Amazing Grace - the Blessing of Forgiveness
When you play a game, whatever game, there will be a winner and all the rest are losers.
There is nothing in-between, is there? We acknowledge this without a second thought or making a problem of it. There is no one who says: “Hey, how come there is nothing like a winner-loser’s or a loser-winner’s prize.”
There is no one who says: “Hey, I don’t have to win, but I don’t want to lose either.” That would be a stupid thing to say, wouldn’t it?
The apostle Paul often compared the Christian life to a tough competition. It’s run for your life; whether you like it or not, you have to run the game through. When you are not competing, there is only one guarantee: you lose!
The rules are very simple: In the Championship of the Christian Life everyone who reaches the finish line, wins. Doesn’t matter whether you settle a new world record, or you come in last. You finish, you win. There is only one platform for the crowning ceremony; first prize for everyone.
So, do not be envious at him who starts off with the best credentials; you'll never know what will meet him on his way; you’ll never know how life will tackle him. In the game of life everyone runs for himself. And since the last miles are the hardest, make the decision now that you’ll cross that finish line, one way or the other, even if it means crawling.
Now is that a fair game?
Or would you be bored or disappointed and say, "There is nothing exciting to it, because I don’t want to share the platform with many?”
But what happens when we choose to compete?
Paul says: Run, run that you might win, (…)., run in such a way….
Everyone that competes restrains himself, that he might cross the finish line.
Be aware of the fact that it might happen, that you’ll find yourself on the wrong track and that the Spirit will have to urge you to retreat your steps to get you on the right track again.
But He can only do that when you stay in close contact with Home Base.
How to stay in connection with Home Base?
You know, I don't like the Tour the France, but by the few news flashes I hear I can’t help but to register some facts in the back of my mind. And those little facts stuck. So I learned in 2015 that they introduced a new rule: for one or two tracks the runners run without The Ear. And they hate it!
Through ear plugs they stay in contact with home base; without it they are on their own. They are in despair, for they do not know how they fare and how the competition does. There is silence around them. They are so focused that they can only hear the sound of their breath and their pedals. This got me thinking.
King Saul experienced the silence of the Spirit when he had pushed the Spirit too far away so that the connection was broken, and there was no communication with Heaven. It was for him like running the tour without the ear. He was on his own, and began to do stupid things.
King David on the other hand had always kept the ear plug in, in spite of many stupid things he did. What I like about the life of David is that he is to me an example of a totally human man, who was willing to be led and to be humbled and corrected. Read his beautiful confession in Psalm 32:1-4.
David wrote this Psalm some time after the incident with Bathsheba. That misstep wrecked his life, his kingdom, his home, his family, his personality and his relationship with God.
But David came out a totally different man. He used to be a man quick to anger, quick to judge, forgetting his own faults. Arrogance because the Mighty One had chosen him from among his brothers to lead His holy people. Not a minor position indeed.
But when he gave in to his passions, sin was conceived and gave birth to the death of his neighbour Uriah. He silenced the soft voice of the Spirit with the thought that there was nothing special to what he did. He took other men’s wives before, so this was no big deal.
Sorry for Uriah to be the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he, David, was king of whole Israel and he could do whatever he pleases.
When I read this story of David I couldn’t help to marvel at what length the Lord is willing to forgive. How much more horrible sins must be done, before the Lord pulls out His ear plug and gets us disconnected…
David was a sinner, no doubt about that. And David knew he did wrong, because he confesses in Psalm 32 that every time he tried to pray, his sin came into his mind and it was like the Berlin wall between him and God. In Psalm 32 we get an insight into the process he went through. The process we all go through when we try to hide our sins.
His bones were aching with guilt, every Sabbath he came to church with a religious front of a righteous man. But every time he looked at Bathsheba playing with her son, he knew that this affair had cost him too much. Much more than he was willing to give; much more than he planned. He had his ear plug in and Home Base was calling and the sound was ringing louder each day.
The Lord didn’t hold David unaccountable, but loved him very much. His sins demanded a reproof and He sent someone to bring him back.
Thou Art The Man
In our time we think that when we tolerate sin, we do that out of love. The Bible teaches us something else. When we turn the other way, that’s when we make known that we do not care whether our neighbour lives or die. Of course, one has to know how to give an admonition, that’s a gift too, but to say nothing is no option in God’s sight.
Courageous Nathan was sent forth with knees knocking. David's temper was common knowledge.
So, the case was presented to David and he was relentless, without mercy. All legal procedures came into effect. He would handle this with a firm “Thus said the Lord." Yes sir! He David, was not to show his easy side.
But then Nathan tells him:
“Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8 And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. 13 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD" (2 Samuel 12).
The minute Nathan said: “Thou art the man,” David knew God knew. He could not hide his sin anymore. Yes, David was quick to anger, but he had one excellent quality that distinguished him from Saul: you could talk with the man. And he could take an admonition.
Can we? How many of us are easily offended when we are told that we did wrong?
Do you have the experience that when your sins come in the open it’s a relief?
That’s what I sense from the record of this sad story in the Bible.
The Lord gave David a good reprimand, and it was a relief to his heart.
What we see next, is total humiliation before God, a total broken heart, pleading for forgiveness, pleading for the life of an innocent boy, crying out in anguish to be restored, to be forgiven. Psalm 32 gives us more insight into his attitude, and the process he went through.
He did all he could to conceal his sin. Though his bones were aching with guilt, he put on the religious front of a righteous man. But when Nathan told him, his harness broke and he could not hide it any longer. He didn’t want to, for it had gone far too long.
Hear O Lord the sound of my call. Hear O Lord and have mercy!
He laid flat on his face for a week, and after the toddler died he was never the same again. He was softer, more considered with his fellowmen; for he knew he wasn’t perfect himself. Meeker, more contended with God’s will and he never questioned Gods will again. When his oldest son Absalom, died, all came back to him in a flash and although this son had set to overthrow the kingdom of his father, David wept bitterly. Because he saw himself in his son; his passions, his strife, his faults. He found grace; Abshalom could not find his way back to God.
David slipped and fell, as many of us do; he fell hard, but he experienced God’s forgiveness. He got up again and started walking and fighting again, running his race of life. When he confessed his sin, forgave his wife and himself, the Lord send him a message of love by calling his second son to Bathsheba, Jedidiah, the one I love. Then he knew for sure that the connection was restored and that’s when he wrote Psalm 32:
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity” (Ps 32:1, 2).
David reached the finish line. He made his peace with God. When God told him: David, you are not to build me a house, for you have too much innocent blood on your hands, he consented and bowed. He reckoned it a great privilege that God promised him that his house will be forever. Because he knew, God will never clear the guilty, but extend abundant grace to those that love Him! (Exodus 34:7 and Exodus 20:6).
Isn’t it about time we make our peace with God?
When things are eating us up and the ear plug gives us instructions to make amends, do we listen?
Seek the Lord while He might be found, before the Heavenly Court sounds the “Game’s over”- buzzer and freezes us where we stand.
Wear the ear plug, stay in contact with Home Base and be blessed, forgiven and healed. Finish the race and fight the good fight.
David knew that he was forgiven, for he experienced that the Lord is what he says he is - merciful, gracious, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.
If it happens that we experience this Amazing Grace, let’s show it to each other. For, blessed is anyone, whose transgression is forgiven.
Ingrid A. Wijngaarde is a biologist and a member of Groningen SDA Church in The Netherlands.