for those who follow Jesus Christ. After all, when Jesus preached his most famous message, the so-called “Sermon on the Mount”, he made the following statement: “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Two events in the life of Israel’s King David serve to illustrate Jesus’ point. In the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel, chapter 16, verses 5-14, David is fleeing Jerusalem as the young usurper Absalom, attempting a coup, advances on the city. As David does, he is met by Shimei, who curses vehemently as he rales against the dejected king and his departed entourage. David’s men want to slay Shimei, but David refuses and suffers the abuse in humility.
Later, in 2 Samuel, chapter 19, verses 15-23, prince Absalom’s revolt has been squashed and he himself is now dead. David is now returning to Jerusalem once again ensconced on the throne. This time, Shimei rushes to meet him and prostrates himself before the King, passionately begging forgiveness and for his life to be spared. Once again, David’s men want to kill the insolent man. But David, to everyone’s utter surprise, forgives him.
But an astute reader will see immediately why David does this. The key is the context of the passage. For just a few chapters earlier (chapter 11), we read that David himself had twice sinned against God in committing adultery with Bathsheba and then attempting to cover up by having her husband, Uriah, murdered.
When he was confronted with his sin by Nathan the Prophet (chapter 12), he confessed his sins completely and begged God’s forgiveness. This confession is recorded in all its detail in Psalm 51.
Thus it is apparent that David knows that apart from God’s grace and mercy, he would not have been forgiven. And because of this, he learns to freely forgive those who sin against him in turn.
In the same book referenced above, Palau tells us about another incident, one that unfolded when General James Oglethorpe once crossed paths with the evangelist John Wesley. General Oglethorpe is said to have once informed Wesley, "I never forgive and I never forget." To which Wesley replied, "Then, Sir, I hope you never sin."
Because we have been forgiven by God for our own shortcomings, we must learn to forgive others for their shortcomings. In like manner, unless we learn to forgive others for their shortcomings, how can we possibly hope to be forgiven by God for our own?!
STORY SOURCES: Luis Palau, Experiencing God's Forgiveness (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1985).
SCRIPTURE SOURCES: https://biblehub.com/niv/2_samuel/16.htm;