Faithful and Just

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“Washed Clean,” ©2016 Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

©2016 Lynn Abbott

Like most mothers, mine had eyes in the back of her head.  I never stood a chance.

Even so, my 4-year-old self didn’t know that.  In fact, I doubt I ever considered that my mother might be able to read between the lines.  Obviously, I hadn’t yet fine-tuned my talent for mischief.

Early on, however, my mother slowed any propensity for “naughtiness” that I might have had.

I’m not sure how it all began.  I simply recall the argument with my best neighborhood friend. She wanted to play at her house; I wanted to play at mine.  She rejected my attempts at compromise.

I was hurt.  I have no trouble admitting that now.  But at the time, the heartbreak surpassed anything I had yet known.

To make matters worse, my friend persuaded another buddy  to join her plan.   And she expressed her triumph in unfriendly terms.

“No, we are going to play at my house.  Liz is coming with me because she likes me better,” she announced.

“I don’t care.  I don’t want to play with you anyway,” I lied.

Mortified, I shuffled home.   When I walked in the door, my mother’s face registered her surprise.

I had hoped to slip in unnoticed.  I simply wished to lick my wounds.

But Mom asked.  She had to ask.

An unwritten Mother’s Law required it.  Years later, as a young mother, I found myself asking similar questions.

“I thought you were playing with Jill.  What are you doing home?”

My brain cells fired rapidly.  I couldn’t bear to describe my humiliation.

“Jill had to take a nap,” I fibbed.

“Really?”  mom said, her surprise increasing exponentially.

I held my breath.  Would she buy my story?  It seemed so.  I turned and made my escape.

But Mom had not completed her inquiries.

You guessed it. She exercised her Mother’s prerogative and called Jill’s mom.  She knew.

And my discipline was swift.

Quite frankly, I grieved more over Mom’s disappointment than over my punishment.  washed-clean-copyright-2016-lynn-abbott-studios-watermarkedTears streamed as I promised myself that I would never, ever lie to my mother again.

In fact,  that experience haunted me for years.  I could not bear stories that included any form of childhood disobedience.  “Leave It To Beaver” horrified me.   I covered my eyes whenever Beaver got into mischief.

Beaver’s troubles reminded me of my own failure, and I’d spent many an anxious and guilt-ridden night reliving my  failure.  I certainly didn’t wish to live through Beaver’s troubles.

Of course, my mother had long since forgiven me.

But I knew I had let her down.  No penance seemed great enough.

If I hadn’t loved my mother so deeply, I probably would have recovered more quickly.  But she and Dad were my world.  And years passed before I could forgive myself.

That’s just the way it is when you love someone.  You don’t want to disappoint or hurt those you love.   And so it follows… the more you love, the more you unselfishly wish to  invest in that relationship.  You guard it.  You diligently maintain it.

Indeed, you pursue the best interests of those you care about.  And you and I long for the good opinion of those we love.

Love transforms us.

Because of love, we step away from self-focus and live for someone or something bigger than self.   And to be honest, I think that such love lies at the heart of sanctification.

Sanctification.  That’s a pretty big word to sum up the process of our becoming more like Christ.

Jesus identified the hallmark of God’s children: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind… And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,'” (Matthew 22:39).

When I later came to know and love Christ, I longed not only for His love but also for His good opinion, his commendation. The two were closely connected for me.

And guess what?  Jesus has better sight than my mother ever did.

But I think we sometimes forget that.  After all, we’re human…our nature flawed after the events in Eden so long ago.

washed-clean-copyright-2016-lynn-abbott-studios-watermarkedOur imperfections and rebellion are no surprise to God.  And I’m grateful that through Christ, the path of forgiveness has been cleared.

Initially, though, I wondered how God felt about my post-conversion failures.

Fortunately, even before you and I were born, our omniscient God recognized that we would voice such questions.

In fact, I believe that with this in mind, God inspired the author of the book of Samuel to record David’s full history– the good, the bad and the ugly (2 Timothy 3:16).

Without a doubt, David loved God with all his heart, soul and mind.  God even nicknamed David, “A man after God’s own heart.”

Understandably so.

In the name of God, David had defeated Goliath with a simple slingshot.

And even though David had opportunity to destroy his enemy Saul, David  trusted God and repeatedly spared Saul’s life.

David organized the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Israel.  He danced in celebration when  the Ark, which carried God’s Law, returned to Jerusalem.

David definitely loved God.  But even this “man after God’s own heart” failed.

In fact, he not only lost sight of God, but he also turned his eyes in the wrong direction.

You know what I’m talking about.  His troubles began innocently enough.  For whatever reason, David stayed back in Jerusalem rather than going out to battle with his army, (2 Samuel 11:1).

Maybe, he followed the advice of concerned generals who wished to protect the king’s life.  Scripture doesn’t tell us.

But we do know that one evening as he wandered on his rooftop, he observed Bathsheba, bathing.

Evidently, David was smitten and he crossed a clear line. I doubt David considered the consequences when he sent for Bathsheba that night.

He desired nothing or no one except the beautiful Bathsheba.

David thought only of himself.

When all was said and done, David hoped to avoid discovery.

But as you and I know full well, God doesn’t need eyes in the back of his head.  Our omnipresent and omniscient Savior knows when we fall.

David could have avoided a lot of trouble had he simply admitted his  sin at the outset.   Instead, David looked for a way to cover things up.

When Bathsheba reported that she was pregnant, David tried to arrange military leave for her husband Uriah so that it would appear that the child belonged to Uriah.

No go.

Uriah refused to spend time with Bathsheba because he felt it unfair to his men who still remained at the battle.

He told David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field.  shall I then got to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife?  Bu your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing,” (2 Samuel 11:11).

David tried another tactic; he invited Uriah to dine.  Then, David plied his guest with so much wine that he  became drunk.  Even so, Uriah would not return home to his wife.

David grew desperate.   In a last-ditch effort, he sent word to washed-clean-copyright-2016-lynn-abbott-studios-watermarkedhis commander to put Uriah on the front lines and then to withdraw from him.  David’s plan worked; Uriah slept with his fathers.

That’s right. David made sure that Uriah took a permanent nap.

David probably believed that was the end of the matter.  After all, God’s prophet Samuel had died.  David knew Samuel would not be dropping in for a visit.

David, however, didn’t count on the inescapable love of God.  And he most certainly didn’t expect God’s grace.

The all-powerful, all-knowing Sovereign of Creation sent another prophet named Nathan to confront David.

Grace?  You betcha.

You see, David had clearly violated God’s law.

However, rather than immediately punish David, God sent His prophet to instruct. Our heavenly Father chose to discipline His child rather than to punish.

Punishment embodies legal retribution. The goal of discipline, on the other hand, is to teach.  David was a child of God, and thus, God sent Nathan to correct and instruct David.

God knew David’s heart, a heart for God.

David, however, deceived himself.  He blindly walked in sin.  Rather than accepting responsibility, David  pursued a complicated cover-up.

The response is as old as Eden.

But just as He did with Adam and Eve, our loving. heavenly Father took time to teach David.  He asked questions of Adam and Eve;  He sent Nathan to speak parables to a wayward king.

And with this gentle approach, God invites His beloved child to come clean, to confess.  Yahweh gives His children the opportunity to recognize that they have not only hurt their heavenly Father but also their “neighbor.”

God’s discipline definitely isn’t comfortable.  Discipline never is…

When God questioned their behavior, the first couple tried to wiggle out of it.

But to David’s credit, he instantly repented: “I have sinned against the LORD,” (2 Samuel 12:13).  He recognized the gravity and injustice of his behavior.  I suspect David crumbled emotionally.

He had disobeyed Yahweh.  He had disappointed the one he loved most.

David felt the full force of grief.

Yet, Nathan delivered God’s message of forgiveness.  Sure, there would be consequences to David’s actions.

There always are consequences.

Scripture tells us that sin ultimately leads to death.  And not just physical.   Because of sin, we experience death of all kinds including broken relationships, destroyed trust, stony hearts, crushed spirits, etc.

Destruction crouched on David’s doorstep and David left the door ajar.

The child that Bathsheba carried did not survive. And David’s family was plagued by conflict and betrayal.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that he had murdered Uriah in order to cover an adulterous affair, David himself did not receive the death penalty.

washed-clean-copyright-2016-lynn-abbott-studios-watermarkedNathan delivered this promise, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die,” (2 Samuel 12:13b).

David had sown seeds of distrust and unrighteousness.  But God’s great love and grace disciplined rather than crushed His beloved child.

As the apostle Paul reminds us, the kindness of God leads to repentance, (Romans 2:4).

And in response to God’s gracious discipline, David’s heart broke.  Yes, David loved God.

No longer blinded by self-centered, self-protection, David poured out his grief in Psalm 51, “Be gracious to me O God, according to Thy lovingkindness… Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”  

And God answered David’s humble cry of repentance.

David actually testified to God’s forgiveness when he wrote, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.  As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us,” (Psalm 103:11-12).

But there’s more.  You see, our God is a God of extravagant grace.

And so, not only did God forgive, but He also blessed–choosing Solomon as the heir to David’s throne.

Here’s the incredible part… Solomon was David and Bathsheba’s son and as heir to the throne, he became part of the Messianic line.

Wow.

Yeah, God truly loves His children.  Through Christ, we receive extraordinary mercy despite our sin and failure.

But then, God defies all expectation.  He takes forgiveness further:  grace restores us completely.  We receive both God’s favor and blessing.

That’s what it means to be a child of God; to be loved by the God of the Universe.

Unquestionably, such love inspires me to greater obedience.  Indeed, when you and I truly grasp God’s grace, our love for Him and our neighbors overflows.

“For if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,”~ 1 John 1:9