Perhaps it is just me, but this summer seems more filled than usual with news and political drama. I am somewhat exhausted by trying to keep up with what society considers socially acceptable. It is considered humane to kill human babies in the womb and sell their body parts but not sea turtles or eagles in their eggs. Apparently regardless of your genetics it is socially acceptable to pick the gender with which you would like identify but socially inappropriate to pick the race. And killing someone is illegal on your own but perfectly acceptable when agreed upon by twelve people in a courtroom. Am I the only one feeling a little schizophrenic after listening to the news? The only firm conclusion that I've been able to draw these past few weeks is that society has largely lost its ability to have any kind of coherent rational discussion. Or maybe it never had that ability after the fall.
It seems appropriate to be reading about David's life right now. I'm paralleling the histories as best I can, and for the first time I was struck by the long reaching effects of David's affair with Bathsheba. Because it didn't start with Bathsheba. That whole story begins with the statement that it was springtime when the kings when out to war, but David stayed home. One small decision to stay home sets off this chain of events that becomes one of the most notorious acts of sin in the Bible. And it doesn't end with the murder of Bathsheba's husband. Absalom's rebellion is a direct consequence of David's actions. David, having lost the moral high ground in such a public and egregious act of hypocrisy, is rendered impotent and almost pathetic in his own defense. I was reminded of a quote from The Ascent of Mt Carmel:
The misplaced desires of the soul are sources of endless weariness because they allow the soul no rest since they can never be filled. Like bugs to bright light, we are drawn to these desires, blind to all else, even our own destruction. "He that is blinded by desires has this property that, when he is set in the midst of truth and of that which is good for him, he can no more see them than if he were in darkness."It wasn't that David was ignorant of sin in general because he could recognize the same sin when presented to him in a story by the prophet Nathan. But a continual series of small sins drew David in deeply enough that the cost of repentance was so great that self-deception was preferable to repentance on such a subconscious level that David remained stubbornly and willfully blind to his own destruction.
That is scary. It was like seeing exactly how hopeless our situation is without grace. I do not think I see people that way very often, and it has renewed my own sense of urgency in prayer both for myself and others. Because once I start down the path of sin, repentance becomes both more difficult and more unlikely the longer I continue down that path.
And yet God still shows up for David in a way God never did for Saul even though Saul's sins were far less publicly offensive that David's. 2 Samuel 22, which is also Psalm 18, is a victory song of David. A victory song. Saul performs one offering a little too early and he loses his life, his kingdom, and the lives of his children. After all that mess David made, David gets a victory song? The modern news media would be having a field day. David even has the nerve to say that "the Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness." Um, excuse me? Did I miss something here?
I've been reading this psalm and the penitential psalms recently, Sometimes I forget that repentance is not turning away from an action, it's turning away from the lies and self-deception I'm buying into each day. Saul's repentance was so characteristic of my own, a shallow way of placating my conscience while I continue down my path of sin. David's repentance, though, was a complete and glorious turning away from himself towards God.
But it means I have to change. Aye, there's the rub because change is costly. But the result? Oh man, the result of true repentance is that God shows up. Just read the part of 2 Samuel 22 I've copied below. It gives me chills. Because I want God to show up with smoke and devouring fire and a canopy of darkness while the earth trembles, for I know that somewhere in all that chaos is my salvation. I can only pray that no matter how costly the repentance, I will always choose to throw myself on the mercy of God rather than trust in the logic of this schizophrenic world. Though the Lord may destroy me, he delights in me. Unfathomable. Completely incomprehensible. Count me in.
“In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I called.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry came to his ears.
“Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations of the heavens trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
He rode on a cherub and flew;
he was seen on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness around him his canopy,
thick clouds, a gathering of water.
Out of the brightness before him
coals of fire flamed forth.
The Lord thundered from heaven,
and the Most High uttered his voice.
And he sent out arrows and scattered them;
lightning, and routed them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen;
the foundations of the world were laid bare,
at the rebuke of the Lord,
at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.
“He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
He rescued me from my strong enemy,
from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.