Forgiving Others, Part 1

This is the contents of the "Forgiving Others, Part 1" section of the "Developing Great Relationships"

Gen 34

Forgiving Others

Forgiving others must always start with God’s forgiveness of us.

Suppose each of us was born with a tape recorder around our necks.

And, all throughout our life, every time that we made an unfair judgement or had a wrong thought regarding another person that tape recorder clicked on.

And once we finished with our sin the tape recorder clicked off.

Then we die and stand before God and He rewinds it and replays everything that is on it.

Then He asks, “Where do you stand?”

And we might be tempted to say, “But Lord, I helped out all of those people and I went to church every week.”

Then He will rewind the tape recorder and replay it, and ask once again, “Where do you stand?”

Forgiveness is our only hope.

Ps. 130:3 “If Thou, LORD, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?”

It is not just that God must forgive us of ALL of our sins, but that God must forgive us of each one of our sins.

If you take the smallest, most borderline sin that you will ever commit in your life and then slice off one millionth of the debt that you owe to God for that sin.

You are helpless to even pay off that much even if you should throw at it every good deed and thought that you ever had in your life.

So how then can you pay for a lifetime of sins?

We are completely at the mercy of God’s forgiveness.

And yet, God is merciful.

And yet how unlike God we can be when someone sins against us.

When someone offends us how often do we scheme and fume and gossip about them?

But think about this, if we make that person pay anything at all because of their sin against us then we are placing on them a burden that God does not place upon us.

He says, “You have committed this great number of sins against Me all of your life.

Some of them are indeed terrible.

Yet here is My forgiveness.

It is free.

It is complete.

It is totally unconditional.

Please, just take it.”

And, you know what?

He wants us to be the same way towards others.

  • He wants us to be just as unconditional in our forgiveness of others.

  • He wants us to be just as free in our forgiveness of others.

  • He wants us to be just as complete in our forgiveness of others.

It is far better to forgive and forget than to hate and remember.

Before Louis XII became King of France he suffered great indignities and cruelties at the hand of his cousin Charles VIII.

He was slandered, thrown into prison, kept in chains and constant fear of death.

When he succeeded his cousin to the throne, however, his close friends and advisers urged him to seek revenge for all these shameful atrocities.

But Louis XII would not hear to any of these suggestions.

But then they saw him preparing a list of all the names of men who had been guilty of crimes against himself.

Behind each name they noticed he was placing a red cross.

His enemies, hearing of this list and the red cross placed behind each name by the king himself, were filled with dread alarm.

They thought that the sign of a cross meant they were thereby sentenced to death on the gallows.

One after the other they fled the court and their beloved country.

But King Louis XII learning of their flight called for a special session of the court to explain his list of names and the little red crosses.

Be content, and do not fear,” he said in a most cordial tone.

The cross which I drew by your names is not a sign of punishment, but a pledge of forgiveness and a seal for the sake of the crucified Savior, who upon His Cross forgave all His enemies, prayed for them, and blotted out the handwriting that was against them.”

We like to keep a list of people who have offended us.

And God doesn’t mind us keeping such a list as long we, too, have red crosses next to each name.

Four stages of Forgiveness

Stage 1) We are hurt.

Something is done to us by someone that makes us feel like we are insignificant or worthless.

Or something very precious to us—our feelings, our opinions or our desires—are stomped on.

There are three dimensions or aspects to this hurt:

  1. It is personal.

  2. It is unfair.

  3. It is deep.

We are going to take a look at each of these in kind and use King Saul’s offenses against David as an example.

  1. It is personal.

We can only forgive people who have hurt us directly.

If someone hurts a friend of mine and I am furious at him for what he did; I cannot ask God to help me to forgive him because he has committed no sin against me.

God will not give me the grace to forgive someone who has not hurt me personally or directly.

I may ask God to give me the power to love that person or to trust that person, but I cannot ask God to give me the power to forgive that person.

But if that hurt is personal then we need to acknowledge it.

We will never be able to forgive if we deny the pain.

1 Samuel 18:7-11.

8 Then Saul became very angry, for this saying displeased him; and he said, "They have ascribed to David ten thousands, but to me they have ascribed thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?"

9 And Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on.

Saul became jealous of David because the people were praising David instead of him.

  1. It is unfair.

It is when we are hurtfully wronged by a person we trusted to treat us right.

Let’s look again at David.

10 Now it came about on the next day that an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved in the midst of the house, while David was playing the harp with his hand, as usual; and a spear was in Saul's hand.

11 And Saul hurled the spear for he thought, "I will pin David to the wall." But David escaped from his presence twice.

He was ministering to Saul and calming Saul’s spirit by playing the harp but then Saul turned against him and tried to kill him in a fit of jealousy.

This was unfair.

Now if David committed adultery with Saul’s wife and then Saul threw David out of his job then that would be fair.

If we deserve the hurt because of something that we did then we cannot forgive because it was not unfair.

If I break someone’s trust by gossiping about them with information that they told to me in secret then I cannot forgive them if I am hurt because they won’t tell me any more about themselves.

But if we are hurt unfairly—even if they didn’t actually mean to hurt us—then we must forgive them.

  • People may hurt us by accident.

  • They may hurt us as a spillover of their other problems and we just happen to be there at the wrong time

  • Or they may hurt us deliberately.

But in all cases we must forgive.

  1. We are hurt deeply.

This is in distinction to annoyances, slights, disappointments, or coming in second.

These kinds of things we just need to swallow or shrug off.

  • Other people have the right to not make us the center of their world every time that we are near to them.

  • Other people are allowed to fail and to make mistakes.

  • And other people are allowed to choose to spend more time with other friends or to drop us as a boyfriend or a girlfriend in order to date someone that they feel more compatible with.

We must be careful not to turn every hurt or disappointment into a crisis of forgiveness.

Sometimes we just need to grow up or not be so self-centered.

But there are hurts that are deep.

An example might be disloyalty.

Say you’ve helped someone out time after time and were always there when they needed you, but then, for some unexplained reason, they start treating you like a dog—like you mean nothing to them anymore.

This is wrong and hurts deeply.

Or maybe it goes one step further and they betray you.

They turn against you and deliberately say things to hurt you.

Or they try to turn others against you.

This is wrong and hurts deeply.

We can’t turn misdemeanors into felonies.

But we also cannot trivialize that which has dug itself deep into our hearts.

We may try and blow it off by being glib about it or by ignoring it, but we will not forgive until we are honest with ourselves about it.

Saul tried a number of times and in a number of ways to kill David.

And you can’t get much a much deeper hurt than trying to kill someone.

David ultimately acknowledged Saul’s hatred of him and how it affected him.

So the key here is to realize that these hurts are personal, unfair, and deep.

We shouldn’t go nuts every time that someone does something that we don’t like.

But we must deal with offenses that do require forgiveness.

Stage 2) We hate or are bitter.

How does this hatred or bitterness manifest itself?

  • We may recall over and over again the event or events that hurt us.

  • Or we start reviewing every lousy thing that they ever did to us or to other people.

  • Or we wish for terrible things to happen to them or maybe even plot them out ourselves. We hope that the boss dies in a car crash.

  • Or we try to destroy their character behind their backs.

In this stage, we begin by being mad.

But then it can become hatred and it grows and deepens because we don’t do anything about it.

And then eventually we become that hatred or bitterness by letting it rule over our lives.

The bitterness no longer belongs to us, we belong to the bitterness.

Once sin gets into our lives it doesn’t stay for a while and then decide that it has done enough damage and then it just goes away on its own.

Sin may

  • Creep in

  • It may burst in

  • It may disguise itself and slip in

But it always leaves clawing and screaming.

It never just fades away.

The elderly woman lay crumpled in the hospital bed speaking to the night nurse.

I’ll never forgive him.

I told him that I would never forgive him.”

She told of how her younger brother had approached her last night while she was in this hospital bed and accused her of taking more than her share of the family heirlooms following their mother’s death.

He spoke of various items ending with “the berry spoon.”

He nearly shouted out, “I want that berry spoon.”

For 40 years he had demanded the berry spoon and for 40 years she insisted that it was hers.

And for 40 years they never spoke.

Now she was defending herself to the nurse, “It’s my spoon.

It was given to me.

He’s wrong and I’ll never forgive him.”

Here was an elderly woman with only a few weeks to live and the only remaining family tie is broken because of a berry spoon.

Do you have any berry spoons in your own life?

Are there any people, perhaps family members, perhaps friends, that you have broken fellowship with because no one was gracious enough to forgive first?

Luke 11:21-22, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own homestead, his possessions are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied, and distributes his plunder.”

In this example there are three players—the house, the strong man and the stronger man.

We are the house.

The strong man is our sin or Satan.

It comes into our lives and plunders us and steals good things from us and doesn’t give them back.

These things may be our joy, our patience, our faith, our love.

The third player is the Holy Spirit.

Only He can overcome the sin in our lives.

Sin is stronger than we are.

The only thing that can defeat sin is God.

Forgiveness is greater than we are.

The only thing that can give us the power to forgive is God.

1 Samuel 24:3-5.

3 And he came to the sheepfolds on the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the inner recesses of the cave.

4 And the men of David said to him, "Behold, this is the day of which the LORD said to you, 'Behold; I am about to give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.'" Then David arose and cut off the edge of Saul's robe secretly.

5 And it came about afterward that David's conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul's robe.

David didn’t exactly rage out of control, but he did assault Saul and humiliate him.

That is the second stage: we are angry.

Stage 3) We forgive

Six points.

  1. The first step in forgiving is to recognize that God has greatly and abundantly and completely forgiven us.

Any godly character that we can ever exhibit must radiate from God’s character.

You can go to a bunch of seminars on how to do evangelism and hear a bunch of rah-rah sermons on reaching the lost.

And you may help out with a few outreaches and pass out some tracts.

But until you see God’s burning desire for the lost, it will never burn in your own heart.

You may have the technique, but you won’t have the heart.

And so it is with forgiveness.

You must first see how abundantly God has forgiven you before you will be able to forgive others.

  1. Secondly, we need to pray.

This takes realizing that we cannot do it on our own--that we lack the power, and that we lack the desire.

Luke 17:5.

5 And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"

The apostles are asking Jesus to increase their faith. But for what?

  • Was it to move a mountain?

  • Was it to reach the world with the Gospel?

  • Was it to heal someone who is terribly sick or maybe even to raise the dead?

What was this incredibly great task that Jesus was asking them to do that they were forced to cry out, “Increase our faith?”

Luke 17:3-4.

3 "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.

4 "And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."

Their request was in the context of forgiving someone.

Jesus just told them that no matter how many times someone offends you, you need to forgive each and every time.

And they said, “But we can’t do this! It’s impossible! So give us more faith so that we can do this.”

But notice Jesus’ response. Luke 17:6.

6 And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you.

The tree that is mentioned here is probably the black mulberry.

The rabbis thought that its roots could remain in the ground for 600 years.

Clearly, this is something that has dug itself down deep and would be hard to move.

So you have this large, deeply rooted tree and Jesus is saying that in order to remove it completely and cast it into the sea you would need what?

  • A hundred men with ropes?

  • A giant bulldozer?

  • A sharp axe, a shovel and about 100 years?

No, we just need something as small as a mustard seed.

What Jesus is emphasizing here is that in order to effect miracles, our faith does not have to be great, it just has to be genuine and to have its foundation in a great God.

When we struggle with forgiving someone--let’s face it—the problem is not that we don’t have enough faith to forgive them.

The problem is that we don’t have any faith to forgive them.


The main reason may be because we don’t want to.

  • We want to see them suffer for what they did.

  • We want them to feel the same hurt that they made us to feel.

  • We want to give them the message that if they hurt me then they will feel pain also, so they better think twice about hurting me again.

But let’s be truthful, if someone hurts me and then I make them suffer for it to the point where I feel satisfied that they know what it feels like then I can’t forgive them.


Because forgiveness involves releasing someone from a debt.

But if I make them pay off that debt then there is nothing left to forgive.

Let’s lets not kid ourselves and confuse forgiveness with justice or to somehow try and mix the two together.

Let’s not think that if someone hurts us, that we can grab them by the neck and shake them real hard and then let go and say, “I forgive you, brother” that we are being noble and Christ-like.

Forgiveness means graciously releasing them from a debt; not making them do penance first.

By back to our illustration in Luke 17:6.

Just like this mulberry tree, hurt can dig its roots deep into our lives.

And it may even feel like those roots have been there for 600 years.

And it may feel that there is nothing that we can do to extract those roots from out of our heart and from out of our thoughts.

But Jesus says that it only takes the smallest amount of faith to do this.

And you know what?

This gives hope.

We can, by the grace of God, forgive anyone; no matter how deep, no matter how long it has been there.

We need to pray, “God, give me the desire to forgive. God, give me the power to forgive.”

We can forgive others the way that God forgives us.

The key is that we must want to forgive them.

You know what’s interesting about this example? The mulberry tree is cast into the sea.

In Micah 7:19 it says, “He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

But then Jesus continues this teaching with a very interesting and what seems to be unrelated story.

Luke 17:7-10.

7 "But which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat'?

8 "But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me until I have eaten and drunk; and afterward you will eat and drink'?

9 "He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?

10 "So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'"

What is Jesus talking about here?

He is saying that we don’t need to become a spiritual giant in order to forgive someone, even if that person has hurt us badly.

We just need to use what little faith we already have to believe God.

To believe God that He wants to give us the desire and the power in order to forgive that person.

And how do we get to that point?

By obeying God in other areas.

Notice that this story doesn’t even say anything about forgiveness.

It is about serving.

It is about doing those basic things that God wants us to do.

It is not even talking about doing great things.

The servant in this story is not out there raising people from the dead or preaching the Gospel to thousands of people.

He is out there doing that which is simple.

He is plowing or tending sheep.

He then comes in and serves a meal and clothes himself properly.

Not terribly difficult things to do.

Psalm 111:10. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.”

You see, God does not make forgiving others to be hard.

But He is saying that if you don’t have the faith to obey God in even the simple basic commands then don’t expect to have the faith to do something like forgive another person.

  • If you aren’t regularly attending a church

  • If you aren’t reading the Bible on a consistent basis

  • If you aren’t praying

Then how can you expect to be able to forgive?

A key to forgiving someone is not for us to psyche ourselves up until we think that we have convinced ourselves that we should forgive that person.

It is not weighing the reasons for and the reasons against.

The key is in believing God to do the work in our own hearts and to believe His strength and His power.

We will struggle with forgiveness so long as we leave God out of the picture and try and accomplish this on our own.

  1. This next point may not apply in every situation but it is something to think about.

We need to see the deeper truth about the people who have hurt us; a truth that blinds us what they really are.

We need to separate the action from the person if that is possible.

This truth is that those who hurt us are weak, needy, fallible human beings.

When someone hurts us we can too easily make them out to be monsters in order to justify our bitterness and our own bad attitudes.

We can make their sin to be even greater and larger than who they are in every other area of their life.

If they have gossiped about us then we can see them as nothing more than like a big, ugly rat that does nothing else in life than to run around and tell everyone that they meet wicked lies about us.

Before they hurt us they were a weak, fallible human being and after they hurt us they are still a weak, fallible human being who needs our kindness and acceptance and support just as much after as before.

  1. We must realize that a lack of forgiveness will enslave us.

And this is very important to realize.

If you cannot free people from their wrongs then you will enslave yourself to your own painful past and will then allow that bitterness to become your future.

You can reverse this future only by releasing the other person from their sin against you and you can only do that by forgiving them.

Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”

When you are bitter and refuse to forgive, not only will it destroy your own life, but it will also negatively affect the lives of those around you.

In the early 1950s a Rabbi was planning to move to America from Europe but he said that he would not be able to go unless he did one thing first, and that was to forgive Hitler. Because if he did not forgive Hitler then he would take Hitler with him to America.

Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate.

It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.

  1. Tell someone else about your lack of forgiveness and ask them to pray for you.

But be careful not to tell or hint at who the person is who has sinned against you.

Do not use this as an excuse to gossip.

The unforgiveness is your sin and that is of greater importance to you than what the other person did to you.

f) You will know that you have truly forgiven someone when you can spontaneously wish them well.

Stage 4) We continue the process of forgiving by approaching that person, if possible, and conveying our forgiveness.

Sometimes, though, it is impossible to approach that person.

  • Maybe they have died.

  • Maybe you have tried to make some contact with them and they refuse to even listen.

  • Maybe you have lost all contact with them and don’t know where they are.

However, in most instances we can at least try.

Three points.

  1. They need to understand the reality of what they did to hurt you.

This does not mean going on the attack.

It does not mean ripping them to shreds and calling them names.

It means explaining from your perspective why you were so hurt.

Not, “This is what you did to me!”

But, “I was hurt by what you said or did and this is why.”

You cannot expect that person to agree with you about every little detail.

No two people in the history of personal misunderstandings have ever remembered their painful experience in the same ways and in the same sequences.

So if you want total agreement and recall,

  • blow for blow

  • insult for insult

  • hurt for hurt

you will never get it.

And in a lot of ways, that is not what is really crucial.

You do not have to force them to feel remorse for every word, every nuance, every action.

But the first step is what? —that you to forgive them.

That is absolutely the most important part of this whole process.

It is even more important to you than for them to repent.

  1. You must be truthful about what happened and how you felt.

Don’t exaggerate it so as to make them feel as badly as you can make them.

  1. Make an attempt to restore the relationship.

Did David forgive Saul?

I believe so and we can look at some scriptures that indicate this.

1 Samuel 24:21-22.

This is Saul speaking.

21 "So now swear to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not destroy my name from my father's household."

22 And David swore to Saul. And Saul went to his home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

David was able to wish Saul well.

1 Samuel 26:24.

This is David speaking.

24 "Now behold, as your life was highly valued in my sight this day, so may my life be highly valued in the sight of the LORD, and may He deliver me from all distress."

David considered Saul to be important as a person.

Even though Saul was a failure in many ways as king, David did not berate him or recount all of Saul’s failures or sins.

David did not play him out to be a monster.

2 Samuel 1:24-25a.

24 "O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, Who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet, Who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

25 "How have the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!”

David was sincerely grieved at Saul’s death.

He wasn’t glad thinking, “See, I knew that God would get him eventually. That certainly justifies my disdain of him.”

All too often when we have had a conflict with someone, even after we believe that we have forgiven him, we can still secretly hope that things will go poorly for them.

Or even be a little glad when we do hear about something going lousy for them.

David wasn’t like that.

He found no vindication in Saul’s misfortune.

Forgiveness is a funny thing: it warms the heart and cools the sting.

Following the Civil War, Robert E. Lee was visiting in Kentucky where one lady showed him the remains of what had been an enormous, old tree.

This tree stood directly in front of her house.

She bitterly cried to General Lee of how its limbs and trunk had been shattered by Federal artillery fire.

Having poured out her anguish she looked to the old soldier for a condemnation of the North.

Following a brief silence, Lee responded, “Cut it down, my dear madam, and forget it.”

It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow them to take root and add bitterness to your future.

There is always a time to forgive.

That time is always now.

  • Your season of bitterness is over.

  • Your season of anger and plotting revenge is over.

  • Your season of chaining yourself to this other person’s hurt or disappointment is over.

It is a new season, a fresh season, a season is plant something new.

Do you want to forget what was behind?

Then do what Paul did in Phillippians 3:13, “but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.”

Do you want to forget the past?

Then forgive; chop down that broken tree and nurture something new and exciting.

Discover what God wants to do with you once you’ve freed yourself from the bitterness of your past.

Live in the present and the future and not in the past.

Seek new relationships; make new friends.

So we have managed to fall upon God’s mercy and grace and, by His power, we have forgiven someone.

But what does that mean?

Does that mean that we must act as though that offense never occurred?

Must the relationship be back to exactly the way it was before the hurtful incident?

What Forgiveness is not

  1. Forgiveness is not necessarily trusting that person fully or even partially.

You may share something confidential with someone and then they blab it to others.

You can sincerely forgive that person but that does not mean that you should be willing to share confidential information with them again anytime soon.

Trust is earned.

You have every right to expect that person to prove their trustworthiness before you make them your confident again.

  1. Forgiveness is not necessarily forgetting about the offense.

It is good to forget about it and forgiving that person is the first step towards forgetting about it.

But forgetfulness is not a test for forgiveness.

When God says in Hebrews 10:17, “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more,” does that mean that He forgets that they ever existed?

Does it mean that if I commit a sin yesterday and then repent of it that God says, “What sin?”

No. It means that He forgets the debt against us and no longer holds it against us either now or ever in all of eternity.

But it is not wiped out of God’s mind so that He no longer is able to remember it.

Think about the Bible.

It is full of examples of people who sinned and then repented.
But if the Bible is truly inspired by God, i.e., that its contents were given to men to record from God, then how are these stories are still included?

Shouldn’t God have forgotten about them?

And if He forgot about them then how could He tell people to write them down?

It is because forgiving does not necessarily mean never remembering; it means never holding it against that person again.

And, in a way, that is even harder.

If we are truly able to completely forget about some offense then it isn’t so difficult to never hold it against that person.

But if it does come to mind and we are able to genuinely not hold that hurt against that person then we are truly resting in the grace of God.

Of course it is good to forget but it is not necessary to forgive.

  1. Forgiveness is not excusing the person.

Excusing the sin is actually the opposite of forgiveness because it is saying the offense really didn’t matter, that there was nothing to forgive.

You don’t need grace to excuse; you just need insight and understanding.

You need grace to forgive because it was, in fact, a grievous offense.

  1. Forgiveness is not smothering the issue because then it will just continue to burn in our soul and start sinking its deep roots into our hearts.

Forgiveness is not pushing the hurt so deep that we think that we are unable to think about it.

Rather, forgiveness is truly dealing with the offense.

It is closing the book on it; not hiding it somewhere in the room.

  1. Forgiveness is not accepting or tolerating the person.

We accept people for the good that they are; we forgive people for the bad that they do.

But why should we point this sin out to them?

Because it will help them to overcome the sins in their own lives that may be weighing them down.

And it may be a sin that is causing them to have problems with other people or with God.

Love wants the other person to be better.

  1. It is not necessarily being reconciled.

Yes, it is good and it is the best to be reconciled, but even if there is no reconciliation that does not mean that forgiveness is absent.

Every effort should be made to reconcile but sometimes that is impossible.

  • There may be an ex-spouse that is cruel.

  • There may be a person who still wants to inflict harm on you.

  • There may be someone who is a total fool.

But we should do what we can to reconcile.

Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”

And Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

Notice that this verse in Romans puts the entire onus on you.

God does not expect a 50/50 attempt.

He expects you to make the entire effort.

But if that reasonable effort, and note how key the word “reasonable” is, fails then you are free from further obligation.

We are going to look at two Bible stories.

In each one, someone was terribly sinned against.

And yet, their responses were opposite.

We are going to see how this affected their lives, their futures and how God viewed their reactions.

Simeon and Levi

Gen 34:1-7

34:1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land.

2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force.

3 And he was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her.

4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, "Get me this young girl for a wife."

5 Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in.

6 Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him.

7 Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob's daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.

Vs. 2

Shechem raped Dinah; a terrible act and the sons of Jacob heard about it and were furious.

Vs. 13-17

13 But Jacob's sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor, with deceit, and spoke to them, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.

14 And they said to them, "We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us.

15 "Only on this condition will we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of you be circumcised,

16 then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people.

17 "But if you will not listen to us to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go."

Jacob’s sons pretended to go along with Hamor in order to trap him and get revenge.

But notice what is missing from the sons of Jacob.

  • They didn’t pray or cry out to God.

  • They didn’t seek counsel or their father’s advice.

  • They lied or, at least, used half-truths.

  • They schemed together about how to get revenge. Obviously, they did not make this story up on the fly. They sat around and planned it out.

It’s dark out and they’re all gathered around a campfire.

One might have said, “Let’s just go in and kill him.”

Another, “If we do that then the whole town will come out after us and we’ll never be able to hold them all off.”

Then why don’t we just go in at night and kill everyone in town while they’re sleeping.”

And what if one person cries out? Then what? Then the whole town will wake up and we’ll be kapooy.”

What we need is some way to weaken all of the men in the town.”

There is a moment of silence while they all rub their chins and think.

Then one of them narrows his eyes and in a low voice says, “hmmm, I think I’ve got it.”

When we are sinned against, is our first instinct to cry out to God.

Do we seek counsel?

Or do we lie and plot revenge?

Do we think evil thoughts towards that person?

Vs. 25

25 Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob's sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male.

Simeon and Levi killed all of the males and then stole what was left.

They punished even those who were associated with the transgressors.

Lack of forgiveness sometimes knows no boundaries.

There is a saying, “My enemy’s friends become my enemies.”

I can assure you that this saying is not Biblical.

Have you ever been hurt by someone and then snubbed his or her’s friends?

This is wrong.

Vs. 30

30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, "You have brought trouble on me, by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I shall be destroyed, I and my household."

Jacob erred in that he did not reprove them for doing evil but for causing him trouble.

He had an attitude of consequences being more important than righteousness.

Vs. 31

31 But they said, "Should he treat our sister as a harlot?"

They couldn’t get their eyes off of the offense.

They focused on the sin and not on God’s grace and forgiveness.

They let another’s sin dictate their own lives.

Shechem’s sin dominated

  • their thoughts

  • their actions

  • and their excuses.

And it was the justification for their own sin.

How many times have you ever excused your own sin because it was in response to someone else’s even greater sin?

Sin is always wrong.

Throughout this story notice how many times God’s name comes up.


They never took the situation to God.

They never even tried to rely on His grace and power.

And the result was the ruin of their own lives and the ruin of the lives of those around them including their own family.

Now we jump ahead to when their brother, Joseph, was the second in command in Egypt, but they didn’t know that it was him.

Their youngest brother and Joseph’s only full brother, Benjamin, was always left behind with Jacob when the other ten brothers came to Egypt, but Joseph wanted them to bring Benjamin the next time.

So to ensure this he took one of the brother’s as hostage to be released when Benjamin appeared.

Notice who was selected.

Gen 42

Vs. 24

24 And he [Joseph] turned away from them and wept. But when he returned to them and spoke to them, he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.

Interesting how Simeon was the one taken and held in prison.

The one whose life was already imprisoned by unforgiveness is now the one who was chosen to be held in an actual prison.

Now let’s jump to the end of Jacob’s life when he gathered all of his sons and prophesied over them.

Gen 49

Vs. 5 - 7

5 "Simeon and Levi are brothers; Their swords are implements of violence.

6 "Let my soul not enter into their council; Let not my glory be united with their assembly; Because in their anger they slew men, And in their self-will they lamed oxen.

7 "Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel.

These are the only two brothers who are prophesied together; all of the others are done individually.

These brothers are forever linked because of their sin.

Some consequences of revenge and unforgiveness:

  • We will not be led by God’s guidance.

  • We will not be vessels of God’s glory. God will not shine through our lives.

Unforgiveness is tied to:

  • Anger.

  • Destruction of others and of ourselves.

  • Self-will. Wanting our way rather than God’s way.

  • Cruelty.

Two more consequences of unforgiveness:

  • God cursed them.

  • God divided them; i.e. they didn’t have the strength to do what would have been able to do.

Now let’s look at the second example.

Here was a person who was also sinned against but see how different his response was.


Gen 37

Vs. 18-20, 23-24

18 When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death.

19 And they said to one another, "Here comes this dreamer!

20 "Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, 'A wild beast devoured him.' Then let us see what will become of his dreams!"

23 So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him;

24 and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it.

You can see here the first stage of hurt that we discussed earlier.

Joseph was unfairly schemed against.

He was personally hurt.

And the attack went deep.

Gen 45

Vs. 3-5

3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?" But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.

4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come closer to me." And they came closer. And he said, "I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.

5 "And now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.

Joseph put God into the middle of the hurt.

He didn’t focus on the sin; he focused on the God who can overcome all sin.

Gen 49

Vs. 22-26

22 "Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall.

23 "The archers bitterly attacked him, And shot at him and harassed him;

24 But his bow remained firm, And his arms were agile, From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),

25 From the God of your father who helps you, And by the Almighty who blesses you With blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.

26 "The blessings of your father Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; May they be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.

Joseph is fruitful.

And notice how many times the word “blessings” is used.

And what is the theme of verses 23-25?

When he was attacked, God stood by him and supported him and blessed him.

Look at the contrast:

  1. Simeon and Levi perpetrated violence. Joseph resisted violence.

  2. Simeon and Levi lost the council of God. Joseph had God helping him.

  3. Simeon and Levi lost the glory of God. Joseph was surrounded by the Almighty.

  4. Simeon and Levi were cursed. Joseph was blessed five times from the heavens above, from the depths below, and from all around him.

  5. Simeon and Levi were scattered; their strength was removed. Joseph was distinguished.

Who would you rather be?

The one who fumes about your undeserved hurt?

Or the one who puts God into the center of your hurt and forgives?

What are some thoughts or behaviors that may keep us from forgiving?

Someone has sinned against us and we are mad and we have been mad for quite a while.

God has commanded us to forgive.

We know how much unforgiveness is eating us up.

We know that even though being able to forgive is impossible in ourselves we have the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to always do what is right.

So why do we struggle so much to forgive?

Why do we cry out to Jesus like the father whose son was demon possessed, “I believe, help me in my unbelief”?

We are going to quickly look at a few reasons as to why we might not want to forgive.

  1. You might not want to forgive because you are angry or frustrated.

Why might you feel anger over an offense?

  • It might be because you feel that you have just been treated wrongly and that you deserve to be treated better than that.

  • It might be because you feel that you have invested a lot of time and emotion into a relationship and now it appears that it was all a waste of time.

  • It might be because you have had your hopes and dreams shattered into millions of shards of glass.

  • Or sometimes it might be because it helps you to avoid self-examination.

So now you are angry.

Something bad has happened to you and you want to make sure that everyone knows it.

The Bible clearly speaks about anger. Notice what it says the solution is.

  • Psalm 37:8, “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing.”

  • Ecclesiastes 7:9, “Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools.”

This study doesn’t have the time to look at anger in-depth but here is what God says.

The Bible is clear about anger—simply stop being angry.

Of course that is easier to say than to do.

But if you do what is right then your attitudes will generally follow.

What are some ways of overcoming being angry at this person?

  1. When talking about him or her make a point not to raise your voice.

  2. Though it might be cathartic to discuss what happened to a couple of your close friends, it is not necessary to replay it over and over again either to those same people or to anyone who happens to pass within ten feet of you.

  3. When discussing the situation don’t just talk about what happened and how awful it was but also what can now be done to move ahead. I.e., you may start off negative but always try to end positive.

  4. Don’t talk about how you’re always the victim and how everyone always steps all over you. If there was anyone who fit that role it was Jesus and you never read about Him complaining.

  5. Yes, you’ve lost something but are you going to fill that hole with bitterness or with something positive? If you do nothing then the first will occur. The latter will only happen if you use the situation to devise goals and create means to accomplish those goals.

  1. You might not want to forgive because you want revenge.

You may want revenge because that person has hurt you and now you want them to feel the same pain.

You might:

  • Spread vicious rumors

  • Destroy their belongings

  • Scheme against them in your mind or wish ill against them

  • Commit physical, verbal, or emotional violence

You may feel that the person hasn’t paid enough yet to be forgiven.

But forgiveness, by its definition, excludes payment.

Otherwise, it’s not forgiveness; it’s justice.

1 Peter 2

20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,


23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;

24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

What is the key here?

  1. Jesus did not respond in like manner

  2. He trusted God to do what was right

Yes, taking revenge makes you even with that person; but passing by that revenge makes you more like Christ.

Revenge is the poorest victory in all the world.

To kill a hornet after it has stung you was never known to make the wound heal any faster.

There is no passion of the human heart that promises so much and pays so little as that of revenge.

  1. You might not want to forgive because you enjoy playing the victim.

You may feel that the only way that you’ll get attention is by being felt sorry for.

  • But have you ever tried genuinely caring about someone else?

  • Have you ever thrown yourself fully into helping those who are disabled or disadvantaged in some way?

  • Have you ever focused on bringing joy into other people’s lives rather than your sorrows?

Maybe then you would also get attention but this attention would be so much sweeter.

Of course, it is easier to complain on and on and on; that takes hardly any effort at all.

It takes work to sacrifice for others.

But it is so much better.

  1. You might not want to forgive because you really don’t like that person and you want to keep it that way.

  • You don’t trust that person anymore.

  • You don’t want to spend any time with that person anymore.

  • You just don’t like that person anymore.

So you continue to not forgive to ensure that there will be no reconciliation or even approach by that person.

But realize that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that you must now be best pals or go on vacation together.

It doesn’t mean that you must now trust that person explicitly.

It doesn’t mean that that person must become a part of your life again.

But, yes, it does mean that you need to be friendly to that person.

It does mean that you can wish them well.

And when this happens it means that you have released them from their burden of payment and that benefits you far more then it benefits them.

We just looked at only four reasons for why a person might not want to forgive.

But those two words are oftentimes the key of a struggle with unforgiveness—“not want.”

We can forgive, we may somewhat want to forgive, but we don’t.

And, yes, it is true that a particularly vile offense may take time.

It might not be that we don’t want to forgive but that the wound is too new, we are still wobbling and confused, or we just don’t know what hit us.

And this could be justified.

But as time goes on, the problem anymore is not so much the original offense but the attitude that we’ve developed.

If you are struggling to forgive then perhaps you should dig deep enough to ask yourself “why not?”

That might go a long way.

Why should we forgive others?

  1. Because God has forgiven us.

  2. We must forgive for our own sakes.

Unforgiveness will take over our lives.

  • It will snatch away our thoughts.

  • It will drain our emotions.

  • It will ruin our future.

  1. Because God has so richly forgiven us how could not return even a morsel of forgiveness to someone else?

First we are going to finish up the section on forgiving others by looking at a passage in

Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"

22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

23 "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.

24 "And when he had begun to settle them, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents.

25 "But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.

26 "The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.'

27 "And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.

28 "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.'

29 "So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.'

30 "He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.

31 "So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.

32 "Then summoning him, his lord said^ to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me.

33 'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?'

34 "And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.

35 "So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

A talent was worth around 15 years of wages.

And so 10,000 talents, which is what the first slave owed, in today’s wages, would be around 3 billion dollars.

This isn’t a literal story and so what Jesus is saying is that this slave had an un-payable amount of debt.

It would take 3,000 men 50 years to earn this much.

But let’s look at in another way.

A talent weighed around 65 to 80 pounds so one man could carry one talent.

Take each of the talents that this man owed and put them into the hands of 10,000 men and then put them into a line.

That line would stretch to six miles long.

Then if that line was put in front of the king to whom the money was owed and every four seconds a talent was placed at his feet, it would take 11 hours for every man to pass by the king and put down his talent.

At the end of this time the king would have around 700,000 lbs of money in front of him.

Another slave then owed this first slave 100 denarii.

A denarius was a coin.

So the amount that was owed could conceivably be carried in the pockets of one man.

If he had the money, he, by himself, could walk up to his debtor, pull out the money, and within a couple of seconds give it to him.

That was the difference in what was owed.

That difference was enormous.

The first slave, though he was released from a great debt, did not forgive the second slave from his small debt.

There are several key points in this story regarding forgiving others.

  1. The first slave did not ask for forgiveness; he asked for an extension of time (verse 26).

He didn’t realize that what he owed was unpayable.

If we have any attitude toward our sin and God thinking that we can do something—anything—to help pay for our sin or to do some sort-of penance, then we will struggle in our forgiving of others.


Because if we think that we can do something to help pay for our sin before God then we will require others to pay us for the sin that they commit against us.

If you do not allow God to be gracious and forgiving then how will you ever be gracious and forgiving yourself?

So what is one thing that you can do to be able to forgive others?

It is to more deeply realize and appreciate God’s forgiveness towards you.

And what is one way that you can do this?

Verbally thank God for sins that you have committed that He has forgiven you for.

  • God, even though I was immoral, thank You that You have forgiven me.”

  • God, even though I was bitter and angry, thank You that You have forgiven me.”

  • God, even though I lied and cheated, thank You that You have forgiven me.”

  • God, even though… even though… even though…”

Bring God’s forgiveness off the pages of the Bible and into your heart.

Take it from being mere doctrine to applying it personally to your own life in a very concrete and specific way.

  1. He didn’t understand the offer of forgiveness and so he was unable to grant it.

Notice what is missing between verses 27 and 28.

There was no humility or thankfulness.

He goes out and meets someone who owes him some pocket change.

Now if God’s forgiveness were on his heart then that would have flowed out of his life when he met the second man.

But what was on his heart? --Himself.

We must be careful not to take God for granted.

Do not trample on God’s graciousness.

And really when you put it into perspective, God’s forgiveness of us is like the distance from here to the planet Pluto.

But our forgiveness of someone else is like the distance from yourself to the person standing in front of you.

This is God’s rebuke in verse 33, “Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?”

God gave him an ocean of forgiveness; He only asked that this man show a drop of forgiveness to the next man.

To sum up this section, so why should we forgive others?

  • Because God has forgiven us

  • Because unforgiveness will take over our lives and make us its slave

  • Because forgiveness allows us to exhibit God’s grace, power, and forgiveness in our own lives

  • Because God has so richly forgiven us how could not return even a morsel of forgiveness to someone else?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is important to first understand God’s forgiveness of us before we can forgive others?

  2. Why is forgiveness so hard?

  3. In the four stages of forgiveness the first one is that we are hurt. What are some examples of how we can be hurt that requires forgiveness and what are some examples of hurt that don’t require forgiveness?

  4. Why is it harmful to ourselves to make every little hurt or disappointment into an episode of forgiveness?

  5. The second stage is that we hate or are bitter. What are some ways that this hatred or bitterness can be manifested?

  6. It was said that unforgiveness can make us its slave. What does this mean and how is it true?

  7. The third stage is that we forgive. If the other person doesn’t repent should we forgive anyway? Why or why not?

  8. What are some things that we can do that will enable us to forgive?

  9. The fourth stage is to convey our forgiveness. Does this have to be overtly said or are there other ways that we can demonstrate this?

  10. If we know that the other person is hostile towards us should we try to convey our forgiveness anyway?

  11. When we do convey our forgiveness what are some things that we should avoid doing or saying?

  12. If we try to convey our forgiveness and they reject us again how can we prevent becoming bitter or angry all over again?

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Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: