Caught

Caught….red-handed….without a hope of denying it.

Have you ever been caught doing something you shouldn’t have done, and then had to face the consequences? I sure have. I will never forget getting caught gossiping in the cloak room of my fifth grade classroom about a girl of whom I was very jealous. The teacher heard me, sent the girl out of the room on an errand to spare her feelings, and then made me stand in front of the class and repeat what I said while she condemned every word. I was HUMILIATED, and rightfully so. The sting of that experience is still with me.

When we are caught, feelings of shame and regret are immediate and overwhelming. Our first thought is “Why, oh WHY did I do it?” Right up to the moment of discovery, we delude ourselves into thinking that we will get away with our sinful behavior. Most of us can even rationalize that if nobody finds out, nobody gets hurt.

Then everybody finds out, and everybody gets hurt.

Such is the case in Psalm 51, written by David after he was caught committing adultery with Bathsheba and was confronted by his friend Nathan. He immediately felt the searing pain of knowing that he has sinned against God and now everyone knows it. Listen to the regret and remorse that flowed from his pen as he composed a song of confession:

Psalm 51 (Common English Bible)

Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
    Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!
Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
    purify me from my sin!
Because I know my wrongdoings,
    my sin is always right in front of me.
I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
    I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
    completely correct when you issue your judgment.

David is such a man of faith that his sinning against God was the worst part of it for him. He knew his wrongdoings. This sin was not done in ignorance of the Law that commands “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” He knew that he coveted another man’s wife and then had that man brought home from war to cover up the unplanned pregnancy that resulted. Then David sent him back to the front lines to be killed. Coveting, adultery, lying, murder…David was guilty on all counts.

Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
    from the moment my mother conceived me.
And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
    you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.

David was blessed to have received wisdom from God in the “most secret space.” He studied the scriptures. He experienced God’s power first hand when he faced down Goliath many years earlier. All of David’s experiences had been an adequate teacher of God’s will and direction for his life. It is this truth in the hidden places of his heart and soul that he walked away from in his pursuit of Bathsheba. There is no pleading ignorance here…David totally knew better.

As did I, when I sinned.

As do you, when you sin.

His song of confession then moves from pain to hope, and David reminds God that God alone has the power to wash this sin away. He writes that joy can be felt once more, but only after God wipes away all of his guilty deeds:

Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
    wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and celebration again;
    let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.
Hide your face from my sins;
    wipe away all my guilty deeds!

Singing these words to the God that he loved provided a moment of humble obeisance for David, as the song now moves to a plea for a new, clean heart. This may be one of the prettiest verses in all of the Psalms:

10 Create a clean heart for me, God;
    put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
11 Please don’t throw me out of your presence;
    please don’t take your holy spirit away from me.
12 Return the joy of your salvation to me
    and sustain me with a willing spirit.

“Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and return unto me the joy of your salvation!” This should be our song today as well. God always inclines an ear when people confess with contrite hearts and humility.

Where is God calling you to lay down your sin so that you might take up a new and faithful spirit? God truly longs to sustain you with the power of the Holy Spirit, but you have to come clean first.

Don’t let the sun go down on your sin. Open yourself to God and ask for a clean heart to be created in you. And may the joy of God’s salvation make you sing.

Sunset Awaits by Michelle Robertson

Create in Me

I want to start this devotional with a disclaimer. When it comes to prayer, you can learn different techniques, read lots of books, attend seminars, etc. yet in the end prayer is simply talking to God. You already know how to do that. So as valuable as those teachings are, talking is at the center of what prayer is all about.

But using a disciplined approach to prayer can enhance that conversation, especially during Lent. I recently met with my church’s youth group and suggested that we think of prayer like protective TARPS…so we should include Thanksgiving, Adoration, Repentance (confession), Petition, and Supplication.

Our study of Psalm 51 continues as we move through David’s confession of his sins to the petition part of his prayer. This is a wonderful reminder of the parts of prayer. Today we land in the repentance>petition place of David’s prayer:

Psalm 51 (Common English Bible)

Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
    wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and celebration again;
    let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.
Hide your face from my sins;
    wipe away all my guilty deeds!
10 Create a clean heart for me, God;
    put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!

David’s pleas reflect how heartbroken he is over his sins. The reality of what he has done before God has resulted in feeling as though his bones are crushed. He begs God to remain in him and not remove the Holy Spirit from him. Can you relate?

11 Please don’t throw me out of your presence;
    please don’t take your holy spirit away from me.
12 Return the joy of your salvation to me
    and sustain me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach wrongdoers your ways,
    and sinners will come back to you.

Confession and repentance always lead to pardon.

Where is God calling you to plead for a new, clean heart? Is there any hidden or unconfessed sin that you should be dealing with right now?

Don’t carry that burden anymore. God is ready to return the joy of your salvation back to you and will sustain you with a willing spirit.

Create in us clean hearts, oh God.

The Joy of Salvation by Karen Warlitner

Hidden Places, Secret Spaces

Our beautiful Psalm today comes from a moment in King David’s life when he had just been called out by his friend Nathan for committing adultery with Bathsheba. The affair resulted in a pregnancy, so David called her husband home from the war for a “conjugal visit” in hopes of a cover-up. Uriah did not “cooperate” so David sent him back to the front lines so that he would be killed in action. David thought he had gotten away with his deceit…until Nathan called him out.

Facing the enormity of his sin was far greater than the condemnation of his friend. David’s heart is truly broken at his own behavior. He is crushed by his own transgression, and he crawls to the Lord in agony. Only God’s forgiveness can bring him relief.

Have you ever felt that way?

Psalm 51 (Common English Bible)

Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
    Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!

David understands that he can’t make amends based on his own character. He has to count on God’s great compassion. He longs to be made clean.

Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
    purify me from my sin!
Because I know my wrongdoings,
    my sin is always right in front of me.
I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
    I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
    completely correct when you issue your judgment.
Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
    from the moment my mother conceived me.

When David says “I have sinned against you—you alone” he is not discounting the damage he has done to Uriah and Bathsheba. But he is aware that the breach of trust he has committed with God is far worse than any human consequence. He has to tell the truth.

And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
    you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just offer God truth in your hidden places? Well, you can. No matter what sin has separated you from God, confession and repentance allow you to start over again. God will completely cleanse you of your guilt.

Repentance is a complete turning away from the evil behavior that ensnared you. It is walking away and not looking back.

When you do that, ask God to teach you his wisdom and fill your most secret spaces with his word. God’s faithful love will redeem you.

Secret Spaces by Kathy Schumacher

Ashes, Ashes

Ring around the rosie! A pocket full of posey. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!

Who has played this as a child? I have fond memories of watching my mother with my girls and my niece in a Disney hotel pool, holding hands and circling around while singing this. The finale was to all fall backwards into the water, which is a clever way to help young children learn how to hold their breath and immerse their heads under water without fear. Sneaky Grandmere!

I was startled to learn that some people attribute this cute little ditty to the plagues. Yes, the plagues. It is thought that ring around the rosie refers to the fever-flush that would appear on the face with the onset of sickness. Pocket full of posey refers to the medicinal herbs that were used to treat the victim. And of course ashes refers to the necessary burning of the bodies in an attempt to stem the course of the virus that was taking out entire villages.

That is quite a morbid take on a nursery rhyme, but it does lead us into a contemplation of our own mortality as we approach the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

Lent is the 40 days (not counting Sundays) prior to Easter when we are invited to slow down our frazzled pace and contemplate the meaning of life, death, and life beyond death. It is a season of preparation for the marvelous celebration of the resurrection on Easter morning. We are wise to approach it with a serious, soul-searching attitude.

Psalm 51

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.

5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Truth in the inward being is a noble pursuit. God knows the secrets of our heart, but do we? Is there stuff buried so deep that we have forgotten about it? The strength of our denial can enable us to live as though certain actions and behaviors never took place. We go along on our merry way, thinking we have gotten away with it.

Lent says otherwise. It is an opportunity to confront our deepest sin without fear, because Jesus has the power to cleanse us, FREE US, and make us whole again.

You know that the thing you have buried is still there, waiting like a ticking time bomb to resurface and explode you into pieces. God says that is not necessary. You can give it over to him and let him blot it completely out.

This Lent, let us ask God to teach us his wisdom in our secret hearts.

It’s time to come clean.

Photo courtesy of Covenant Presbyterian Church