Absolute power corrupts absolutely!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Psalms 51-53

Our scripture reading today is Psalms 51-53; however, my devotional commentary will focus on Psalm 51 and the setting of that great psalm.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness, confession, repentance and a plea for restoration following the prophet Nathan’s dramatic confrontation (2 Samuel 12:7-13) with king David because of his secret sins…his adultery with Bathsheba and his foolish attempt to conceal his sin by directing the murder of her husband Uriah.

It is frightening to consider the depth to which a man or woman might descend into sin and wickedness when they attempt to cover sin rather than confess and forsake it.  Many a great man and woman have found themselves in the unenviable position we find king David…at the pinnacle of success and power; and too often unaccountable to any who might mercifully, but bravely like the prophet Nathan warn his superior, “Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).

Late 19th century British historian Lord Acton made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Such is true, not only of monarchs, politicians, business leaders, teachers, and pastors; but also men and women who, in their own little fiefdoms have roles that go unchecked by personal accountability to others and a holy, omniscient God.

One should ponder how a man like David fell from the innocence of a shepherd boy in his teens, a national hero in his early-adult years (1 Samuel 18:7; 21:11), crowned king by age 30, but at the age of 50 becomes in fact an adulterer and murderer.

Every reader should awaken to this truth…the potential of so egregious sins is within each of us.   David acknowledges in Psalm 51:5 the nature and curse of sin: “I was shapen in inquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  The inclination for sin is within the nature and heart of all men and women and, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

It is not the depths of sin to which David descended, but the fact he tolerated the curse and burden of such sins while acting as king and righteous judge in other men’s matters.  One wonders how long David might have continued his charade if it weren’t for God employing his prophet to confront the king while he sat on his throne.   We also appreciate the tenuous position Nathan found himself when we remember oriental monarchs like David had absolute power and the power of life and death rested with them.

The words, “Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7) echoed in the king’s judgment hall and resonated in David’s heart who cried out to God:

Psalm 51:1-4a – “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3  For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…”

Psalm 51:10-12 – “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”

Psalm 51:16-17 – “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

Make no mistake; among the hundreds who will read this devotional commentary are some who, like David, are living out a pretense of good works, maintaining appearances, while concealing a sin that will, like cancer, destroy you, your family and witness.  I find three failures in David’s life that are the haunt of men and women of all ages.

The first, David entertained unbridled passions in his soul that led inevitably to a sinful neglect of his duties and responsibilities as husband, father and king.   Friend, your greatest temptations will arise when you are physically and spiritually indolent.  Nearly 40 years in ministry have taught me when a believer is unfaithful and carries a gunny sack of excuses, Sound the Alarm and shout… “Thou art the man!”

The second failure seen in David’s life was his role as king isolated him from accountability.  His moral failure occurred when he was alone…far from the battlefield and apart from his wives and children.  The same is true of many who have leisure time, are self-employed, and home alone…the temptations of the television and Internet are no more than a mouse-click away.

Finally, in spite of David being a man with a heart for God, he was nevertheless too proud to confess his sin (2 Samuel 11:6-22) and accept the consequences of his moral failures.

Believer, if you are concealing sin, be forewarned:  You are living on borrowed time before the consequences catch up with you and your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4).   I invite you to, like David, humble yourself before God for He has promised, “whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith