Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Story 12: When You Cast the Storm (Psalm 51)

Can you imagine your life having grown up on the lake? You are out there, the wind too choppy for the sails to work, so you must sail the boat to safety. You’ve been at it for hours. The lightning flashes allowing you to see an aberation coming towards you, a man walking on water. As the lightning shows him slowly getting closer, you noticed that he’s bid you to come out to him. How far do you make it? Do you walk 10 feet, or 20 feet? Then you remembered the storm that has been working against you. Before you know it, you’ve plunged into the water, overwhelmed, wishing to be able to breathe. 
Yet not all storms will be of natural makings. More times than not, the storms we face are from factors we have little to no control over, such as the shift in the economy, or the actions of others, or even mistakes you’ve made. How we respond to such storms defines, or reveals, our true character.
Let me tell you about one man-made storm nearly 2500 years ago. He was a man who had a hard youth. He joined the military much younger than normal, 14 or 15 years old, barely a teen. Before long, he is the object of the people’s affection. He will be king one day. He will be lauded. 
Yet sin was crouching at his door, waiting. How would he respond? I use to think until rather recently that David didn’t go to war with his army because in 2 Samuel 21, he almost fell to the sons of Goliath so his men said that he should never again be on the battlefield. Then I realized that I had jumped forward in time, further along than when David cast his storm.
Sin often is the rod that is used to cast our storms. Speculating, but perhaps the sin was coveting what was not his, the 10th commandment. He saw someone who was wed to not just someone else, but wed to one who could be counted as a dear friend. But who can say no to the king?
He summoned her. She bore the fruit of his sin, so he summoned his friend home. When he would not unwittingly help cover his sin, Uriah was sent back to the front line, unwittingly holding his execution orders. He died, and the child was born. David wed Bathsheba. His storm was full strength.
Then came along Nathan. “There were two neighbors, one wealthy holding hundreds in his flocks and herds, and one who had a sole lamb that he would harvest the wool from a couple of times a year to help make ends meet. In turn, the poor man kept his sheep as a dear pet, even allowing it inside the house. But when a traveling friend came to visit the rich man, he hosted the friend by taking and preparing the poor man’s lamb. The poor man’s family was devastated. What should be done, O King?” 
“The rich man should be put to death!”  One really must put thought to what he or she says before he or she says it. Words are not so easy to swallow once given life and voice.  For Nathan accused him of being that rich man, and Uriah, the lamb. 
In the midst of the storm that David cast, he realized that he had stopped looking to God, that his sin is neck high threatening to either drown or choke him to death. This storm would cost him dearly. First, his newborn son would die. Then later, one of his other sons would commit the same sin, but publicly rather than in the cover of night as with David.
It is when he realizes that he was no longer focused on God that he wrote the 51st Psalm. It is a Psalm seeking forgiveness, a psalm of repentance. It is a psalm of hope, a psalm of healing. Let’s read it:

Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion.  Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.  For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me.  Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge. 
Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.  Surely You desire integrity in the inner self, and You teach me wisdom deep within. 
 Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice.  Turn Your face away  from my sins and blot out all my guilt. 
God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast  spirit within me.  Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You. 
Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness.  Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleasing to God is  a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart

What do we learn from David’s prayer? Let’s talk about forgiveness. All to often, people are afraid to turn to God, believing that God will not forgive them their stupid choices. It’s easy to think that the incidental sin can be forgiven, but the willful one? David didn’t accidentally come across her. He skipped a campaign for her. David didn’t accidentally kill Uriah, but deliberately executed him. His focus was so far off God that a year had passed. But even then, God forgave him. 
Now God’s forgiveness should never be mistaken for escape from consequences. No. David will still have those. But here is what he did, according to Psalm 51, to receive the forgiveness.

He asked for forgiveness and grace.
Now after all these things, David turns to God. He seeks forgiveness. He does so with a humility, not from an attitude that it’s a given that God will forgive him. 
This also includes confessing and owning your sins. This is harder in that as much as we our sins seem to affect others, Uriah his life, for example, sin affects our relationship with God. Our purpose is to worship him, to be in fellowship with him. Yes, sin in my life will affect others, just as sin in your life does. But this, David is saying, that we are His children, and holiness on our part is for Him, not for our spouses, our children, our bosses, or even neighbors. Sin ultimately is rupturing our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

He sought God’s help.
Some would call this the petition part of prayer. Here he is seeking to be renewed, to be different from the sinner he just saw. He wants to refocus on God alone. He doesn’t want to lose the Holy Spirit in a time that not all people had the Holy Spirit. But because he was the Lord’s anointed, like Saul, he realized that he did have the Holy Spirit. He realizes that if he continued on, he would risk losing that blessing.

He promised to praise. 
Then he would rejoice in the Lord, telling others of his marvelous wonders. In a way, this overlays nicely with the model prayer we pray each week. It started focusing on God as David confessed. Then there was the petition, give us our bread, forgive us, and deliver us. Then the praise.
Can it be so simple to return back to God? If you are in Christ, yes. Absolutely. Paul told the Romans how he struggled with sin constantly. He would tell them that if we are clothed in Christ, then God sees us pure, blameless, as if our sins never happened, as long as we trust him, turning them over to him.
And thanks to Christ Jesus, not only has he redeemed our souls with his sacrifice, but he’s given to us this Holy Spirit to help us, to guide us.
Now allow me to warn here. The author of Hebrews says that there will be a point that if we continue to be willfully sinful, that there will be a time that repentance will become impossible. But for today, if you are truly wanting to return to God, or if you need to come to God, then this is that time for you. 
It is as simple as returning your focus back to Jesus, regardless of how the storm rages around you. 

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