Sin is one of those areas that we prefer to avoid dealing with, unless something we have done wrong is staring us in the face, and has to be dealt with. One of David’s traits that I admire is his habit of asking God to show him where he is messing up. He does it with a thoroughness that puts me to shame.
“How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins! (or presumptuous sins)
Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
and innocent of great sin.
May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:12-14
This is one of the many times where I wish I knew far more about David than I do. In the era that David lived in, the people who had chosen to worship gods in addition to Yahweh, lived in fear of doing something to upset them. This practice goes back several thousand years before David, and as he was living around people with that deeply ingrained cultural mindset, could it have also have made him concerned with making a bad move he wasn’t aware of, and disappointing Yahweh? Or was his behaviour entirely based on the Torah? I won’t be able to find that answer, but regardless, his attitude is a valuable example for us.
The New English Translation Bible puts the wording “hidden faults” this way: “Who can know all his errors? Please do not punish me for sins I am unaware of.” Pagans, or polytheists, believed that if you were sick or going through some kind of calamity, whether it be personally, or as a tribal or city unit, you had to have angered the gods by doing something wrong. It didn’t matter if you didn’t know you were doing wrong, if you didn’t make the grade, you paid. Mankind was thought to be created to serve the gods as slaves: “Man shall be charged with the service of the gods, that they might be at ease.” Slaves dare not disobey.
David was in a covenant relationship with God and carefully followed the laws which God had set down via Moses. He would have given God a weekly burnt offering, which would have served as a constant reminder of his sinful state; plus David must have never forgotten that Saul lost his Kingship because of disobedience. “You have preserved my life because I am innocent; you have brought me into your presence forever.” Psalm 41:12
In addition to that, David’s attitude was heavily influenced by living in a world where judgement for sin was carried out during your life. There was no belief that you were either punished or blessed in the afterlife for what you have done. The accounts were settled now, so you had to be far more careful about what you did.
“O LORD, don’t rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your rage.
Return, O LORD, and rescue me.
Save me because of Your unfailing love.
For the dead do not remember You.
Who can praise You from the grave?” Psalm 6:1, then 4-5
“O LORD my God, if I have done wrong
or am guilty of injustice,
if I have betrayed a friend
or plundered my enemy without cause,
then let my enemies capture me.
Let them trample me into the ground
and drag my honour in the dust.” Psalm 7:3-5
So what does this mean for us? It’s a reminder to be aware of the full extent of our failings. We can sin deliberately, or without meaning to do so, or without knowing that we have; but bless God, there is grace for all of these errors, we simply need to remember to prayerfully cover all those bases. It is a wise move to do as David did and ask God to show us where we have been wrong and yes, that takes courage! But ensuring we are as holy as we can be, and the resulting benefit of getting closer to God, makes that step of bravery worth it!
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts,
and see if any wicked way is in me; and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24
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