In our love for Christ and our desire to see Him glorified, there is one aspect that many people overlook. As we are called to walk in humble confession and instant obedience to the Lord, we sometimes neglect to see how this impacts the way we interact with other people.
So, it bears consideration: How does God feel about people we have wronged in the past? What does He want us to do, and what does He do if needed steps are not taken?
A Famine That Revealed God’s Passion
The Bible tells the story of a famine God sent into the land of Israel for Saul’s past sins against the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21). Saul had broken a covenant he had made, and he had never rectified his wrong.
Saul was now dead and gone; but the Lord, who loves unity and longs to show everyone His love and righteousness, wanted this broken promise resolved. He wanted to show the Gibeonites that God’s people keep their word.
David, the current king, inquired of God and discovered why the famine had come. It was intended to get their attention, to cause them to turn to the Lord and listen. (Spiritual and physical famines may often be about this. God often dries up His resources so we’ll look to Him afresh.) When they did, He told them the reason for the famine:
“There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death” (v. 1).
What was David’s response? If he were like us, I imagine he would have said, “That’s old news,” or, “What’s past is past,” or, “That wasn’t even something I did.”
Not David. The next phrase records,
So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them (v. 2).
David immediately took steps to clear their national conscience and provide restitution for this wrong. And, the story has a happy ending:
They did all that the king commanded. And after that God responded to the plea for the land (v. 14).
God was waiting on His people’s response to release His blessing. The famine had accomplished its purpose. And the Gibeonites surely realized that God is a God of faithfulness and righteousness.
The Power of Restitution
Is a murderer forgiven instantly when he comes to Christ? Absolutely. But he still took someone’s life. There is a wave of broken people in his past. He should do everything God instructs to seek, as far as it lies within him, to be at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18) and to make restitution for past wrongs.
What if the survivor’s family heard that the man who murdered their relative had come to Christ? Wonderful; but they would be skeptical.
But what if the murderer came to them, in humility and brokenness, and sought their forgiveness and made any needed restitution? They would know that God had done something real and that Jesus changes people. And that’s just one way God is glorified through this process!
The Result of Restitution
It’s interesting that seasons of biblical and historical revival are always marked by restitution. Apparently, one of the primary ways God’s name is honored and the gospel spread is by His people clearing their past. This provides a path to real and lasting restoration, demonstrating that people who are right with God do right because of His reviving and rectifying presence.
I have seen a man, in a moment of God’s reviving power, give $20,000 to the church, because he said he had been more faithful to pay his taxes to the government than his tithe to the church. I’ve watched husbands go back to the wives and children they’d divorced to seek their forgiveness for the covenant they’d broken.
I was in a meeting once where a man returned tools worth $5,000 to his employer. For years he had justified his stealing with “everybody takes tools home.” His restitution stunned his boss and co-workers and opened gospel conversations.
These accounts go on and on. When Christ is on the throne, He makes us better men and women, and the world takes notice. I believe this is part of God’s agenda for restoration, as He prompts us to make needed restitution!
Bill Elliff is a pastor in Arkansas and co-author of the book OneCry: A Nationwide Call for Spiritual Awakening. He is also a frequent author of Life Action’s PastorConnect emails, available at LifeAction.org/pastoral-leadership. This article also appeared in Revive magazine, Vol. 48, #1.