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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Learning from King David

I am reading a the book of Psalm in the Bible right now. Of course, I've read it before. One thing I've learned from experience though, is that the Holy Spirit reveals things in Scripture to us that are new --- even when we've read it before.

It's like there are secrets in Scripture and only some of them get revealed when I read Scripture. They seem to be the secrets that I am most in need of at the time. Other secrets get revealed to me when I read that same Scripture again later.

I tend to read the Bible in books. I'll typically read an entire book of the Bible contiguously, reading as many as a few chapters each day. I also tend to meander throughout the Bible. I will jump from one book to another, and from the Old Testament to the New Testament, or vice versa. So the Holy Spirit has plenty of opportunity to lead me in the Bible, taking me to wherever it is that He wants me to go from time to time. This results in some fascinating revelations.

So what is being revealed to me now? What secrets in the book of Psalm are being shown to me on this journey through that book? As is often the case, they are some surprising revelations. And a distinct affirmation of what I already knew. Let me explain that part first.

David is a notorious character in the Bible. A great leader, with great sins, had become king at a young age. God selected him for the role. 1 Samuel 13:14 explains that "the Lord has sought a man after His own heart." In the New Testament, this is affirmed, when Paul quotes God. Acts 13:22 reveals that "... God said, 'I have found David ...., a man after my own heart."

Other Scripture references tell us that David's "heart was perfect with the Lord." He is described as a man "who was faithful to God." David was "filled with the Spirit." In fact, there are at least a dozen references to the fact that David was a man who God's criteria for men. He was the man that God called him to be.

This is important context for someone learning about David --- or about God. For the Bible is also clear about David's sin. He was a sinner through and through --- like me. He abandoned his purpose as a leader and king in the time of war. His desire for prosperity and ease led him from triumph to trouble.

David committed adultery with Bathsheba ... and had her husband murdered to conceal that sin. He neglected to discipline his sons when they got involved in rape and murder. In fact, this great hero showed a lack of character in some of his most important personal decisions. And God called him, "a man after my own heart." Go figure.

To the unbeliever, this all smacks of a God who isn't worth following. But reading through the book of Psalm (particularly the first of the five sections of that book), we see something else about David. He confessed his sin. He was actually sorry for his sin. He "owned his brokenness." David wrote what are called "penitential psalms." In Psalm 25:7, for example, he asks God to "forgive the rebellious sins of my youth." What? A man after God's own heart, hand-picked by God in his youth, had rebellious sins of his youth? Oh my!

Again in Psalm 25:18, David asks God to "Feel my pain and see my trouble. Forgive all my sins." David is in trouble and wants God's help. But he is quick to own his part in the trouble. He is wise enough to understand that his sin is a part of his pain. In fact, David was so ready to own his part in things ... his sin ... that he invited God to "Put me on trial ... and cross-examine me. Test my motives and affections." (Psalm 26:2)

David even talks about what he learned from his sin. Psalm 32:1 is where David recounts, "Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!" He continues in Psalm 32:3-5, "When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable ... My strength evaporated ... Finally I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. ... And you forgave me."

So we see that there were times when David wanted to be alone with his sin. He wanted to conceal it in darkness. He knew it was sin. He just, for a season, made poor decisions about that sin.

The point here is that David was not perfect. He was far from sinless. He took his good old time to confess and repent. So often we might be tempted to think that David was a man after God's own heart in spite of his sin.

Me? I see it a bit differently. You see, I think the many Bible passages that tell us about David reveal that perhaps he was a man after God's own heart because of his sin, not despite his sin. How could this be? Well, it is simple, really. God knew that, like me, David was a sinner. He knew the sins David would commit even when He hand-picked David to be king. The thing that God also knew (since God knows the future) is what David would do with his sin. And that's the key.

From our own relationship with God, we often come to the glaring truth that our sin is inevitable. I can't not sin. But God chooses me, accepts me and cherishes me anyway. So it seems to come down to the question of what one does with their sin. Whatever I do with my sin will reveal the condition of my heart.

Will I try to hide it? Will I try to deny it? Justify it? Blame it on someone else? Can I be angry and bitter about my sin, especially its consequences? Or, like David, can I learn to come to God with my sin? Will I own it, confess it and repent of it? Do I turn from my sin --- or do I nurture it?

So my prayer today is simply this, "Lord, help me to be a good steward of my sin. Teach me to own is and deal with it in God-honoring ways. Amen."

I told you that there are two things being revealed to me now in the book of Psalm. I shall blog about the second one tomorrow.

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