Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1997
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 3: Disruptive Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 6: Rise and Reign of David: The Disruptive Truth of Messianic Leadership
Lesson 69 – David Deals with His Sin; Sanctification Through Tools of Davidic Dynasty
06 Nov 1997
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’ve been working with David, this will be the last lesson in this series and we’ll begin a new series, Part IV, which will start with Solomon and take us through the Old Testament. We’ll have kind of a different emphasis in that part of the Scripture than we’ve had. I’m going to take you to three verses in 1 Kings, and my intent in showing you these three verses is have you see that the prophets who wrote the text under the inspiration of Scripture, from this point on measured the behavior of a king by the behavior of David. David became a model of leadership in the kingdom of God, warts and all, because apart from Jesus Christ there is no perfect person. But David is held up as a model. For example, look at 1 Kings 11:6 measuring Solomon, this is a prophetic evaluation of the next person in the dynastic line, Solomon. Just to get the flavor, verse 5, “For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites.  And Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done.” So Solomon is compared to his father in an unfavorable way.
In 1 Kings 14:8 he’s talking to Jeroboam, Jeroboam was a king in the north, we’ll study the northern and southern kingdom, the civil war, the disruption of the kingdom. Notice God is talking about how He “tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you—” that’s the north, ten tribes went north, two tribes stayed south, now notice the comment, “yet you have not been like My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only that which was right in My sight.” This is a pretty high evaluation of a man, and yet we have his biography of Scripture that most people wouldn’t consider to be a top notch role model.
In 1 Kings 15:3 we have Abijam, another king in the reign, and he too is evaluated by comparison with David as the model leader. “And he walked in all the sins of his father which he had committed before him; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, like the heart of his father David.” So it’s quite clear that the prophets, the prophetic authors of Scripture deliberately, consciously, explicitly held up David as a model. So we’re back to this thing that the leadership in the kingdom is centered on King David. He was the one who set up the worship in Jerusalem, he was the one who saw, as the people before him had not seen, that Israel had a mission to the world because he consciously brought the ark to a very non-Jewish place. Jerusalem was not a Jewish city, it’s very interesting, it was a pagan city, and he brought the ark into Jerusalem and he did so almost acting as a priest, bordering on this Melchizedekian model of a Gentile king-priest. So things are going on with David and the whole model.
Tonight we’re going to leave the biography of David and all that history material and look at sanctification, the truths of the Christian life, using the tools that we’re going to get from the Davidic narratives. If you follow in the notes on page 110, we’re going to go through the way we treated sanctification before, we said that the doctrine of sanctification, you don’t hear much about that word but that’s the word that describes the packet of material given in the Bible that controls our relationship to God in our personal life, what we would normally call the spiritual life, the Christian life, or whatever.
What we’re trying to do now is see what the foundational components are to that packet of truth. It’s a lifelong study of all the details, prayer, the filling of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts and all these other things. We’re not into all those details here, what we’re interested in is just the overall ideas. Remember that the doctrine of sanctification we first attached to the conquest and settlement because of the idea…, here’s how to use the Old Testament in your Christian life, use the power of your own imagination to imagine you being a participant in these stories.
The stories are richly enough told in the Bible’s text that it feeds enough material into your imagination, so you can imagine seeing David, you can imagine the battles going on. Christians have done this for years. The Psalms are replete with references to the history. So the Old Testament becomes a tool to image how God works, and that’s the intent of the Old Testament, one of the reasons why God preserved it.
Why does sanctification begin with the conquest and settlement? It goes back to this diagram; God’s intent in history is He’s going to deal with the problem of evil. The skeptic and the critic of the Christian faith always wants to deal with the problem of evil now, he demands an answer now, how can a good God let all this evil go on. We’ve all heard this. It’s always the same thing; God can’t be a God of strength, omnipotence, etc. and be a God who loves. The answer to the evil problem is that God will take care of the problem in His time, and understand Mr. Non-Christian that when he takes care of the evil problem if you’re associated with evil, you get shunted to an eternal hell. Just understand what you’re asking for, for the kingdom to come. You’re asking for a bifurcation of separation of good and evil that is permanent and unchanging. Is that the solution to evil that you want now, or would you rather let the problem of evil percolate and be dealt with on God’s timetable, according to His maneuvers.
Sanctification then, because in conquest and settlement, that was when holy war began, and the conquest and settlement is when Israel went into the land and destroyed, exterminated and permanently eradicated a certain evil group of people, a people who had rebelled against the Word of God for generations, it had been passed from to father to son to grandson to great-grandson, three or four generations deep, and God says in the Word that He allows sin patterns to dominate a family for three and four generations and after that He deals with the family. One perfect example of that is the family of Herod in the New Testament, because the Herodian family for four generations rebelled against the Word of God, the Herod family had face to face truth, they had the wise men who came and spoke them, they had a clear enunciation of the gospel, the son of Herod did, etc. and the answer of the Herod clan was genocide, destruction, arrest and persecution to drive away this truth, and God’s answer to them was horrible deaths in all those four generations given in the New Testament text.
God has a way, it’s kind of tough, but it’s His way of cleansing families that get very dysfunctional. If allowed to percolate, remember in the Old Testament the danger was that families lived close together, so that you had the grandparents, if they went negative toward the Lord they had an awesome effect on their children and their grandchildren because they were clustered. You see this, for example, how did God deal with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Remember we studied Genesis what happened in the fourth generation with Abraham’s family? They had degenerated. In the first generation, Abraham, God is always appearing personally to him, then Isaac it’s less so, in Jacob it’s dreams, and finally with Jacob’s sons He never appears, the Theophanies stop. In the fourth generation what happens to that family? They get sent into captivity and they are put in a segregated society where eventually they are going to become very highly persecuted people.
So again we see the same principle, and He says that in the Ten Commandments, I visit the iniquity of the fathers unto the sons to the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, but then people fail to realize the other side of the print, which says and I bless the thousands of generations of them that love Me. So God has a way of dealing with this. The big theme here is that it’s part of a long cosmic plan, this is not just a Bible story, this is not just an event in our personal life, this is part of a principle of the universe that’s going on here. That’s what we want to capture by looking at sanctification from the life of David, because we’re going to advance one step; from the conquest and settlement it was war, we saw certain basic truths in that period of time but it was all national, it was all group, it was never personal and individual.
On page 110 I have a diagram where I tried to pull together the controls on David’s sanctification. We want to look at this because this is not well understood in Christian circles, that we, in our Christian life are under contracts, this idea of God’s behavior toward us being carrying out contractual terminology that’s embedded in the Bible. We said that one of the truths of sanctification is that sanctification has certain phases to it. We want to distinguish these phases.
The first thing to understand is that we share a place in the overall plan of God. David’s plan is depicted at the bottom of page 110 where I’ve tried to summarize two covenants, two contracts that control that man’s life. Was David always conscious of that? Probably not, but the prophets who wrote the book are, because when they chose to write stories of David’s life they picked and they chose, they picked this story, they dropped another story, why do you suppose they did that? Did you ever stop to think of the thousands of things that King David did, why are just these picked? The Holy Spirit picked these out. Why did the Holy Spirit pick these out? Because to David they might have been the big things? Not necessarily.
If we could interview David now and ask him the question, David, how would you have written your biography, what were the big things in your life from your point of view then, and what he would tell us probably isn’t what the Holy Spirit is emphasizing here, necessarily. So we’re looking at, shall we say, a laundered history. By the way it’s a laundered history of Israel too, because one of the shocking things that archeologists find when they dig down into the strata around Israel is the prevailing idolatry, even in the levels that are reputed to be the Jews. When I visited Israel I brought back an image of Baal, it was dug up apparently from a Jewish layer. The archeological evidence is that a lot of Jewish people in the Old Testament never got the message. What we’re getting here is a laundered version of Israel’s history through they eyes of the Holy Spirit because this is what He was doing.
In David’s life you want to see that his life is controlled by the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants, and those covenants had specific things that are going to be true. The Abrahamic Covenant had a land, a seed, worldwide blessing. The Davidic Covenant also had terminology to it, one of those controls was that David had a unique Father-son relationship. He was the one where this Father-son relationship really got started in the Old Testament, terminology wise. Obviously Abraham was a friend of God but the Father-son model becomes clearer in David’s life than anybody else to date as we move through the Bible. The other thing is that David’s seed is going to survive for eternity, so he’s going to have an eternal dynasty. So his genes, making babies and those babies make babies, etc. that lineage of genetic material from David is going to go on forever, and it will always be a royal seed. David centered in Jerusalem; he has a special relationship to the City of David, still called that.
All of the events of David’s life make sense in terms of those things, in other words, this becomes the control method of saying what is going on in my life. Let’s think about what we’re saying. God, in His attributes, one of His attributes is He is omniscient. That means He has comprehensive knowledge, He knows things about what He’s going to do in carrying out this plan from eternity to eternity. He knows all the details. We have finite knowledge, we’re creatures, now David is over here and David’s a creature, and David has certain knowledge of what’s going on but it’s not omniscience. So there’s going to be event after event after event that happens to David down through his life, maybe he will see the meaning of this one, this one, this one and maybe that one, and the rest of the events don’t seem to make much sense to him as he walks through time. What does he do to manage his life, knowing that he can’t get at the meaning of every little thing that happens to him? Where does he seek refuge? The answer is we trust in the God of the plan and we trust in His character. This is not just magic hocus pocus, think of what we just said. We just said something that cannot be mimicked by any person outside of the Bible.
Let me say this again so it comes across clearly. When we trust the Lord of the covenants for meaning and purpose in our life, we are performing an act that cannot be performed by any non-Christian. The reason is because God has revealed Himself in the Scriptures, in this case with David, we in faith submit to that revelation. We don’t submit to it just as printed pages in a book that we found in a library, but as a book that are the very words of the Creator of the universe. That is the language we’re looking at here, and we’re looking at One who has proved Himself trustworthy and so we trust the trustworthiness of the One who builds these covenants. We look at that and say there’s a contract there, and no matter what happens in my life I know the terms of those contracts will be carried out, and somehow the chaos in my life plays into the unfolding of those contractual terms.
What do we have here that the non-Christian doesn’t have? We have meaning and purpose. If you’re a non-Christian where are you going to get meaning and purpose? They think they have meaning and purpose, but where is that meaning and purpose coming from? It’s coming from their heads, it’s coming from inside, they’re making up and manufacturing their meaning and purpose. So the choice is between real meaning and purpose that has to be given to us by the One who has made the whole universe or it’s our finite production. And if we try to create meaning and purpose for our life it’s just this, and it doesn’t fit because there’s a lot of stuff out there we don’t know, and if the whole doesn’t have meaning the parts can’t have meaning.
It’s important, then, that we see that men like David who are held up to be models ultimately are covenant men, they’re men who can walk through life with the assurance that even though they don’t know the details, they know they trust in One who has bound Himself to them with a written message that will contractually be validated. That’s one phase of sanctification, we can call this position, this is David’s position. Some people like to call it that; it’s the positional truth of where we stand.
In contrast to that, on page 11 I’ve given another set of circles and this deals more with the known, in other words the Abrahamic Covenant and Davidic Covenant deals with the overall picture from eternity to eternity. But when it comes to a moment by moment decision, we walk along in time, we make decisions, and we have a certain amount of knowledge, and instead of a circle I’ll draw it sort of like an amoeba, because this changes, hopefully as we grow that boundary expands. But at any given point we know only so much. What did David know? This will be the known will of God for David, the specific commands. Viewed another way, what I’m saying here, all these are imperatives, these verbs are all do, don’t do, do, don’t do, they are commands. The verbs that have to do with the position are indicative mood, these are verbs of state, they state what God is or what He isn’t going to do, or what will come to pass. David knew the will of God through his conscience as we all do, but mainly through the Sinaitic Covenant, he knew the law. Remember when we started this kingship series off and I pointed out what did the king of Israel have to do, what was his assignment every single day? To meditate in the law, Deuteronomy 17, and we made a big issue of that. Unlike Pharaoh and the Assyrian kings, the King of Israel had to daily submit himself to a higher law. So even though he was king, he wasn’t an absolute power like the pagan kings were.
In addition to the Sinaitic Covenant David had extra revelation that he got that we don’t have, i.e. he had a prophet, he had Nathan, Saul had Samuel, so he had prophetic instruction, and through the priests he had priestly instruction. In this phase of David’s life he is responsible to react to this, is he or is he not going to follow these mandates. On the one hand he has a position, and this is what he’s supposed to do in his life, how to respond in different situations, this is what God wants him to do. Those are the phases, one is position, the other is experience. That is analogous in our Christian life, except in the New Testament ours becomes much more complicated than David’s because we’re said to be “in Christ,” the moment we are said to be “in Christ” we share His righteousness, we share His wisdom, we share His cleansing, the cleansing blood, people have gone on and created hundreds of things that are in this “in Christ” thing. Here we’re talking about three or four in the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenant. When you get into the New Testament it has profoundly, profoundly more content. It’s overwhelming and it’s to our shame that we don’t meditate more on our position in Christ and think about all the riches that we have in Him.
We, like David, also have the commands and imperatives of the New Testament, do this, don’t do this, do this, don’t do this. So there’s these two, but what I want you to see in how the sanctification works out in our lives is we constantly deal with the imperative verbs, what we’re supposed to do and not do, trusting in this big picture, what’s going on. And when we get discouraged what often happens is we’re stuck with the imperatives, or we’ve failed, or something’s happened and then we go and get in a tailspin and chase our tails around, failing to understand that there’s a bigger dimension, there’s another phase to this Christian life that goes on, that’s guaranteed, that goes from eternity to eternity, thankfully, especially when we screwed up, and David screwed up.
That’s one part of sanctification. Another part of sanctification which we started this evening with, the series of verses, is the fact that sanctification has an aim to it, and the aim of sanctification, with all due respect to a lot of emphasis in Christian life circles, the aim biblically of sanctification, when all is said and done and all the experiences are set aside, the ultimate aim is loyalty to God, obedience to God. That’s the ultimate aim of it all. It is not to have some hyper spiritual experience, although we can have hyper-spiritual experiences. There will be times when you see dramatic things happen, healings that you’ve prayed for and doubted that it would ever be answered, in a graphical way. Or you will see tremendous conversion situations, where somebody just turns around and it’s just amazing that this could possibly ever happen, it violates all the sociological nurture-nature arguments. Here this person’s changed their life around. We’re witness to those dramatic things, but don’t lose perspective that the aim of sanctification is not to terminate on those things, the aim in sanctification is always on the issue of our righteousness before God, and that righteousness before God is an obedient spirit. So we found God evaluated David as basically one who had got the lesson. I’m emphasizing this because when we get to the last thing tonight this will come up as a point of tension.
Another thing that we’ve said is there are two tools or two means God uses in sanctification, and all our lives He’s using these two tools: one is law and one is grace. Both of them are used. Law is always used to expose our sin, create an issue, create a point of tension, make us aware of something God wants us to be aware of, give us content for our faith, see if we had no law we’d have no insight into the contractual terms, and we’d have no content for our faith, we’d be just sitting around I’m trying to believe, I’m trying to believe, I’m trying to believe. You can’t work belief up, you can’t work faith up, faith flows out of an assurance of some content some place, there has to be some content to faith. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
God always treats us in grace because we’re miserable people, fallen, and God is a gracious God, and we wouldn’t even be on speaking terms with God and He wouldn’t even be talking to us if He first wasn’t gracious. If you want a picture, think of Adam and Eve hiding under the bushes. Pick some stupid picture in your mind, but that one’s always stuck in mine, two adults hiding in a bush, this is the human race and that’s the first picture we get from the Scriptures, a wonderful start in history. Who is it that talks and says “why are you where you are?” Who starts the conversation? Who doesn’t want to start the conversation? Isn’t that so true, isn’t it always God that finally breaks through to us and not we to Him, because we’re kind of embarrassed and we don’t really want to deal with this thing and He reaches down through another person or through some event or somehow and reaches us and touches us. It’s the same God who walked the top soil and grass in the Garden of Eden, doing the same thing in our lives, hasn’t changed a bit.
The enemies of sanctification: sanctification is a battle because history is fallen and we have enemies, and the Bible tells us what those enemies are, the world, the flesh and the devil. The three are very different, they work synergistically, they work together, but opposing the flesh with tools that were designed to oppose Satan won’t work. Trying to oppose Satan with tools that are designed to cope with the flesh won’t work. So that’s another area, the enemies of sanctification.
What was the difference between David’s attitude to the Philistines, the enemies that he faced, and Saul’s attitude to the Philistines? We’ve got two role models here. Do you remember as a teenager, what he said when he walked out on that battlefield with his little sling shot? Who does this guy think he is who is defying “the armies of the living God?” David was utterly aghast that this eight foot nincompoop could have the audacity to take on God. So David wasn’t concerned with the guy, he outweighs me, he’s taller than I am and everything else, what David was thoroughly amazed at was that this jerk could be so stupid. David was saying to himself, this guy spiritually must have fallen out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down, what is wrong with this man. He saw the enemies as God’s enemies. What happened to Saul? Saul went out and I gave some verse references on page 113, if you look at those verses you’ll see that when Saul went into battle it was to avenge himself. Samson was the same way. Remember the famous incident when he was in the temple, punched his eyes out, and he made one last prayer, and God was working through him, but he said God, avenge me of my enemies; boom, collapsed the pillars and killed himself and took out a thousand or two men, women and children.
When we have this situation there’s a mental difference, and that mental difference makes all the difference in the world. If we go out and see enemies of us as enemies of us, immediately we’re defeated. We saw that at Ai, when they went up and they tried to battle the people at Ai, they lost. Why? Because they were spiritually out of it before they stepped out of their camp. Wrong objective! The objective is these are enemies of God, and that’s why they’re our enemies, not because they’re antagonistic to us.
We want to conclude with something that we did not develop when we developed sanctification under the conquest and settlement period, and that’s what we call the dimensions of sanctification. These are related to the first thing. In the Christian life you can diagram our obedience pattern; as we grow in the Christian life we have our ups and our downs, that’s long term growth. But distinguish that long term picture from the fact that at any given instant of time, at any given point, I’m either obeying God or I’m disobeying Him, when these decision points come up. There are certain decision points that come up. That’s what we mean here when we talk about the existential present, we’re not meaning existential in the sense of the existentialists, who deny that there is such a thing as truth, but the existentialists did clarify for us one thing, and that was you can’t decide about things in the past and you can’t decide about things in the future, the only place you can make decisions is in the present, the existential present. That was one of the positive things that came out of that era of thinking.
We obviously are talking here about David’s defeat, spiritually, over the Bathsheba scandal and how he recovered from it. Let’s tie this together with how we started tonight. I started by taking you to three verses where it was stated that David followed God wholly. How do you reconcile the fact that that’s a prophetic interpretation and summary of a man’s life, and yet it’s characterized by a scandal that lasted through the rest of his administration, wiped out four of his sons, almost caused a civil war in the country, and caused innumerable suffering on the part of the people, all because of that one sin. And 2 Samuel traces it for us. How do we reconcile what we read in 2 Samuel with the prophetic interpretation in 1 Kings? Does the Bible have a conflict? What’s going on? How can the prophets say what they say in 1 Kings and have recorded what they recorded in 2 Samuel? It must be that somehow they’re looking at things differently than what we would first think. The prophets weren’t stupid, they knew what David had done; that was an open secret, no problem there.
What they mean when they say David went wholly after the Lord I believe is this: the prophets are saying here was a man, who, at a moment failed, but he didn’t stay in the failure mode, he got with the program and followed the Lord through all the fallout, so yes, did David fall? Yes he did. Did he pay for consequences socially? Yes he did. Did he fall at this point? Yes he did. But after Nathan got through with him, we know from Psalm 51 that he confessed his sin, and moved on with the Lord, all through the ups and the downs, the chaos and death of his sons, he kept steadily relying on the Lord of grace. And when God saw that, God said now there’s a man wholly after My heart. Would we have that same evaluation? Remember, Saul, his predecessor, is never said to have committed any immoral act, and yet the evaluation is far more severe on Saul than it is on David. Is this because God allows this, He relishes this? Not at all, you missed the point.
The point is that David realized how to recover, he realized what it takes to recover from failure, he realized what he had to do to work through the fallout of his own failure which is the hardest thing to do. You can always work through persecutions of other people toward you; that’s easier to deal with in many ways than to work through the crud that you know very well is your own, and you know it and it aggravates you because every time you think about it you think that you were the idiot that did that, you were the person that did it, you can’t blame your father, you can’t blame your mother, your children, your environment, your teachers, schools, you can’t blame anybody else except you. To deal with that year after year as David had to, he remembered, the words of Nathan must have tormented him. Every time he got a report of a death, #1 son, dead; #2 son dead; #3 son dead, when they brought the body of his son back do you think he didn’t hear Nathan’s words? I’ll bet he did, they were like a tape recorder, and every time he faced the consequences of his own sin there was a temptation from Satan to say give up, David, give up, give up, you screwed up so bad that you can’t possibly recover, forget it, you’re a loser. And every time David dealt with that thought he had the temptation to say I’m a loser, I’m going to drop out, I’ve had it, I’m going to give up. But he didn’t. Every time it happened he recovered, he kept writing the Psalms, all through this mess he kept writing, all through this mess he kept worshiping. That’s what God means when He says he’s a man who followed after My own heart.
If that’s really the case, think of what this means for us. It means that when we walk through the Christian life what we see is the good and the evil, we see this mess, it’s a mixed mess, and we all know that. But when God looks down, what He’s looking for is those places where we’ve trusted Him, where we’ve responded correctly. Here’s David’s life, it’s got all this mess in it, and yet God looks down on this life and says he wholly followed Me. How can God do that? The only way I see that you can reconcile 1 Kings and 2 Samuel is to say that when God is doing that He’s looking at those good sections in his life, he didn’t turn into a loser, he kept with the program, he coped with his own fallout.
Let’s see how he did that, we have the model outlined on pages 113-114, it’s the fundamental heart of sanctification. If we understood this better we wouldn’t have Christians going off to psychiatrists and wasting their money. The point is, this is the essence of recovery, and it consists of three things. The first is conviction. Turn to Psalm 51 because this is the model for it. [blank spot] …for a recovery from a massive failure, whether it’s a light failure or a massive failure it doesn’t make any difference, is number one, we have to be convinced that in fact we have sinned. This sounds a little funny because you say, well didn’t he know? No he didn’t. When Nathan had to walk in and tell him the story, why did Nathan have to tip-toe through the tulips and do the indirect approach? Because David had his defenses up, he was psychologically suppressing the evidence of his own guilt, and it took somebody from outside of himself, Nathan, to get around through the back door and say David, and work on him that way until it clicked with him.
So just because we’re in close proximity to our failure does not guarantee we’re viewing it correctly from God’s point of view. We’ve got to get it in the head straight what really is going on here. That’s why when we read Psalm 51, verse 4 is the key, and it strikes you as kind of odd because there’s vast social consequences to what he did, and yet he seemingly down plays those social consequences in verse 4 when he says “Against Thee, and Thee only have I sinned.” We said that the issue there was this is where David reached conviction; this is where he became convinced of sin.
If he had just thought about social consequences, how might he have written verse 4? Oh, what a mess. But confessing that it’s a mess isn’t necessarily confessing that it’s a sin. Do you see the difference? He’s saying “I have sinned against You,” and when he does that, now his whole focus becomes what God thinks of the problem, not what man thinks of the problem. So his focus shifts. Think of how backwards therapy is today, when people seek psychological counseling and the rest of it. Nine times out of ten what do these therapies wind up doing? Digging up your past. Why? So you can understand why you did what you did.
Sometimes that’s helpful, but my point is that it’s not understanding what you did in light of the horizontal, it’s understanding what you did in the light of the vertical, it’s understanding what did I do before God? He’s the one who makes the rules, not mother, not father, not anybody else. These people are all important, I’m not knocking that, but I have to say verse 4 is written the way verse 4 is written, and verse 4 certainly is directing our attention to the fact that the issue in recovery centers on conviction of sin before God, not with an emphasis on the mess that we’ve made with men, although we have made messes with men. That’s not denied here the point is you don’t solve the messes with men by looking at the messes with men. You resolve the mess by looking at what’s going on vertically between you and God, that’s how you resolve it, that’s the tool.
I point on page 113 an important misunderstanding of the word “conviction.” Let me read that: “Conviction, like the term covenant, is used so much in our circles that we get sloppy in our understanding of it. In previous parts of this series I stressed again and again that the biblical term covenant means essentially the same thing as our modern term contract. In a similar way, the biblical term conviction means essentially the same thing as our modern word convinced.” So if conviction is a word that’s too religious for you, it’s coded with so many connotations it’s lost its power, replace it with the word convince. David, in verse 4, is convinced that he has sinned before God. Can there be emotions with it? Yes there can be emotions with it but the emphasis in Scripture is on the convincing, not on the kind of personal response to the conviction. There are people that are very emotional naturally, and they’ll sob and weep and go into all kinds of hysterics. There are other people who naturally are just… you know, if the world broke open they’d just keep on walking. Different personalities, and what you find in our own circles is that we have a certain stereotypical response to conviction of sin, a person has to do those things or they’re really not convicted of sin. There’s none of that in the Scripture. The emphasis in Scripture is whether in their heart they are convinced of sin, regardless of their personal expression. First of all, we don’t know what their heart is before God, we don’t have the gift of prophecy, we’re not going to sit there with a magnifying glass and figure out what’s going on.
The point is there has to be convincing. Why do you suppose there has to be something convincing? Think about what faith requires. I can’t walk by faith until I believe something is true, so you can’t get to the second step if you don’t believe the first step. That’s why there has to be a conviction and a convincing of my personal sin before I can by faith deal with it. If I don’t, then I’m faking it, and that gets to the second point.
Now we come to what confession is. The problem is that many of us run our lives based on peer pressure. Peer pressure is acknowledged in Scripture because it’s exhortation in the role of other believers, that’s valid. But ultimately it’s not what your peers want you to do. If I operate on the basis of what my peers want me to do I am not at that point walking by faith, I am walking by social pressure, I am walking by pressure, by being bound in by someone else’s opinion, and ultimately that leads to a violated conscience, because now you’ve allowed somebody else to usurp the place of conscience before God, and conscience never even gets a chance to grow.
This is why as children grow, and as a parent you sit there and watch things go on, and you bite your tongue because you know that the more you say the less it’s going to be heard, and what you have to trust is that conscience will be developed. They may go out and get hit by a car before they develop the conscience, but sooner or later God is going to deal with that, and as a parent it becomes a real problem because we want to step in and maneuver. And it’s natural, we don’t want somebody to get hurt, but the problem with that is that they have to learn to take their own knocks, they have to learn to respond by faith, or they have to learn to respond like a jerk and learn the hard way, just like we did. The only difference in an older person and a younger person, the older person has screwed up more, that’s all. Since we screwed up 105 more times in that area than they have, there are some tidbits of wisdom that we can pass on. The problem is, when we were their age we weren’t open to the tidbits of wisdom either, that’s the way it goes.
The point it, at confession we acknowledge that we have sinned, and at that very moment, it’s almost like first believing, because when we confess what are we doing? We’re not going through 16½ hours of psychotherapy at $110 an hour or something. What we’re doing is at this very point we are acknowledging that we can’t do anything about it. We have offended a holy righteous Creator, we can’t take a sponge and wash our sins away, we can’t pull a deal with Him and say well God, I’ll be good for the next five days to overcome all the bad. He doesn’t take deals, and in our hearts we know that He doesn’t take deals, and we know that those are hollow promises, if we’re honest with ourselves. Confession is a very precious moment, and it’s a moment that can only happen when spiritually we’re ready for it.
That’s the recovery that David used, and in Psalm 51 notice how he does it, here’s an expression of what it looks like. At the end of verse 4, and this is quoted in Romans, it’s interesting if you study Romans 3 how Paul uses this quote. “…so that You art justified when You dost speak, and blameless when You judge.” Why is that tucked into verse 4? What is always the temptation when we just inch right up to the point of confession, before we can really confess that we’ve sinned against God and it’s wholly our responsibility, what little thing does the flesh or Satan put in there? Remember after God addressed Adam and He asked him what was happening? What little clause did Adam add? He says, yeah but… but the woman that You gave me. We want to make Him sort of the circumstances. We politely go around the bush by saying it’s circumstances that led me to do it when we know very well who’s sovereign over circumstances.
That last part of verse 4 cuts all that junk out, and David just drops it, says no excuse. One of the first things I remember when I was going in the Air Force is we had some drill sergeants and the one lesson that we got out of that first week was when something screwed up, you didn’t make an excuse, you said “no excuse, Sir.” They weren’t interested in whether you got up late, why your shoes weren’t shined, why you couldn’t recite what you were supposed to recite, or any of the other innumerables that went on. They didn’t care, they’d heard all the excuses, all they wanted to know was whether you accepted personal responsibility for your life or not, period. So verse 4 could be in modern vernacular, “no excuses, Sir.”
He goes on in verses 5-6, and this is not a compromise of verse 4, but if you look carefully at verses 5-8 he goes on to confess not only the personal act of sin, but confessing that makes him more deeply aware of his own sin nature, of his flesh. He says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, in sin did my mother conceive me,” he’s not blaming his mother, that’s not the spirit of this text. He’s simply saying that evil is so profoundly rooted in me, I am a fallen depraved creature. Verse 6, “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” See the tension between verse 5 and 6, by the way, there’s a debate in translating those verbs in verse 6, whether they’re imperatives or whether they’re descriptive. But in verse 5 and 6 there’s a tension, verse 5 is his flesh, verse 6 is what God wants, He wants a changed heart.
Verses 7-8 are his prayer in light of that. “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice.” What does he mean in verse 8, “let the bones which You have broken rejoice.” He’s talking about his own misery, his discipline, the suffering that he was experiencing, and he attaches it all to his own personal sin.  Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.” Because we live this side of the cross we know how God hides His face and blots out iniquities, so we have more information than David did when he wrote verse 9.
Verse 10, “Create in me a clean hear, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from Thy presence, and do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me.” Do you see what he’s doing here?  Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.” None of this is horizontal, if you look verse after verse, it’s all vertical, there’s not a word about his father, his mother is only mentioned incidentally in verse 5, none of his brothers, Saul’s not mentioned, Bathsheba is not mentioned, nobody is mentioned except God. Then he goes on to describe how he uses this.
So we come to conviction, then we confess, and this is wholly by faith because there’s nothing we can do. On this side of the cross what do we do? We come back to the cross, right where we started. It’s like going through a game and you get penalized and you come back to square one. In a way that’s what happens when we confess our sins. We come back to where we started the day we became a Christian. Right back to the cross. That’s what real confession looks like.
The third step is God’s response. This is tricky so I want to spend a few minutes here with God’s response. David must have had a problem with this because he asks in verse 8 to hear joy and gladness. Did David hear joy and gladness with four sons dying? I don’t think so; I don’t think that prayer was entirely answered in his life. How was the prayer answered then? Ultimately it was answered in eternity. What happens here is that God immediately forgives and David’s relationship to God is as sure as it was two seconds before he sinned with Bathsheba. It’s as sure then as it is before. The problem is that God’s response is to put David back in fellowship, is to cleanse him from sin, is to have that imputed righteousness credited to David’s account, is to go through all the restoration necessary, but God’s response is not necessarily to remove the consequences.
That little “not necessarily to remove consequences” causes the problem because the tendency is since he doesn’t remove the consequences, and Satan can pull one on you that will knock you out for a long time if you let him do it, he’ll get you looking at the consequences and then he’ll say, see, God hasn’t forgiven you, look at those consequences, see, see, He’s still disciplining you, it’s still there, He hasn’t responded to you. Well yes, He has responded to you, He has perfectly cleansed the record, in fellowship with Him completely. There’s a bitterness to Satan’s shrill words when he does this. Do you know why? Because he’s not forgiven.
Satan has rebelled and he has never known grace, and it must infuriate him every time one of us stumbles and we fall, and we have the audacity to recover like David, confess our sins, come to the cross like we did when we became Christians, recognize that He and He alone can give us the righteousness, and recognize that He has, past tense, given it to us, recognizing like David did that his dynasty is secure forever and ever and ever, and to walk on knowing that amidst all the crud. What has Satan got left? He can’t knock the vertical relationship because God controls that. So the one area where he can get you is to get your eyes looking down on all the consequences. And if you dwell on all those consequences, sooner or later he’s going to whisper to your heart, God hasn’t forgiven you, and then what happens to your walk by faith? It goes right down the drain, because now He isn’t the focus any more, because now there’s a doubt in your heart that you’re acceptable with God.
So you see what an important thing this recovery principle is, to become convinced of our sin, to deal with at a point of confession, and then to trust God with His response, that even if the response includes perpetuation of consequences, I am not going to let that throw me, and David’s the model. That’s why God could say he’s a man wholly after My heart, yes I know David screwed up, yes I know there were consequences in his life, but the issue after he sinned wasn’t those consequences, the issue was did David or did he not manage the consequences rightfully. Did he handle the consequences? Yes he did.
I want to conclude, there’s a quote on page 115 by Dr. Adams who started a lot of biblical counseling a couple decades ago. This is from one of his earlier books, and I think from an experienced counselor’s point of view it’s a neat comment on all of us. “Many counselees come only in order to obtain relief from the consequences of sinful life patterns; they do not think of the holy God whom they have offended by violating His will. They must be brought to conviction of sin, not merely to recognition of their misery. True relief, like true happiness, is always a by-product; it never may be found by seeking it directly …. A hundred and one … protests are heard daily by Christian counselors. Boiled down, they all say one thing: ‘Please excuse me from my responsibility to life like a Christian, on the grounds that my problem is unique ….”
Then he concludes with this neat illustration. “If a headhunting Auca Indian can change so radically that he abandons his primitive pagan life style and is able to tour the United States giving testimony to his new-found faith, then an American housewife,” or we could say husband, “who may have experienced less love and security in her childhood than she might have wished, also may become a responsible Christian woman. She is not doomed inevitably to live the life of a [verbal] headhunter because of what her parents did to her!” See what he’s saying. And what do we do in all our therapies? We dwell on consequences, we dwell on what happened when we were a kid, how many times your mother dropped you on your head when you were a baby, or numerous other things, everything except the issue of what is going on between me and God.
Some member of the school board is always giving me materials. This is the new thing that our President [message recorded 11-6-97] is pushing, it’s called fuzzy math. “There were four birds in a nest, and one flew away. How do you think the bird felt that flew away from the nest?” This is on a math test. Excuse me! “Fuzzy math humanizes arithmetic and makes it relevant. It’s more important to have a rationale for a wrong answer than get the right answer” in fuzzy math. I always thought there was something wrong with the people running the country, now we know, fuzzy math, a specialized version of fuzzy thinking.
If you’ll start reading Kings, the next 2-3 months is going to be heavily on Kings. We’re going to deal with the kingdom; this can be done in several ways and the way I choose to approach this part of the Old Testament is instead of narrating the king did this and the king did that, what happened in so-and-so’s reign, you need to read that if you never have so you understand what the issues are, there’s a northern and southern split. We’re going to approach things a little differently, we’re going to get much more into this sanctification side of the house and less into the apologetic stuff that’s directed outside to the non-Christian; it’s mostly “in house” stuff. That will carry through the end of the Old Testament, because at this point Old Testament history shifts in anticipation of the coming of Jesus. It’s building things up, so when we finally get to the Lord Jesus Christ, when we get to that section we’ll deal with His whole life in the gospels, and the whole doctrine of the Person of Christ and His work, it makes a lot more sense when you place it in the continuity of the Old Testament.
We’ve seen the origin of the nation Israel, we’ve seen the nation come into the land, we’ve seen them conquer the pagan nations, causing all kinds of moral objections to holy war. God is very clear what He’s doing now in history. Now we’re going to deal with the internal, life inside that kingdom, but right now we’re talking about the kingdom coming existence, so if you have any questions on that period of time.
Question asked: Clough replies: It’s crucial because unfortunately there have been Christians who take that particular verse to mean that you can lose your salvation, and that’s not the argument there, and the reason it’s not the argument there is that when you have the Holy Spirit’s work described into the Old Testament don’t read into those passages what you know from the New Testament. In the New Testament it’s clear; when the Holy Spirit comes in He’s regenerating, indwelling, all these great and wonderful things. That wasn’t true in the Old Testament; the Holy Spirit could come into a person and turn him into a carpenter. The Holy Spirit can come into a person like Samson and it had no commentary whatever on Samson’s spiritual life, it just juiced him up so he could kill people. So the coming in the working of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament has to be interpreted very carefully in the context in which it’s talked about. In that context, obviously he saw what happened to Saul because he was there when the Spirit left Saul; and what did David wind up doing with Saul? What happened to Saul personally in his mental life? He started losing it, and who was his therapist? It was David playing music to him. So David must have seen Saul at his worst. Think about it for a minute, here’s a young boy at a very impressionable age in his life being soundly trusted by the king of the country, and he’s intimate to this guy’s brooding depression, hour after hour must have and David’s sitting there playing his harp, playing this demon out of Saul. That must have made one lasting impression on David. Actually God was using that to train David.
The tension about that statement, “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me,” let’s back up for a moment. When the Holy Spirit was taken from Saul what else was taken from Saul? That announcement that the Holy Spirit was taken was simultaneous with something else that happened in Saul. The kingdom was taken, his dynasty was terminated. So when David’s praying “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me,” he probably has a lot more in mind than just mental health. He’s probably talking about his own dynasty, and if that’s so, then that shows you that he hadn’t even grasped the terms of the Davidic Covenant too thoroughly, which might have been a real possibility because we think, oh when these guys first heard the Word they just snapped it up and moved on. Maybe not, and maybe it was gradual dawning, or maybe after David thought about what he had done it became so repulsive to him, he would be amazed that God wouldn’t take the dynasty away from him. There was a lot of struggle going on.
Statement made: Clough says: That’s a good point, I hadn’t even thought about that. Picking up further on that, as a young boy he had to live through that, and that in a way was kind of an abusive environment, if we used the terms of our modern context, that was pretty rough stuff for a young boy to be faced with, to see the head of the nation fall apart three feet away from you, and to live in that kind of environment. That little clause in Psalm 51 probably shows you right there how he is coping with a very real situation. That’d be an interesting drama. Can you imagine what a good dramatic presentation of the thoughts that went through David’s mind as he did Psalm 51? That would be a good point to make, that he probably welled up within him, oh no, am I going to go through just what I saw Saul go through, and then instead of sitting there and going into a tailspin of depression himself, he takes it to the Lord and that verse is where he actually literally takes it to the Lord. So that shows something else about his recovery and how he dealt with that.
Statement made: Clough says: That’s a good point about the flow of music and praise, it’s no accident, think of what a section in the Old Testament of Psalms is, and you read one after another, it’s talking about stringed instruments, you see the headers on the Psalms, so it’s very clear that those Psalms were being sung, they weren’t just poetry, they were sung poetry. We’ve lost the music, that’s one of the big things the Jewish orthodox people are trying to do, they think they see marks in the Hebrew text that have been there for centuries and some Jewish musicians are trying to see if those marks convey some lost music symbols, but so far nobody’s ever made a convincing case that you can recover the songs of Zion. We may never do that. There is one Psalm in there, where it was written during the horror of the exile and they’re in Babylon, and the Jews say the pagans tell us to sing your songs of Zion and we hung our hearts in the trees. It’s a story of the giving up of the music, at that point the Jews refused to sing, they could not sing hymns outside of the land.
From that point on the whole Jewish tradition was lost, just like they lost the ability… they don’t know how to call God God, that’s the whole problem with the word for God, they lost the ability to name their God. It’s remarkable. These people that knock on your door, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I mean, Jehovah is the only possibility it couldn’t be, it’s a phony name that was created by grammarian translators, but certainly God’s name is not Jehovah, it’s something else, and the closet approximation to what He real name sounded like was off the verb “to be” and it’s something like Yahweh. That’s the closest thing that anybody’s ever come to God’s name.
All that was lost in the exile and to get back to the role of music and sanctification, it definitely is there, and what’s disturbing is if you take a hymn book, even ours, and you look and date the hymns, and could sort them by date, you could trace the theological rise and fall of the church. For example, many of those hymns that we love so much were all written by one man, Isaac Watts and he was a buddy of the Wesley family, so you have that whole group of Reformers that wrote. Martin Luther wrote famous hymns. What Luther had done, according to historians of music is that he became so conscious of this truth of the need for music to help us in our struggles that collectively… that’s what was so neat about Promise Keepers, sitting in that mall in Washington, standing with a million plus men and singing “Holy Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty,” I’ll never forget that; it was awesome to think of that happening. There’s power in the sheer numbers of people.
In the book of Revelation you have tens of thousands from every tribe, every tongue, singing before God’s throne. So it’s something that Satan hates to hear, the concerted praise. The problem with a lot of our hymns is that the people who write today’s hymns with some fine exceptions, are not the greatest theologians in the world and the lyrics are very anemic, and a lot of them concentrate on how I feel, they’re very subjective hymns. If you think back through to the hymn that Martin Luther wrote, think of the words: “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” it’s such a lesson in a guy that wrote a hymn that had the proper theology to it. Think of what we often sing in our churches. Look at the theology in this hymn, and when we start talking about “Oh How I Love Jesus” and these are sweet little ditties, but the thing about Luther was God wasn’t interested in what Luther said.
Look at this: “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing, Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing,” even the word “mortal ills” look how precise that word is, what’s the implication of that word “mortal ills?” The things that came out of the fall of man. “For still our ancient foe, does seek to work us woe, His craft and power are great,” of course they are, “and armed with cruel hate; on earth is not His equal,” what an eloquent statement, and what a conclusion, before you even go to the second stanza, where do you have to go if you are going to oppose one who on earth has no equal? Not us. So it forces you up.
“Did we in our own strength confide,” see how the second stanza follows quickly on the theology of the first, “Our striving would be losing,” of course it would because the One who is on earth has no equal. “Were not the right man on our side,” that’s a clever statement, the right man, notice it doesn’t say God on our side, the right man on our side. Why does he say “man?” Because he’s thinking of the incarnate Christ who walked around and had victory over the one who on earth now has no equal. Luther knew his stuff here. “Were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be, Christ Jesus it is He,” and then he uses this word, “Lord Sabaoth His name,” Sabaoth is not sabbath, Sabaoth is the word for peace, it’s the word for rest, it’s a word that is used for the rest that comes for victory, finally after it’s all over. “Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle,” notice He “must” win the battle. And you notice whose battle it is, it’s not ours, it’s His and He is the one that’s going to win it. You can see the struggle, he starts off this hymn with appeal to God Himself, “A mighty fortress,” by the second stanza he’s gone to Satan and he’s created a tension in the hymn, now what are we going to do.
In the third stanza he goes all the way down into our life, “Though this world with demons filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.” Talk about heavy sovereignty of God, so far in all these three stanzas there hasn’t been one reference to how he felt. Not one reference to psychology, all of it theology, not psychology. “He has willed His truth to triumph through us, the Prince of Darkness grim; we tremble not for him, his rage we can endure, for lo his doom is sure.” What has he done in the third stanza to Satan? He’s locked him up, he’s boxed in, he’s limited evil. “One little word shall fell him.” Look at how he ended the first stanza, “on earth is not His equal,” and look how he ends the third stanza, “one little word shall fell him.” To get from that clause in the first stanza to the last clause in the third stanza Luther had to go through theology, he had to talk about Christ at the Father’s right hand, he had to talk about the sovereign will of God, and then he could skip from “on earth is not His equal” to “one little word shall fell him.” That wouldn’t have worked because we couldn’t have sun that with our hearts, our heart had to glide from one truth slowly into the other truth through the music.
Then he has this last stanza, “Thy word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abides.” That’s a reference to all the demonic… Luther was a man who was deeply troubled and some people say the guy was psychologically…he had a problem, but notice how he dealt with his problem, “Thy word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abides, the Spirit and the gift are ours, through Him who with us sideth, Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still.” Powerful stuff. So hymns are very important, music is tremendous in sanctification, and the Psalms are where it all started. They become our models.
Question asked: Clough replies: I’m not a musician so I can’t talk, but I’ve talked to people who are real students of music, PhD students who are Christians, and I’ve asked this of three that I’ve known very well in my life, one got his PhD in music from Indiana University, one of the top music universities in our country, another guy, a PhD from the University of Oklahoma, the point is these guys have studied music theory very carefully in their doctoral program, and they tell me this: they said that musical structure is not ethically neutral, not just the lyrics but the structure. And they said that music has a certain moral tone to it.
One of the PhD’s gave me this illustration, do you know who the most intellectual composer is, the man who appeals to your mind without knowing any lyrics, you just have to listen to his music and you know immediately his appeal is not to your emotions, his appeal is to your head, and it’s Bach, J.S. Bach, a guy that was hired by a church and had to come up a new hymn every Sunday, that’s what John Sebastian Bach did, he was hired to lead worship services, and he was expected by the congregation to make a new piece every Sunday. His music is very highly structured, a lot of people don’t like it but the point this man was making is not whether you like Bach’s music or not but if you listen to it, he manipulates cords and so you have to really concentrate on it to find out what is he doing as you work through his music. And there’s hardly any emotion to it. Then you take other guys and they can put it heavy on the emotion, and what these men are saying is that apart from the lyrics, good music will have emotional content to it but won’t let that emotion override the thought processes, and that’s the mark of good music. Good music will have a powerful emotion, and then they said it will let you down, it lifts you up and then lets you down. [Message abruptly ends]