Being one of the people in the Bible must be one of those mixed blessings. In exchange for having names remembered for millennia, sins are remembered as well. Adam and Eve’s rebellion, Cain’s murder, Noah’s drunkenness, Abraham’s lies, Isaac and Rebecca’s favoritism, Jacob’s scheming, Esau’s murderous anger – the list goes on and on. There are their sins, often explained in excruciating detail for us to read, learn from and for generations of preachers to dissect and analyze.
One of the most spectacular series of sins was David’s liaison with Bathsheba. It has it all: A man being where he shouldn’t be looking where he ought not; a woman careless or maybe not so careless about revealing herself; a sexual tryst followed by a desperate effort to cover it; the treachery of murder augmented by sending the orders for the dark deed in the victim’s hand; the hardened heart of a man who thought he had fooled everyone. Typical of sin, there is the self-deception of the sinner that makes a person think that the rules that apply for everyone else have somehow been suspended for me. There is the effort to create a smokescreen of righteousness to fool the unsuspecting people around. As almost always happens with sin, there is an innocent victim who is injured by the betrayal of one who has been trusted.
In a moment of the highest drama, Nathan the prophet interrupts the sinful serenity of David. His tale of a rich sheep stealer raises the wrath of King David who, in his hypocritical rage, declares that the man should not only repay fourfold but that he should die as well. Like a lightning strike, Nathan extends his arm, points his finger and with the stone-willed resolve that comes to the prophet of God he says, “You are the man!” In that moment of public exposure the fortress of deceit crumbles and David sees what previously he had averted his eyes. He does not see the luxurious palace, or the golden crown, the bowing servants or the sumptuous feasts. No. Nathan’s accusation is the mirror that lets David see the wretchedness of his soul, the rot of forsaken righteousness, the putrid stench of spiritual decay. He sees that he who once wrote “the Lord is my shepherd” has now become the wolf whose teeth are bloodied from a vicious attack upon the sheep. His guilt weighed heavy upon him, crushing him into utter repentance. And it is all there for us to read whenever we want.
How would it be if our worst moment were written for all to read and consider? Could we be like David, kidding ourselves that what we did was not so very bad? If exposed would we be like those people on television we see that cover their faces with their coats to hide from the cameras? Is it possible that to share David’s delusion that blinds us from the depth of our sin until exposed to the light of day?
Perhaps one of the most effective tools the Holy Spirit uses to convict of sin is to hold a mirror to allow us to see not only what we have done but what we are capable of. The superficiality of the 21st Century has us believe that we are not so sinful, that we ought not to dwell on those things that make us feel bad about ourselves. Positive self-image is the key to mental health, we are told. But how can we grasp the wonders of grace if we have not plumbed the depths of our sinfulness? If I have found myself lost in a windowless maze of blackened walls I know to charge through the welcome exit. If I have been in a prison cell, breathing my own stale air with no place to sit or rest, I do not hesitate to run to the open door. If I have been treading water in an ocean devoid of land, I lunge at the rope that is thrown for my rescue. And if I can but see as David did, the full extent of the horror of my sin I fall at the bleeding feet of the Savior whose scarred hands reach out to me in grace. And the alchemy of grace changes my lead heart into gold.
Herbert Booth put it in song:
Savior, hear me while before Thy feet
I the record of my sins repeat.
Stained with guilt, myself abhorring,
Filled with grief, my soul outpouring;
Canst Thou still in mercy think of me,
Stoop to set my shackled spirit free,
Raise my sinking heart and bid me be
Thy child once more?
Grace there is my every debt to pay,
Blood to wash my every sin away,
Power to keep me spotless day by day,
For me! For me!