Our bifocal vision enables us to perceive the three-dimensional world. In low light we see in black and white and grey. But with the daylight, the multi-colour world bursts into our consciousness.
Sadly, we take this marvellous faculty for granted until its sharpness begins to diminish. Our eyes begin to have trouble adjusting the focus from far to near. We start to wear spectacles to correct the problem. The lenses begin to become cloudy - until at length we are almost blind and need an artificial lens implanted. The normal drainage system for the fluid in our eyeballs becomes less efficient. We use drops regularly to keep the pressure down so our retina isn't damaged. In the midst of all this, however, we would agree that sight is marvellous. Mostly our eyes have served us well for many years.
Yet some odd effects have been observed. Mothers report that the family, clear-sighted for the eye tests, seems to suffer at times from "domestic blindness". Typists have a kind of "typing blindness" - they can't really correct their own work, because they tend to see the word that is meant to be there! Teachers too have their own problem in the classroom - someone at the back of the room will spot the unintentional mistake on the blackboard!
We spend so much time thinking about ourselves - our image, our needs, our achievements - yet we seem blind to our faults!
Jesus highlighted this problem when he said, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brothers eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, Let me take the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye" (Mt. 7.3-5).
David was a good king. His leadership style became the model for kingship in Israel. We know David for his deep faith and devotion to the Lord. In fact, the record says of him, "David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord's commands all the days of his life - except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1 Kings 15.5).
The whole Israelite army was at war with the Ammonites, but King David had remained in Jerusalem. One evening from the roof of his palace he saw a woman bathing. She was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his soldiers. He couldn't help seeing her, but he should have turned away immediately. He didn't. A thought became a desire and the desire became a plan to get her over for the night and sleep with her. After all, her husband was away at the war, and who would know?
When David heard that she was pregnant, he tried to cover up what he had done. He called Uriah in from the battle, enquired about how the war was going and sent him home for the night. Problem - Uriah didn't think it right to sleep with his wife while the rest of the army was camped in the open fields. At this point, Uriah seems to have had a more sensitive conscience than David. So David sent a message back with Uriah which would guarantee that he would die in battle. After the prescribed period of mourning, David took Bathsheba in as his wife and she bore him a son.
Who would know? Well people could count and would have put two-and-two together. "But the thing David had done displeased the Lord" (2 Sam. 11.27c). Whatever the gossips of the day concluded, David was guilty of adultery and murder.
It was some time - perhaps a year or so - after the birth of Bathsheba's son that the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to David. Why wasn't David confronted with his great wrong immediately? Perhaps the Lord was waiting for him to come in repentance without prompting. But he didn't. How could Nathan bring home to David the enormity of what he had done?
Nathan told the story of a rich man who, in spite of having very large numbers of sheep and cattle, stole a poor man's one little ewe lamb to provide a feast for a passing guest (12.1-4).
David was furious and said, "As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity" (vv. 5-6).
The restitution of four lambs for the one stolen was provided in the Law (Ex. 22.1). The rich man could well afford that. But David was so incensed by such a despicable act that he added the death penalty as well.
"You are the man!" (v. 7)
David, the Lord has chosen and anointed you. The Lord has delivered you. "Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes?" (v. 9a)
Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." Nathan replied, "The Lord has taken away your sin " (v. 13). Sin will bring its consequences. Your son will die. And in the longer term - "the sword will never depart from your house" (v. 10).
Psalm 51 is headed, "A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba". There is nothing superficial about his repentance.
David is pleading for God's favour on the basis of his unfailing love and compassion (v. 1). "Unfailing love" (hesed) is God's kindness and love - often combined in the old Bible as "loving-kindness". God's love is a committed love - love in action.
David asks for his sin to be blotted out, washed away, cleansed. He wants total forgiveness for his sin. We have had TV ads where the tape is re-wound and re-played with a better ending. There are times when we wish that could be done, when we could re-live that part of our lives. But that's a bit of fiction. David knows he cannot undo what he has done. He needs the record erased, his guilt washed away, his relationship with God made clean and new.
Confronted by Nathan, David had said, "I have sinned against the Lord". He had, of course, sinned against Bathsheba and against Uriah, her husband. He had sinned against the nation of Israel. He had sinned against himself too. But, in the final count, all of this combined to erect a big barrier in his relationship to the Lord - "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight" (v. 4).
But he doesn't simply want to be "let off the hook." He wants the cleansing of his innermost thoughts and motivations - "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me" (vv. 10-12).
David had continued to offer God formal worship and sacrifices over the previous twelve months. But now he knows - "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (v. 17).
Sometimes it is said that all people need is to be "affirmed". The truth is that we need to be turned around with the record wiped clean so that we can start afresh. God loves us right where we are, but he loves us too much to leave us where we are.
We all have areas of our life that fail to come up to God's expectations - areas where we struggle and seek the help of God's grace to overcome them. But a lifestyle that justifies deliberate sin is incompatible with Christian faith. When it occurs in a leader, it is a grave offence.
But God calls us back to himself with humility, with a "broken and contrite heart". He offers us forgiveness and grace. He gives us a fresh start each day. Let's step out afresh with him!
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