Do not turn back time

“If I Could Turn Back Time”

Do not turn back timeRegrets

How many people here are fans of Cher…at least musically? Perhaps as part of Sonny and Cher?

How about Eddie Money of “Two Tickets to Paradise” fame?

Both came to mind this week as I was pondering this sermon because they both have songs of regret. With Cher it is “If I Could Turn Back Time” and with Eddie Money it is “I Wanna Go Back.” Cher wanted to unsay some hurtful words and Eddie Money wanted to return to a time when he wasn’t alone.

However, as Eddie Money’s 1986 hit recognized:

But I can’t go back, I know.

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

Although we cannot go backwards in time, do either of those songs speak to you? Is there another song about undoing or reliving the past that does? (For instance, while I was composing this sermon, “Take Me Back” from Van Halen came on my Internet station, 70s Rock XYZ.)

Would you like to be able to go back and slap your younger self ‘side the head before you say or do something really stupid?

Biblical Mistakes — David and Bathsheba

Part of the way we know that the Bible is true is that instead of being some kind of political propaganda whose heroes can do no wrong, it lays out the bad and ugly without favoritism. It records plenty of mistakes, including by those who are lionized by Jews and Christians alike. For instance, do you recall this story of sin?:

11 iIn the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant” (2 Samuel 11:1-5).

And it gets worse from there…as David adds the sin of murder to adultery by having Bathsheba’s husband Uriah abandoned on the battlefield.

When David was called out for his sin through the prophet Nathan, do you think if he could turn back time, David would have?

Psalm 51 gives us a clue:

1  Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

2  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin!

3  For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4  Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you may be justified in your words

and blameless in your judgment (Psalm 51:1-4).

In my English Standard Version Bible right over those words it says:


Based on that and the first four verses of Psalm 51…and understanding the Psalm continues with his penitence…do you think David wanted to go back and undo his inexcusable transgression?


Out of that transgression David married Bathsheba and…after the death of the initial child from their illicit affair…the next was…?

Solomon…the wisest man ever (see 1 Kings 3:12 and 4:29-34)

And, more importantly, through the relationship that started in adultery we trace the lineage of the only sinless man ever…

Our Savior Jesus Christ. (See Matthew 1:1-17.)

So, personally, although I am not glad David sinned so horribly, I am glad he could not turn back time.

Biblical Mistakes — Selling Joseph into Slavery

However, perhaps the best scriptural example for looking back on mistakes is the tale of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. Short story is that Joseph was his father’s favorite and, perhaps, didn’t show a lot of common sense in sharing his dreams that indicated he would rule over his siblings.

And his brothers despised him.

We join the narrative in Genesis after they have thrown Joseph into a pit:

25 Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes 30 and returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?” 31 Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not” (Genesis 37:25-32).

Is selling your brother into slavery a sin? Teensy-weensy sin or big sin?

Big sin.

Even if you brother really is a jerk kids. 🙂

Do you think they ever regretted their sin? Let’s fast forward many years to a famine and the brothers in Egypt trying to buy food. Joseph, sold into slavery, is second only to Pharaoh in the country, and…without realizing it…they are before him.

On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, 20 and bring your youngest brother to me. So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they did so. 21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood” (Genesis 42:18-22).

Now, it’s hard to tell if their recognition of fault is only because they regret what they think the punishment is for…but yes…

At that point I suspect they wished they could turn back time, pull him out of that hole, and bring him back to their dad.

But they could not.

Now, do you know why I said this story was a better example for this sermon?

Because after their father Jacob dies, Joseph says something that is very, very important as we look back in history with regret. Let’s take a look at it in Genesis 50:15-21:

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.” ‘ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Did you catch that?! Not that the brothers added the sin of lying again to the repertoire. Instead…

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

What Joseph’s brothers meant for evil, God meant for good.

God is a master at making lemonade out of lemons, and He will ultimately accomplish His will…

Whether it be through an adulterous affair…

Or siblings treating their brother horridly…

Or you saying or doing that really, really stupid thing.

As you consider that, consider also these words in Romans:

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

When you look at things you wish you could change in history, I suspect it isn’t only what you did…but it might be what someone else did to you.

Yet, what does God say through Paul?

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

It may not be until the other side of eternity, but all these dumb things you’ve done…or have had done to you…

God will take them and will work them for your good.

God’s Purposes

Before we wrap up, I want to add one more situation for you contemplate as you mull over what you would/would not do if you could turn back time.

You may have heard the question, “If you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?”

And there is no question that Hitler was an evil, evil man.

But the greatest injustice in the world’s history wasn’t what he did. Instead, it was crucifying the sinless Son of God.

Remember that as we read this dialogue between Peter and Jesus:

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:21-23).

Should Jesus have been crucified? [No.]

Was Peter wrong in not wanting Jesus to be tortured and killed? [No.]

Was Peter wrong? [Yes!]


Because Peter was not “setting [his] mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Peter wasn’t putting God’s will first.

And the Father intentionally was giving up His son…not to mention the Son was intentionally giving up His life.

For us.

If you could go back in time and prevent some wrong.

Even the worst kind of wrong.

You might be fighting God’s will.

Speaking of wrong…

Don’t get me wrong.

God never wants sin. However, it is a constant reality in a world with free will after our first parents blew it…and God will…

Bring about good from what people meant for evil

Work all things, including bad ones, for your good as His adopted child

You can bank on those!


Final thought from Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus is telling us not to be anxious about anything, with the punchline in verse 34:

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:34).

If our Lord tells us not to worry about tomorrow, wouldn’t it also make sense not to worry about yesterday.

What is past is past. If you need someone’s forgiveness, especially God’s, ask for it.

Then move on.

God will…

Bring about good from what people meant for evil

Work all things, including bad ones, for your good as His adopted child

Do not turn back time, even in your head. Move forward with the Lord.

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Alan is an ordinary guy, living in a small, high plains Colorado town...and humbled to be a minister of God...

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