“There are things that gnaw on a man worse than dying.” — Charlie Waite
Sometimes dying is easier than living; especially when you are carrying the weight of sin. David knew the gnaw that Charlie Waite was describing. Three times as recorded in the books of Samuel, David bore the burden of his choices. Each time, David was restored and given rest. It happened the same way in each instance.
In 1 Samuel 24, David and his men were hiding in a cave. Saul was chasing him down and David had the chance, with one swing of his sword, to end the chase. David cut off the corner of Saul’s robe, in a violation of what God had told him do.
Second Samuel 11 tells the story of David’s decision to commit adultery with Bathsheba. In trying to cover up the affair, David had Uriah, her husband killed. It took a meeting with Nathan to reveal the sin.
In the final chapter of 2 Samuel, nearing the end of his life, David decides to find out how many soldiers he has. Instead of trusting God and finding peace and protection in Him, David attempts to make his own security and trusting in the size of his army.
Three sins that will weigh on the “Man after God’s Own Heart”. How does one recover from that? David’s stories show us.
First, David had to come to grips with his own sin. Twice in the books of Samuel, David’s heart was struck [nakah et leb] (NIV “conscious stricken) [1 Sam 24.5; 2 Sam. 24.10]. In the same way that Saul tried to “pin” [nakah] David and Jonathan to the wall, was David’s heart struck with the same force by his actions; a deadly blow. When he cut the hem of Saul’s cloak, it was an instant realization. It took a confrontation and a story from Nathan to open his eyes about Bathsheba. Finally, with the census, Joab’s words didn’t stop him, it was only after the results came in, when it struck him. The truth about sin can come in many ways and at different times. Sometimes it is immediate and other times it arrives as the consequences manifest. The point is that it must come. As Mark Scott says in his sermon Word of Forgiveness: “Maybe Resurrection Sunday isn’t as powerful because we skipped Calvary on Friday.” When is the last time that we were taken-aback? When is the last time that your sin gave you pause? When were you last struck to the heart by your own sinfulness?
- Job knew the ugliness of sin: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl…If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbor’s door, then may my wife grind another man’s grain and may other men sleep with her.” (Job 31.1,9-10)
- Isaiah knew how unclean his sin was: “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King!” (Isaiah 6.5)
The holiness of God illuminates our sin and we need to deal with that like David did. The prodigal son “came to his senses” (Luke 15.17) and saw his actions for what they were: sin. Have I woken up to the reality of my own sin?
Secondly, David owned his sin. When David cut the corner of Saul’s robe, he violated God’s standard for him. “The Lord forbid [chalil] that I should do such a thing to my master the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him…” (1 Sam 24.6). “Forbid” is more commonly communicated as “far from” in the Old Testament. God wanted David “far from” the idea of revenge. Here he committed that sin. He rebuked his men (v.7) and took responsibility. Later, the statement “I have sinned” is recorded from David’s mouth on two occasions (1 Samuel 12.13; 24.10). The sins that he speaks of, the adultery with Bathsheba and the improper Census, are things that David owns. Without deflection or excuses, David confesses his sin to God. John reminds us in his first letter: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1.9) David understood that relief from the burden of sin can only come through the confession of sin. “For I know my transgressions,” David writes, “and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” (Psalm 51.3-4). How often is sin dismissed or excused? It was a white lie, just a few bucks, a little glance? When I get stressed I mess up, I back slide, and I fall? Satan convinced humanity that sin wouldn’t be that bad and ever since then we have been convincing ourselves that it isn’t that big of a deal. David knew the severity of his sin and he owned up to it.
Finally, David worshiped. After David expressed to his men that he fell short of what God wanted by cutting Saul’s robe, David “bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.” (1 Sam. 24.8) Immediately after confession of his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12.13), David pleaded with God and fasted (2 Samuel 12.16) and worshiped (2 Samuel 12.20). He composed a song, a prayer to music (Psalm 51). At the end of 2 Samuel, after David took the census, David “built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.” (2 Samuel 24.25) The plague, David’s choice punishment (2 Sam 24.14), was the outcome of the improper census. After the confession, worship was the end of this journey of forgiveness. In each case “prostrated” (1 Sam. 24.8) and “worship” (2 Sam 12.20) translate from the Hebrew word chawa. It is an interesting hebrew verb that is found in a very special tense. It is the only verb in the Old Testament that is found in the Hishtaphel tense. It is reflexive and in the middle voice, meaning the action is directed to the person doing it and the actors are doing it to themselves. So “the worshipper is bringing himself in to an attitude of worship”. It is a choice to re-establish the hierarchy of God down to man. Sin has a way of restructuring things. We make ourselves God in sin. Worship is our choice to acknowledge and submit to Him…a re-ordering of things. In our first story (1 Sam 24) it is a reordering of Saul as the King and David as the vassal and in our other 2 stories (2 Sam 11-12; 2 Sam. 24) it is a return to God as King and David as servant.
David knew the burden of sin and how it took its toll on man. Unacknowldeged, unconfessed, and unforgiven sin gnaws at a man. It is a life that kills daily and one that will kill for eternity. In following the example of David, we can find forgiveness from God as provided through his Son.