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The Cry of a Fallen Leader

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
May 20, 2021 4:00 am

The Cry of a Fallen Leader

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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May 20, 2021 4:00 am

As king of Israel, David acquired power, then abused it. When confronted by his sin, however, he realized that none of his acquisitions could diminish his guilt. Discover how David’s conscience was finally cured, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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When David became the king of Israel he suddenly acquired vast amounts of power and prestige and wealth. But none of that could diminish the guilt he felt about the sinful plot he had contrived and later concealed.

Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg takes us to Psalm 51 to teach us about the only cure for a guilty conscience. The story goes like this. There were two men in a certain town. One of them was particularly rich, and the other one was very poor. The rich man had a considerable number of sheep and cattle, and the poor man had simply one little ewe lamb. He had bought it when it was tiny, and he had raised it. It had grown up both with him and with his children.

Indeed, it was like a daughter to him. A traveler comes into town and goes to the home of the rich man. The rich man, in seeking to provide for the physical needs of this individual, chooses not to go to his own herds and flocks but goes instead and intrudes on the flock of the poor man—a flock of one, as you will recall—and takes the ewe lamb from this gentleman and uses that as the means of preparing food for the traveler who arrived at his gate. Now, there's an obvious moral incongruity of that. Those of us who listen to it say that's not right, and that's exactly what David said when he heard this story. When Nathan came to him and told him the story, David was filled with anger, and he declared, The man who did this deserves to die. He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and he had no pity.

The story was a moral outrage. It struck David. And then, in that instant, the dagger pierced the heart of the king. Because Nathan the prophet immediately, then, seized on the story that he had told. This, he says to David, is a parable of your life, and particularly of your activities of late. Because, he said, you are the man that I'm describing in the story. And the awful actions of this leader were described in the words of Nathan.

Now, the background to that, of course, is another story with which many of us are familiar, but not all of us. David had, after a long climb to the top, made it through the struggles and challenges of political life, and he was finally there. He was in his mid-forties. He was the most significant person in the land. He was the commander-in-chief of the forces. He was the civil leader. There was no one greater than him. He had the ability to do things that others couldn't do. And so, although it was the time for kings and soldiers to go out to war, the biblical record tells us that he decided to stay home.

And so he stayed home, secure in his mid-forties and ready for his own midlife crisis. She was exceptionally beautiful. She was particularly vulnerable.

And she was, after their Christ, unfortunately pregnant. What he might have figured as being a one-night stand, because after all, he was a prominent person with a reputation to maintain. He surely wouldn't want the court reporters to be going around spreading news of what had taken place. He must be discreet in all of his dealings, and hopefully he would be able to avail himself of the opportunity and be gone, as it were, under the cover of darkness or the early hours of the dawn.

And it all went so horribly wrong. And so this leader was confronted by a moral dilemma—actually, by an immoral dilemma. Because this lady was married to one of his army officers, a man by the name of Uriah. So what was he to do? Well, his instinctive reaction was to cover it up. And so that's what he decided. He would recall Uriah from the campaign, from the border-securing task which he had, and he would get him to come back. And he would encourage him to sleep at home.

Didn't work. This first plan was a dreadful miscalculation. Because as it turned out, Uriah was more noble than the leader. Because when he called Uriah back, and he invited him into the palace, and he said, Hey, how are you doing?

How's it going? Uriah must have said to himself, I don't know what this is about. And when he followed it up by saying, Why don't you go home and spend a few nights with your family, and particularly with your wife?

Why don't you go home and wash your feet? Uriah must have walked out of the palace, and whether he smelled a rat or not, I don't know. He must have said to himself, This is one strange deal.

I'm out there fighting. I get called back into the palace. He has this conversation with me. And then he says, Go home and sleep with your wife. I wonder why he's so concerned that I would go home and sleep with my wife. So he doesn't go home and sleep with his wife. He goes home and sleeps with the servants—beside the servants. The king winds him and dines him on three successive evenings, presumably says, Now on you go. And he goes down, and he says, I can go and enjoy the privileges of marital bliss while my friends and my colleagues are out, facing the peril of their lives on the forefront of battle.

This was a noble guy. I'm not gonna be in here schmoozing and snoozing while my guys are out on the field getting chopped up with lances and with swords. So plan A hits the dumper. Plan B, he has to go to. So he instructs his general, Joab, to engineer events in such a way that this army officer, Uriah, will be killed in battle. Put him up somewhere at the front, he says, and wait for the right opportunity and make sure he takes it in the throat, so to speak. And then we'll have a funeral, and after the funeral I'll marry the grieving widow.

And then, when the grieving widow gives birth to this child that I will have already adopted, I will make this child a prince in the royal line, which will be a nice memorial to the national hero, namely Uriah. And that's exactly what he did. Cynical, sordid, dirty, filthy, horrible plot.

Immediately put into action. Everything in his power and powerful he was was unleashed in order to ensure that the dirty business would never actually make it into print—would never actually become the conversation of the common man. He must have said to himself, as the dust began to settle, that was an unfortunate business. He may even have said, you know, that was an improper relationship.

But he said to himself, it's time to move on. After all, there is a country to care for. There are matters to be addressed.

There are political issues, and there are matters of national security to be dealt with. Surely, I'm not supposed to belabor this and stay here. That was his great miscalculation.

The reason it was such a great miscalculation and such a tactical error was because of this. Sin cannot be sealed away in the past. Sin and guilt are not eradicated simply as a result of saying, Oh, well, I don't want to think about that anymore. Oh, well, that's in the past. Oh, well, that's okay. No, it's not. Even if the courts don't punish it, even if public scandal doesn't expose it, even if by hypocrisy we manage to conceal it—singing our hymns, attending our services, preaching our sermons, going about our business—even if by hypocrisy we manage to conceal it, eventually the rotting carcass will smell so bad that everyone will know.

There is no way to avoid it. That, of course, is the good news and the bad news. You see, you don't have to be a Christian to understand that. Pagans understand that. Boys at school understand that.

Girls understand that. As they lie in their beds and they bury their heads in the pillow, they know, Man alive, I don't know what I'm supposed to do with this! Is there anyone to whom I can go? Is there any place that I can turn?

Is there anything that I can see? Well, the only safe thing that can be done with guilt is to have it washed away. And there is only one to whom we may go to have it washed away. To whom, then, can this fallen leader go? Well, to the one whom he addresses in the psalm. He says, I'm coming to you, and my cry, he says, is, Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion. Who is this God?

Well, he is the God who has revealed himself as a God of unfailing love. And he is the God who has shown himself to be great in his compassion, and it is to this one that we may go with the request, Blot out my transgressions. You see, because when a man or a woman is made aware of their guilt, I know within myself that I'm gonna have to deal with God. I may try and suppress the notion, I may try and deny the idea, but I know by my very nature as being made in a moral being that there is one to whom I am accountable. And God knows that I know, and I know that he knows, and I know that this God, no matter what my anthropology teacher told me, no matter what the sociologist tells me, no matter what a postmodern community tries to instill in me, I know that this God is not some cosmic force, I know that he is not an impersonal being, I know that he is not simply an energy, I know that he is a moral being, and I know that he is the judge of all the earth who will do right.

And on account of that, there is a fundamental question which confronts me. How, then, can I be sure that if I go to this God, he will accept me? The answer is, because of who he is, because of your unfailing love according to your great compassion.

David only had a few books of the Old Testament, but he understood who God was. We have not only the books that he had but all the books that follow, ultimately forming up in the person of the Lord Jesus and ultimately bringing us to the cross of the Lord Jesus. Where do we see this unfailing love? Where is this great compassion declared?

Where is this cleansing detergent to be discovered? It's to be discovered on a Roman gibbet. For the grace of God reveals one who loves us so much so as to make Calvary possible and who hates sin so much so as to make Calvary necessary. And we have never understood neither sin nor the death of the Lord Jesus Christ until we have faced this fact—that there, when he hanged upon that cross, he was bearing in his own body our sins. Paul, when he describes the circumstances to the Colossians in Colossians 2, he says that he took our sins in himself and that he bore them and that he took all of my stain and he nailed it to the cross, granting to us forgiveness. That's why the message of the gospel is for sinners. God saves sinners. I have no right to claim forgiveness, and yet I must come and accept it. Forgiveness is something God gifts as a free gift. But we don't receive it automatically.

It doesn't come like one of those Visa card things in the mail. So people think, well, somehow or another, as I go on my merry way, one day I'll go on my mailbox, I'll take out the mail, and it will say, Hey, dear Fred, just want you to know you're forgiven. I thought you should know that.

Now, cheer up and get on with your life. Mm-mm. No. Forgiveness is a free gift of God, but we come and we ask for it. And we ask in confidence that we may receive it—not because we deserve it but because of the nature of the God who loves to give it. Have you ever come to God and asked him for forgiveness?

Oh, I don't mean in some generic way. I don't mean the sort of, Oh dear, what a mess. Here I am again for the forty-seventh time, with no sense of confession or cleansing. But have you ever come to God with all of it and said, Lord God, there's clearly no one else to whom I can go?

Secondly, there's only one thing that I can say. That is verse 3, I know my transgressions and my sins always before me. Now, when a man or a woman is prepared to say, I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me, I'll tell you what they're not doing.

Number one, they're not making excuses for it. When I know myself to be found out, when I know myself to be busted, when I know myself to be clearly in the wrong, I have to get down before God and say, You know what? I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. I'm not here to excuse it away.

I'm not here to blame it on capitalism or socialism or hormones or diet or my grandmother's influence on my life or whatever else it is. Oh God, I am totally in the wrong! So you can know that genuine repentance and godly sorrow does not attach itself to a litany of excuses. Nor does the genuinely repentant person try and hide behind some form of pseudo-moral indignation that goes like this. Well, you know, a lot of people have been doing a lot of bad things lately. Who's to say?

What's the deal? Let me tell you, when the Spirit of God convicts the heart of a man about the awfulness of his sin, he's gonna go run and find a place all on his own to cry out to Almighty God. He's not interested about the sins of his wife, his cousin, his brother, his sister, the guy up the stair, his boss, or anything else. He says, Oh God, I know my transgressions, and my sins are ever before me.

I can't run, and I can't hide. I'm here to say one thing. I'm saying no to excuse, I'm saying no to indignation, and I'm saying no to repression. If a man or a woman is going to find peace of heart and mind, then there is only one to whom they may go, there is only one thing that they can say, and that is, verse 4, against you, and you only have I sinned. My offense is against you, O God, I've done evil in your sight. You say, Well, wait a minute, didn't he sin against Bathsheba? Didn't he sin against Uriah? Yes, but in the final analysis, you and I'll never come to terms with sin or with guilt until we have personal dealings with God about it.

There's only one to whom we can go. You see, real guilt is not just a psychological hangup. There is false guilt. Some people feel guilty all the time.

They make themselves feel guilty, and they've nothing to be guilty about. But real guilt—you can't psychologize real guilt away. There isn't a psychiatrist in John Hopkins University can get rid of real guilt for you.

Even if he tells you that sin is a Christian neurosis, even if he externalizes it for you, even if he tells you that it's over there, it's not in here, there's no help to you. And if you've been there, you know. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying psychiatrists can't help you. I'm saying that they cannot remove guilt.

There's only one person who has the detergent. Not enough to have a psychologist help me. It's not sufficient that the person I've hurt forgives me. It's not enough to feel bad. It's not enough even to be angry with myself. The only day that you and I can come to terms with guilt is when my mind is no longer filled with thoughts of how it affects me, how it affects others, but when I start to feel seriously burdened by how my sin affects God.

Because only God has the detergent. There's only one thing I can say. And lastly, there's only one solution to be found, and that is a heart transplant. Verse 10. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Don't cast me off from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

David was probably thinking about what happened to Saul at the end of his days, what a mess he was in. He says, Lord, you're gonna have to change my heart and my spirit. The center of my will, the core of who I am, change my heart, O God. My need is crucial.

I can see that the solution is radical. I'm glad that the surgeon is gentle. Some of us have lost loved ones because the only solution that was left to them was a brand-new heart, and it wasn't possible to affect that change.

And so they were gone. And some of us wander in and out of our days, and the only solution that is there for us is a brand-new heart. It's not that we haven't been told. It's not that the surgeon hasn't come and made the diagnosis and offered the cure. It's not that we misunderstand the radical nature of the solution.

It is simply that we do not want it to happen. If you're here this morning and you remain unforgiven, you're sitting around with a bucketful of guilt, I want you to know there is one to whom you can go. There is something that you can say. And there's a solution to be found. There are many ways to become a member of the community.

There are many ways to become a good dad. There are many ways to assimilate religious principles. But all of that, on its own or put together, does not equal a religious conversion. For a religious conversion takes place only at one place, can only be affected by one person, and only in response to the saying of one thing, I have sinned, I have transgressed, I'm in a total mess.

And when that heart is then cleansed and made new, when the heart transplant takes place, then civil, religious, familial, personal duties follow in line. That's the message. You say, Well, I'm glad I'm not in this.

I'm not a leader, and I didn't do any of this stuff. Look at verse 5. Surely I was sinful at birth and sinful from the time my mother conceived me. You see, guilt is not a fungus to be scraped away. Guilt is a defect in our character.

There's no little island of innocence in our personalities from which we can launch a counterattack. The core is corrupt. It's twisted. It's stained. We're a write-off, for those of you who are involved as insurance assessors or in body shop work.

The car gets hauled on its sorry way into one of those places, the insurance assessor comes, the expert looks at it, you're on the receiving end of the telephone call, and the guy comes on the phone, he goes, It's a write-off. What does that mean? It means you're gonna have to have a brand-new one.

Because this thing will never go again. That's the description. It's not that we came into worship this morning, and we need a new fender, or we need a couple of new headlights, or do you fancy a couple of spiritual fog lamps, or, you know, would you like to have intermittent Christian windscreen wipers or something like that, or, you know, do you want a Christian sunroof, or, you know, I'm a pretty nice guy, and I just wondered if you could kind of fit me out with the sort of package you have. What sort of packages do you have here?

I'm interested in what you have to offer me. Well, you know, I think we got a tremendous amount to offer you, but before we would offer you any of the other stuff, there's only one thing to offer, and that is an introduction to the only one to whom we can go—a description of the only thing that we can realistically say, and a reminder that there is only one possible solution to the predicament that we face. God offers the gift of forgiveness through his Son. That's from today's message on Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. If you'd like to know more about the one solution for the predicament of sin that Alistair talked about in today's study, we'd invite you to visit slash thestory. There you'll find a helpful video that explains God's plan for salvation.

God's plan of salvation is something we're always eager to share. That's one reason we've been talking about a book called The God Contest this week. It's a colorful, engaging picture book for children. It provides many opportunities for you to be able to talk about God and the Bible with young ones. This book tells about the story of Elijah and his contest with the prophets of Baal to determine who was the one true God. Because the book leaps forward and explains that Jesus wins the ultimate contest by defeating death, your child not only hears about Elijah, he hears the gospel as well. We love children's books that are faithful to Scripture, and The God Contest certainly fits that bill. So order your copy today when you make a generous one-time donation to Truth for Life.

You can do that online. It's quick and easy when you visit slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. How much does a person need to know before they can become a Christian? Surprisingly it can be boiled down to two main things. Find out what they are tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-16 12:25:09 / 2023-11-16 12:34:05 / 9

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