This last week I have been watching as our country continues to implode. I feel so helpless to do anything about it. I feel like I’m standing and watching families divide, friends part ways, and people fall into despair. Where is this coming from? Why is this happening?
It’s my fault.
It really is.
It would be easier for me to point the finger at someone else and say that it’s their fault. It would be easier for me to jump on the bandwagon and start saying, “now look what you’ve done! You’ve made your bed! Now sleep in it!” It would be easier to say, “Now you know what it feels like to be ignored!” It would be easy for me to start name-calling and generalizing all of the people around me because the few are the loudest.
But that’s not Biblical. That’s not true. What’s true is that it is my fault and if I refuse to accept responsibility for what is happening in this country then nothing is going to change.
I am a big fan of Psalms and Proverbs. I’m a big fan of the whole Bible but I’ve been camped out in these areas for the last 6 months or more trying to really drink up all of the wisdom found in these books. I can’t help but draw connections to what is happening here and now to what was happening in the Psalms. I want to draw attention specifically to Psalm 25, Psalm 37, 38, 39, and 40.
In Psalm 25 we meet David coming up against another enemy. On one hand he was a beloved king to Israel, but like all kings he always had someone who did not like him and wanted to see him fail. In this Psalm he asks for God’s mercy and for God to:
“Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!”
If we know our Bible we remember that David wasn’t perfect. Some people believe this Psalm was written when David was being tossed out of his own kingdom by his son, Absalom, and Achitophel, his advisor and friend. Why is this happening? Absalom went nuts because David had no control over his own household. (One of his sons, Amnon, raped his half sister, Tamar. Tamar was Absalom’s sister. David did very little to punish Amnon for this crime so Absalom let his anger rise and burn until he killed Amnon and then pushed his father out of the kingdom and took over). Achitophel was the father (or possibly grandfather, depending on who you talk to) of a familiar lady named Bathsheba. We all remember the story of Bathsheba, right? (David is at home during wartime, where he shouldn’t have been. He was on his roof and saw a woman bathing on her roof. She was pretty. He wanted her. So he invited her over and seduced her. She ends up pregnant. But she’s married to a guy named Uriah who happens to be off in the war where David should have been too. David calls Uriah home hoping he will sleep with his wife and then he can cover up their affair. This doesn’t work because Uriah is an honorable man and refuses to experience pleasure while his comrades are in battle. David, in an act of desperation, sends a note with Uriah to give to the commander to send him to the front lines. Uriah is, of course, killed at war. David, for all practical purposes, murdered Uriah).
David screwed up. A lot. And now, years later, he is walking out of his kingdom, looking back, recognizing the error of his ways and asking that God would show mercy on him.
Over and over again David brings up his “iniquities” in Psalms 38-40. In Psalm 38 he gives such an amazing description of his own sin:
“O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath!
2 For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds stink and fester
because of my foolishness…
…18 I confess my iniquity;
I am sorry for my sin.”
I love his words: “my wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness.” Stinking, festering, infected, neglected wounds. It seems to imply that God had been warning David with “arrows” to get it together and David just ignored the warnings. Now the damage is so much worse than if David had done what was necessary to clean them out in the first place. The pain David is experiencing, the stinking, festering wounds, force him to recognize the problem or to choose to hold onto the burden and eventually die. David comes face to face with his problem and does an amazing thing: He Confesses.
In Psalm 40 David, again, recognizes the heart issue that’s going on in his life.
“6. In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
7 Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
Sacrifices and offerings were common in David’s day. These “burnt offerings” and “sin offerings” were made as a way for the people to apologize to God for their sins. It was a way to restore their relationship with a perfect and holy God. But David sees past the sacrifices. It isn’t about the offering. God wasn’t delighted in an offering that was given without remorse and repentance. God was delighted in the heart that wanted to do the right thing. David sees his actions for what they really are: a heart that has rebelled against his Creator. A God who loves him and desires reconciliation.
“11 As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!
12 For evils have encompassed me
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.”
Like David, I look around and see a world falling apart. I see violence in the streets, a love of evil, and a complete disregard for what is good and right. I see a people so focussed on what they want and who is in the way. I feel like I have enemies all around me. I never know what I can or can’t say in fear of retaliation. But the problem is inside of me. I could blame the Democrats or Republicans or the President or the KKK or the LGBTQ community or the terrorists or the immigrants or wall street or the economy or the schools or my neighbor… but I would just be letting the wounds fester and rot and stink and slowly kill me from the inside. The problem is me. What am I going to do about it? How have I contributed to the problem? How do I continue to contribute to the problem?
Praise God for His unfailing love and mercy! Praise God that He delights to reveal His way. Praise God that he is eager to forgive. Praise God that He is perfect, and holy, and good even though I, as a human, often fail. Praise God that, in His kindness and love, He saw it fitting to still die for me even when I was His enemy! Praise God that He is not like me: unforgiving, fickle, judgmental, arrogant, quick to anger.
“23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!” Psalm 139:23-24
“14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14