We all make mistakes. It’s a normal part of life for humans in a fallen state living in a cursed world. Some mistakes seem to have little noticeable consequences, while others affect everything and everyone around us.
What do you to do when your sin brings about irreversible consequences? What happens when there are effects from a sinful choice that you have to live with for a time? Perhaps you made a major life choice like a move or job change without listening to the Lord through prayer and wise counsel…then it quickly becomes apparent that you made the wrong choice but can’t change it immediately. What if you marry an unbeliever only to realize your sin after you’ve made the commitment and said ‘I do.’ There are many different ways we may make a wrong choice that brings long-term consequences, and surely living in guilt and shame for the rest of our life isn’t God’s desire for his people.
Demanding a King
In 1 Samuel 12, the Israelites find themselves in such a situation. Rather than trusting the Lord to raise up another faithful leader like Samuel, the people decided they wanted a king “like all the other nations.” Scripture makes it clear this is a rejection of the Lord (10:19). The Lord granted their request after warning them of the consequences their decision will bring (8:10-22).
In his farewell address, Samuel rebukes them once again for their foolishness. But, now that they have a king in place what could they do? He tells them in vv. 14-15: “If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king.”
Though they rejected God and setup a king, he offers forgiveness and blessing for them if they repent of their sin and follow him. In his commentary, Richard D.Phillips applies this to modern Christians:
“The same principle holds true for us. What happens when we find that we have made a bad decision, or realize that we have fallen into sin and rebellion and have put ourselves at odds with the Lord? The Bible teaches us that God allows us to start right where we are, humbling ourselves and confessing our sins, trusting in the Lord and calling on his name, and recommitting ourselves to a new obedience in fidelity to God’s Word.”
The Lord’s grace is truly amazing. He will let us face the consequences of our decisions so that we might learn and grown, but he does not abandon us. So, if you find yourself in a position where you’ve messed up and there are consequences you can’t change, repent and rest in the mercy of Christ even through a less than ideal circumstance. Living in perpetual shame and guilt testifies against the mercy of God and the good news of the gospel.