Emily Dickinson is famous for the poem, “Because I could not stop for death,” but she is also famous for numerous quotes.
One of Dickinson’s quotes is, “The past is not a package one can lay away.” Such is a striking saying in view of the popular misconception that “It’s all in the past and over and done.” Those things done in the past are to be forgotten forever, some think.
That, however, is not the Bible’s teaching. Paul wrote the Galatians, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” (Galatians 6:7).
A practical lesson of this can be found in 1 Kings in the example of Joab. The general of David’s army had served the king faithfully for many years. But Joab had done some intemperate things in his youth. He had killed two good men for nothing more than revenge and jealousy.
Joab was guilty of killing Abner, Saul’s general, although Abner changed his mind about King David and determined to serve him (2 Samuel 3:21). Since Abner had reconciled with David, and since it might have been possible for Abner to continue as general of Israel’s army, Joab might have decided to eliminate Abner. Joab was also angry with Abner over the death of his brother (2 Samuel 3:27).
After Absalom’s failed attempt to take the throne, a man named Sheba mounted his own drive to become king. David told Amasa, a commander of the army of Judah, to deal with the insurrection and present himself before the king in three days. Amasa failed to discharge his duty in the time allotted, but really had done nothing wrong. Joab found Amasa and killed him (2 Samuel 20:4ff).
Both deeds were unwarranted, done in peacetime and also done surreptitiously. Therefore, the murders were punishable by death for violation of God’s command, “Thou shalt not kill,” (Exodus 20:13).
The consequences of Joab’s actions came visiting at the time of David’s illness and impending death. The general decided to back Adonijah, the half-brother of Solomon, as the new king. In explaining why Joab was to be executed, King David told Solomon it was because of the murders Joab committed (1 Kings 2:5).
God had worked out the recompense for Joab’s cruel killings. Even though these deaths had happened years before, God had not forgotten. We can’t treat our sin as if it has an expiration date. If we fail to repent, we can be assured sin’s wages will be paid.
God is not mocked. If we think we can use time as a means of covering sin, we are sadly mistaken, just as Joab was. If we sow to the flesh, we shall of the flesh reap corruption, the apostle wrote (Galatians 6:7-9). We can’t sow sin and hope for a crop failure.