The God of Second Chances
When our oldest son, Paul, was a little boy, he was adventurous and always pushing the limits. I tried many approaches in disciplining him, including the "discussion method." The discussion method is where you resist blowing your top and using all kinds of physical harm in favor of discussing the problem and finding a solution.
One day he was guilty of breaking an important rule, which was riding his bike in a dangerous location after I had specifically told him not to do this very thing. We sat in his room "reviewing" the events and decided together what should be done. I said to him, "Well Paul, if you were me here, if you were the dad, what would you do in this situation?" He answered, "If I were you, I'd give me a second chance!"
This little boy understood something that I, in my anger and frustration, had completely forgotten. As far as I was concerned, there was only one course to follow and that was punishment. Our discussion was merely an effort to decide just how much punishment would be administered.
Paul reminded me that there was another choice (one more favorable to him) and that was forgiveness in the form of a "second chance." This episode taught me not only something about being a dad, it also served as a reminder of my Heavenly Father's character. When I read about God the Father's dealings with His children, I realize that He is the God of second chances.
With this in mind, I'd like to share with you the stories of people who benefitted from the second chance that our Heavenly Father gave them.
David's Second Chance
In the Old Testament, there is no clearer example of a person receiving a second chance than David, the king of Israel. He began as a lowly shepherd and was given the opportunity and strength to defeat Goliath, the enemy of his people. David received God's anointing as king and after many years of struggle was finally crowned after Saul (the first king of Israel) died. David then consolidated military victories, established a capital city in Jerusalem, built a great palace, and amassed tremendous wealth and prestige.
In 2 Samuel 11, we read of David's great sin with Bathsheba. To summarize:
- The armies were away fighting and David, while in his palace, saw a woman bathing.
- He lusted after her and seduced her even while knowing that she was one of his commander's wives.
- She became pregnant and to hide his sin David brought the husband, Uriah, home on leave hoping he would sleep with his wife and cover the pregnancy.
- The man was loyal to his troops and refused the comfort of his own bed while his men were at war.
- His plan upset, David arranged to have the man deliberately killed in battle.
- After news of his death came, David took the woman to be his wife and tried to hide his sin and the resulting pregnancy in this way.
In 2 Samuel 11:27 the Bible records God's reaction to all of this:
But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord.
Evil indeed, look at what David had done:
- He had knowingly seduced another man's wife and committed adultery with her.
- He cheated on his own wives (you could take several wives, but not another man's wife).
- He tried to pass his child off onto another man.
- He plotted the murder of a man who loved and served him.
- He lied to the nation about the entire affair.
What he did should have been punishable by:
- Losing the crown (his family, his lineage forfeited).
- Paying retribution to Uriah's family.
- Death for himself and Bathsheba.
But God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David concerning this evil and to describe the direct results due to his sins:
- He would have trouble in his own house and there would be violence in his own home because of what he did. Violence breeds violence.
- His wives would be taken away from him just like he took Uriah's wife.
- Because the child would be illegitimate and the cause of blasphemy by others against the crown and the divinely appointed kings that wore it, God took the child at infancy.
David responded to God by acknowledging his sins and regretting his actions. He also mourned deeply when the baby was born sick, asking God to spare his life, but the child died as God had said. But then, we see how the God of second chances dealt with this son of His who had acted in such a cowardly and shameful way. After the child died and the mourning was over, David was allowed to start anew with Bathsheba.
Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her; and she gave birth to a son, and he named him Solomon. Now the Lord loved him and sent word through Nathan the prophet, and he named him Jedidiah for the Lord's sake.
- 2 Samuel 12:24-25
David was allowed to take her as his wife before God - this woman he had committed adultery with. They were able to have another child together, and called him Solomon which comes from the root word, Shalom, meaning "peace." The name signified that they were at peace with God with the birth of this child. The prophet Nathan, who had confronted David before, gave the child another inspired name - Jedidiah - which means "beloved of the Lord." They were reassured that God loved their baby and would not take him away from them like He had done the previous one. We also know that this child, produced from this union, would eventually become the third and most glorious king of Israel, as well as an inspired writer.
By rights David should have been stripped of the throne and executed. He should have never been allowed to marry this woman because he was the guilty part in the adultery. But the God of second chances allowed him another opportunity to be king, to be husband, and to be father.
The Woman Caught in Adultery
Another example of this aspect of God's character is seen in John 8:3 where Jesus comes face to face with a woman accused of adultery.
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?"
- John 8:3-5
Some say that this was a trap and the woman who was having an affair was set up so she could be caught in the act with witnesses so there would be no doubt as to her guilt. The Law (Lev. 20:10) did specify that the punishment for this kind of offense was death by stoning.
They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.
- John 8:6
The scribes and Pharisees were not interested in the woman, they were interested in finding some way to attack Jesus.
If He said that they should go ahead and stone her they would have accused Him to the Roman governor as a lawbreaker because only the Roman officials could order an execution. If He opted for mercy then they would have accused Him of breaking the Law of Moses which said such people should be stoned.
But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."
- John 8:7
The Law said that there had to be two or three eyewitnesses to prove the accusation and that if convicted, these witnesses were to be the ones to cast the first stones. Jesus does not demand an execution, nor does He plead for mercy - He merely asks them to compare themselves to the woman.
To the eyewitnesses He says, "If you are morally superior, you then have a right to do this." They could not legally do it without the permission of the Romans and they all knew this. Jesus simply asks them, aside from the legal right (which the Law of Moses and the Law of the Romans could provide), did anyone have the moral right to do this (especially when they may have been plotting against Him in the first place)?
Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.
- John 8:8-9
His writing on the ground has been a mystery to many because the Bible does not say what He wrote or why. Some think it was simply to buy time.
The Bible says that the witnesses and the crowd all left, beginning with the oldest to the youngest. Everyone was silent, including Jesus. No witnesses spoke, including the witness who had a right to accuse and punish - the Lord Himself.
Straightening up, Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more."
- John 8:10-11
Her accusers are gone, the danger is past, and she is left with the Lord alone.
Jesus, who knows the truth about her, knows her life, her secrets and her failures, gives her a second chance. This sin was known, this sin came crashing down on her with all the humiliation, life destroying, ego crushing force that sin can cause. She was caught, she was going to pay - and what does God do?
- He saves her from the mob.
- He tells her that He too (for different reasons) does not condemn her.
- He tells her that she is free to go.
- He tells her not to do this anymore.
The Pharisees and the religious leaders were there to see about punishment for the sinner. Jesus, on the other hand, opened up another option for the guilty - forgiveness and the possibility of a second chance.
We may not have sinned as seriously as David with his adultery and murder; we may not have had to suffer public humiliation for our sins like the woman. But I ask, who among us has not needed at one time or another - a second chance from God?
- A second chance to do right for our parents.
- A second chance at marriage.
- A second chance after having wasted our youth, our money, our talent, our promise, or our opportunities.
Everyone who comes to Him can receive another chance at a better, eternal life, by believing in His Son Jesus Christ and washing away their sins through repentance and baptism in His name (Acts 2:38).
As Christians, therefore, let us be thankful that God is a God of second chances because we all need a second chance at one time or another in our lives. As a matter of fact, God is not only the God of second chances, but the God of third and fourth and unlimited chances for His children who confess their faults and weaknesses, and come to Him for help (I John 1:7-9).