King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (31)

Ancient-BattleDavid’s Song of Praise (4)

2 Samuel 22:38-46

We now arrive at the place in King David’s prayer that so discomforts our Christian pacifist friends.  Here, King David, looking back upon his life, speaks of God’s sovereign acts by which David was able to defeat his enemies in mortal combat.

38 “I pursued my enemies and crushed them;
    I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
39 I crushed them completely, and they could not rise;
    they fell beneath my feet.
40 You armed me with strength for battle;
    you humbled my adversaries before me.

Yes, David is attributing the crushing destruction of his enemies to God’s providential acts of direct support.

41 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
    and I destroyed my foes.
42 They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
    to the Lord, but he did not answer.
43 I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth;
    I pounded and trampled them like mud in the streets.

David continues his vivid, unblinking description of the death and destruction meted out to his enemies.  They not only were killed, but their bodies were obliterated, becoming nothing more than dust of the earth.

44 “You have delivered me from the attacks of the peoples;
    you have preserved me as the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me,
45     foreigners cower before me;
    as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
46 They all lose heart;
    they come trembling from their strongholds.

There is no avoiding the explicit nature of David’s statements concerning God’s direct action in these matters of warfare.

I have on many occasions observed the rejection of passages such as this by progressive Christian pacifists.  The simple fact is that they will not countenance the possibility that the God revealed in the Bible would be allowed to violate their personal moral code.  No, they too often would rather disregard any offending passage than submit to the authority of God’s Word concerning God’s own nature.

In many cases they seek to dissociate David of the Old Testament from Jesus of the New Testament.  But, as I have pointed out in the first of these current posts:

In the first verse of the first Book of the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew, the name of David occurs at the twelfth word.

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:(Matthew 1:1, NIV)

Thus, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is tied in the most intimate manner with King David, a warrior and poet after God’s own heart.

I now ask: Is there anywhere in the New Testament where David’s conduct with respect to warfare is criticized, let alone disavowed?  None come to mind.  However, it is not only in the Gospel of Matthew where King David is directly tied to Christ’s Kingdom.  For, in the greatest theological Epistle, the Apostle Paul does precisely the same thing.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 1:1-4)

Note well that in reference to Jesus Christ “his earthly life was a descendant of David.”  

What, you might rightly wonder, is my motive for making the point with such force.  Is it because I am a warmonger?  Do I own stock in the arms industry?  Am I filled with hate for other nationalities, religions, races, cultures, etc.?  Or, as some of my pacifist friends have not so subtlety asserted, am I a defective Christian?

I don’t believe that it is any of these motives.  I would love to live out my life in peace, and to know that every other person will be able to do so as well.

I certainly understand that actions taken by the United States will all too often cause friction and conflict as they intersect with other cultures and countries.  Yes, and the reason for this will too often be in significant measure our own fault.  But this admission in no way absolves the others of moral responsibility for their actions.

 

PeacInOurTime

Pacifism enabling Nazi Germany in September 1938.  One year later Europe was engulfed in total war.

This is the point of departure between myself and progressive pacifists.  For they, in order to justify demands for passivity on our part, insist that the the only group with moral agency in these conflicts is us.  Thus, those who attack us with terrorism and threaten us with destruction bear no responsibility for their evil.  No, they are just blameless puppets who are responding to the evil that we do.  It is thus they who dehumanize the other, turning them into subhuman creatures whose character does not rise to the level at which moral responsibility can be expected.

Approaching_Omaha

Omaha Beach, June 6 1944.  Non-pacifists begin to free Europe from enslavement and genocide.

The reason that there is a Western Civilization at all is because Christians of earlier ages didn’t falsely turn God’s Word into an excuse for cowardice and defeatism.  This statement pertains to a time as recent as decades ago and extends back through centuries.  If Western Civilization is destroyed and replaced by Political Islam or resurgent Communism, the resulting death and destruction across the planet will be far worse than if we had stood and fought.

But what’s all that compared to maintaining a faux sense of personal moral purity?  On the answer to that question hangs the fate of uncounted millions, both within and outside of Western Civilization.

Vienna_Battle_1683.jpg

The Ottoman Army surrounds Vienna in 1683.

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King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (30)

GodSavesMe
David’s Song of Praise (3)

2 Samuel 22:26-37

King Davis continues to praise our wondrous God.

26 “To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
    to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
27 to the pure you show yourself pure,
    but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
28 You save the humble,
    but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.

One of the primary things that leads into doubt concerning God’s character is the apparent victory of the devious and haughty in this world.  The swindler who lives in opulence or the dictator who dies peacefully in his sleep come immediately to mind.  But there are so many other examples from which to choose.  Why doesn’t God immediately smite every wrongdoer and reward every act of kindness?

To answer the first part of this question, were God to immediately smite each act of wrongdoing then we would all be dead within five minutes.  To answer the second part, there are lessons that God intends for His elect to learn in this worldly life, with patience one of the most important.  Here’s a paragraph that discusses one aspect of this vast issue.

The Bible’s understanding of patience as a Christian virtue is rooted in the totality of Christian truth. Patience begins with the affirmation that God is sovereign and in control of human history, working in human lives. With eternity on the horizon, time takes on an entirely new significance. The Christian understands that full satisfaction will never be achieved in this life, but he looks to the consummation of all things in the age to come. Furthermore, we know that our sanctification will be incomplete in this life, and thus Christians must look to each other as fellow sinners saved by grace, in whom the Holy Spirit is at work calling us unto Christlikeness.

29 You, Lord, are my lamp;
    the Lord turns my darkness into light.
30 With your help I can advance against a troop;
    with my God I can scale a wall.

31 “As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
32 For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
33 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
34 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
35 He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
36 You make your saving help my shield;
    your help has made me great.
37 You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.

Note the intermingling between David’s description of physical prowess and it’s source in God’s purposes.  David the saved man has been overcome by the Holy Spirit’s power to use the profane for holy purpose.

The time may well be arriving in which these words, seemingly so far removed from our experience or need, will once again provide hope and courage to a civilization under siege.  Unless, that is, God has decided in His perfect wisdom to render us incapable, where our: thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:21b).

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (29)

Sola-ScripturaDavid’s Song of Praise (3)

2 Samuel 22:21-25

The Issue of Apparent Biblical Contradiction

The Problem

I’m going to deviate from my normal practice on this particular passage of Scripture.  That is, rather than simply commenting on its meaning, I’m going to discuss the interpretative challenges that it creates, which can be described as follows:

The Bible consists of over 750,000 words written over a period of millennia by dozens of (Holy Spirit inspired) authors.  Therefore, there are passages that appear to contradict one another.

The nature of these apparent contradictions can vary from minute (e.g., dates, names, etc.) to immense (e.g., the Law and Grace).  I have chosen to address this issue here because the doctrinal issue is indeed immense — that being the place of human works in salvation.  In this particular case, a Scriptural passage that appears to be contradictory is Ephesians 2:8-10.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Now read this section of King David’s prayer.

21 “The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
22 For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
    I am not guilty of turning from my God.
23 All his laws are before me;
    I have not turned away from his decrees.
24 I have been blameless before him
    and have kept myself from sin.
25 The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
    according to my cleanness in his sight.

I trust that you see the issue.  In the Ephesians passage the Apostle Paul forcefully removes all ground for salvation by works, but, King David, apparently directly contradicts this position by claiming that “The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness.

Two dominant (in my opinion) erroneous Christian positions are taken in response to apparent contradictions.  I will conclude with a discussion of the orthodox Reformed solution, which I believe to be the closest to correct.

The Cafeteria Solution

This solution pretends to uphold the authority of all Scripture by isolating individual passages, treating each one as authoritative, and then applying them to a specific situation.  For example, a Christian, when feeling particularly confident, might proclaim the requirements of works to earn salvation (just as if they had they so earned it).  However, when caught in clear sin, they might use another passage of Scripture to justify their behavior and/or minimize its significance.  In each case the Christian is claiming the absolute authority of Scripture.  However, in practice, by partitioning Scripture into a mere means of justifying their current specific position, they implicitly admit that Scripture is so contradictory that a passage can be found to justify the vast majority of positions that they find the need to advance.  Most sentient people will eventually catch on to this inconsistent theological behavior.

The Humanist Solution

This solution explicitly embraces the conclusion that Scripture is chockfull of contradictions.  By so doing they can recast the interpretative challenge to be that of deciding which of the so-called contradictory passages are authoritative (if any).  The Jesus Seminar was an honest instance of this position.  Far too much of Western, Mainline Christian leadership is a dishonest holder of this position, with the consequential sorrowful impact on the laity.  That is, while they pretend to uphold the authority of Scripture, they actually only uphold that portion of Scripturre that meets their human (and thus faulty and unstable) standard of what is authoritative.  Thus, what is ultimately authoritative is their particular beliefs, and, Scripture is at best a tool by which they can be justified.

The Orthodox Reformed Solution

This solution begins with the bedrock assumption that all Scripture is authoritative.  It also affirms that there are Scriptural passages that appear to be contradictory.  Thus, the interpretative challenge is to create a theological structure within which as many as possible of these apparent contradictions can be logically resolved.  In some cases this is easily accomplished.  In others even the application of the best theological minds admittedly fall short.  However, the fact that we frail humans sometimes fail to fully understand doesn’t shake our conviction that in the fullness of God’s Mind there is a true solution.

Sometimes this solution’s results can be confused with those of the Cafeteria’s.  That is, the line between explaining how seemingly contradictory passages actually are not and selectively adhering to one passage over another can sometimes become blurry.  The way to differentiate is that the Orthodox Reformed theology has affirmed that it has failed if the two passages can’t be logically resolved with respect to each other and the entire witness of Scripture.  The Cafeteria theology is perfectly fine with keeping the offending passages separate from each other and from the rest of Scripture.

So, how did one of the greatest Reformed theologians, John Calvin, attempt to resolve the specific theological issue raised by the above passages?  Here’s the relevant excerpt of his commentary on the parallel passage from Psalm 18.

David, in opposition to these accusations, with the view of maintaining his innocence before God, protests and affirms that he had acted uprightly and sincerely in this matter, inasmuch as he attempted nothing without the command or warrant of God; and whatever hostile attempts his enemies made against him, he nevertheless always kept himself within the bounds prescribed by the Divine Law. It would be absurd to draw from this the inference that God is merciful to men according as he judges them to be worthy of his favor. Here the object in view is only to show the goodness of a particular cause, and to maintain it in opposition to wicked calumniators; and not to bring into examination the whole life of a man, that he may obtain favor, and be pronounced righteous before God. In short, David concludes from the effect and the issue, that his cause was approved of by God, not that one victory is always and necessarily the sign of a good cause, but because God, by evident tokens of his assistance, showed that he was on the side of David.

He adds, I have not wickedly departed from my God This implies, that he always aimed directly at the mark of his calling, although the ungodly attempted many things to overthrow his faith. The verb which he uses does not denote one fall only, but a defection which utterly removes and alienates a man from God. David, it is true, sometimes fell into sin through the weakness of the flesh, but he never desisted from following after godliness, nor deserted the service to which God had called him.

You and I can disagree on the extent to which Calvin has resolved the issue.  But the key point here is that he is openly and honestly attempting to deconflict these passages within the context of a well-defined theological structure.  Finally, it’s certain that Calvin gives all the glory to God for David’s soundness of salvation even under the overwhelming power of this world’s effort to negate it.

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (28)

ps60-05David’s Song of Praise (2)

2 Samuel 22:17-20

In the previous passage David describes God’s wrath and its consequence on his enemies.  David now describes God’s purpose.

17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
    from my foes, who were too strong for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
    but the Lord was my support.
20 He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Thus, God’s acts were in support of His sovereign choice to make David king.  However, by the combination of David’s (God-given) character and David’s (God-ordained) experience, the resulting nature of this king was unlike any other.  That is, God has seen to it that David’s kingship would be the seed from which would grow the church of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  John Calvin brilliantly describes this act of God thus.

Here there is briefly shown the drift of the sublime and magnificent narrative which has now passed under our review, namely, to teach us that David at length emerged from the profound abyss of his troubles, neither by his own skill, nor by the aid of men, but that he was drawn out of them by the hand of God. When God defends and preserves us wonderfully and by extraordinary means, he is said in Scripture language to send down succor from above; and this sending is set in opposition to human and earthly aids, on which we usually place a mistaken and an undue confidence.

John Calvin’s Commentary on Psalm 18

Thus, David’s experience of God’s grace was so clear, so profound that he could not possibly conclude that it originated from “human and earthly aids.”

Finally, when David says that God “delighted in me” he is speaking from the position of divine election.  We in this life cannot claim a shred of justification for why God should have “delighted in me.”  However, how can one so redeemed, protected and justified discuss such an ultimate salvation without reference to the personal nature of this mysterious, blessed gift from God?

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (27)

week3-large-2David’s Song of Praise (1)

2 Samuel 22:1-16

David’s song of praise in 2 Samuel is also included (with minor differences) in God’s Word as Psalm 18.  I will therefore lean on John Calvin’s commentary on Psalm 18 as we work our way through this magnificent prayer.

David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said:

Note first that this prayer was composed late in David’s life, after he had experienced danger and want due to everything from persecution by King Saul, to foreign wars, to treason by his own son, among much more.  Let Calvin provide the background.

David had discomfited many foreign enemies, and had also suppressed the rebellion of his own son Absalom. But, persuaded that it was a singular manifestation of the grace of God towards him, and eminently worthy of being remembered, that he had for so many years escaped from innumerable deaths, or rather that as many days as he had lived under the reign of Saul, God had wrought, as it were, so many miracles for his deliverance, he firstly mentions and celebrates in particular his deliverance from the hands of this relentless enemy. By calling himself the servant of God, he doubtless intended to bear testimony to his call to be king, as if he had said, I have not rashly, and by my own authority, usurped the kingdom, but have only acted in obedience to the oracle of heaven. And, indeed, amidst the many storms which he had to encounter, it was a support highly necessary to be well assured in his own mind of having undertaken nothing but by the appointment of God; or rather, this was to him a peaceful haven, and a secure retreat in the midst of so many broils and strange calamities.

John Calvin Commentary on Psalm 18

So now King David begins his prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
    from violent people you save me.

 

When God ordained that young David would become King of Israel the powers that be did not quietly submit.  Rather, they struck out with cunning and cruelty, making every possible attempt to void God’s purpose by killing David.

What surprises is, after reading the story in 1 and 2 Samuel, we see that it apparently was David’s own guile and prowess by which these enemies were defeated.  And yet, here we find David in prayer, giving all of the glory to God.  How can this be so?

When we examine the facts, though, we see that throughout David’s entire life on the run the opposition usually had an overwhelming power advantage.  An unredeemed man who had overcome in these circumstances would find the temptation of pride irresistible.  However, David, redeemed and justified by God, responds in the opposite way.  Thus, this prayer of thanksgiving and praise was spoken not because David was a better person, but because God chose to work through this particular person.  Perhaps the Apostle Paul can help us to understand.

For I am the least of the apostles and am unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:9,10)

David now proceeds to describe in vivid detail the depth of danger and the height of grace which he had experienced.

“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and have been saved from my enemies.
The waves of death swirled about me;
    the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
    the snares of death confronted me.

We simply cannot imagine the terrors that David had experienced.

“In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
    my cry came to his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked,
    the foundations of the heavens shook;
    they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
    consuming fire came from his mouth,
    burning coals blazed out of it.
10 He parted the heavens and came down;
    dark clouds were under his feet.
11 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
    he soared on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness his canopy around him—
    the dark rain clouds of the sky.
13 Out of the brightness of his presence
    bolts of lightning blazed forth.
14 The Lord thundered from heaven;
    the voice of the Most High resounded.
15 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
    with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
16 The valleys of the sea were exposed
    and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at the rebuke of the Lord,
    at the blast of breath from his nostrils.

What troubles so many current Western Christians in the above passage is the violence of God’s response.  God is filled with anger at those who oppose His decree.  He thus induces terror in those who oppose Him.  This response is the opposite of the kumbaya expectation of those who have fallen prey to the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” theological error.  Therefore, too many current Christians choose to spiritualize or even outright ignore passages such as this.

I don’t stress this point to provide blanket justification for any act of war/violence by a Christian majority group/country.  Rather, my purpose is to correct those among us who have turned Christianity into a suicide pact when confronted by aggressive evil.  This idea is spread by the falsehood that pacifism is central to God’s character.  I have addressed this issue in detail, starting here.

 

Decoding Progressivism (8)

Communism/Socialism must be counted as one of the most tragic, persistent and deadly lies of all time.  Stalinism was just one particularly monstrous phase of the lie that has reaped tens of millions of murdered humans and ruination for hundreds of millions more.  And yet, the elite Progressive Leftists choose to contribute mightily to the keeping of this lie alive.  Here’s what the lie looked like in the 1950s.

It is in the nature of Stalinism for its adherents to make a certain kind of lying – and not only to others, but first of all to themselves – a fundamental part of their lives.  It is always a mistake to assume that Stalinists do not know the truth about the political reality they espouse. If they don’t know the truth (or all of it) one day, they know it the next, and it makes absolutely no difference to them politically.  For their loyalty is to something other than the truth.  And no historical enormity is so great, no personal humiliation or betrayal so extreme, no crime so heinous that it cannot be assimilated into the ‘ideals’ that govern the true Stalinist mind, which is impervious alike to documentary evidence and moral discrimination.

from a Hilton Kramer essay.

Never Give Up on Socialism

The nostalgia for Communism is never far beneath the surface in the Progressive Left, as was recently reemphasized in a New York Times oped (emphasis added).  There could be no better confirmation of my recent condemnation of the Progressive Left’s whitewash of Communist genocide (see below figure from this post) than the statements from this oped.  Here’s how the lie looks today.
communistevil

The top two are just unsuccessful do-gooders while the third is utterly evil!  Let’s keep trying Socialism until we finally get it right!

New York Times Oped:

We can get to this Finland Station only with the support of a majority; that’s one reason that socialists are such energetic advocates of democracy and pluralism. But we can’t ignore socialism’s loss of innocence over the past century. We may reject the version of Lenin and the Bolsheviks as crazed demons and choose to see them as well-intentioned people trying to build a better world out of a crisis, but we must work out how to avoid their failures…

But since Communism doesn’t currently have the power to destroy Western Civilization, other “strong horses” must be used to achieve this fundamental goal.
In a recent Kurt Schlichter essay (emphasis added), Stop Lying to Us, we find that although the specifics of the lie have changed, the destructive civilizational purpose of the Progressive Left remains essentially unaltered.
But for the so-called elite that seeks to rule us, it’s all lies, all day, every day, about everything, since they can’t be honest because we normals reject what they want whenever we are exposed to the truth and are allowed a say. So their go-to move to impose their sick will is to obscure or hide the truth, and try to suppress our voices.
When it comes to terror, they prioritize their cocktail party clichés over our lives. They are willing to accept the risk of dangerous Muslim radicals infiltrating our country rather than admitting the truth and taking action.
Then there are the informal ways the left seeks to protect the lies – the attempts at public shaming, plus the intimidation by political correctness that tells the truth-speaker that his reputation, his job and maybe his physical safety will be in danger if he dares point out that the lies are lies.
No, they would rather you lie and die than tell the truth and live. But unless we choose not to stand up for ourselves, our families and our Constitution, we still get a say.
What is “rather you lie and die than tell the truth and live” other than the purposeful sacrifice of human beings to the idol of their own narcissism?
Finally, closing the circle between idolatry and lying.
Such idolatrous lies falsify a person, obscuring and distorting who the person is.  The lie destroys true relationship as humans stop relating to God as he knows himself to be, instead treating him as they have fashioned him.  Idolatry strongly expresses human sovereignty, but sovereignty at the expense of true relationship.
Passively in the face of lies causes us to become complicit in their evil consequences.

Decoding Progressivism (7)

These poor professors were members in good standing of the “progressive community” right up to the moment when they grasped the last shred of adulthood / common sense (left), free speech / debate (center) or critical thinking / intellectual standards (right).

academic-hyenas

They had imagined that they were running with Unicorns but realized their error too late.

For their loyalty is to something other than the truth.  And no historical enormity is so great, no personal humiliation or betrayal so extreme, no crime so heinous that it cannot be assimilated into the ‘ideals’ that govern the true Stalinist mind, which is impervious alike to documentary evidence and moral discrimination.

(from a Hilton Kramer essay)

The tragic truth is that many “intellectuals” realize that they are running with a hyena pack, but lack the decency and/or courage to exit (Jonathan Kay on the tyranny of Twitter: How mob censure is changing the intellectual landscape).

… you will find intellectuals who have made extraordinary financial sacrifices to pursue their artistic or activist passions, and whose entire livelihood hinges on a thin patchwork of government grants, modest book advances, sessional teaching contracts, and honoraria from small journals, websites and magazines. Just one wrong Tweet or misplaced open-letter signature can send these people back to a life working for Uber or foodora.

Sarah Hoyt provides an accurate summary of the current academic Progressive left.

Their behavior is so insane, their on-command ability to jump on anyone or anything who deviates from the now-current party line so absolute, their arguments so ridiculous, it took me a while to realize what they’re doing is the equivalent of Mao’s brigades of aggressive young people fanning out to rural areas to teach the peasants how to think and what to do.

Our colleges and universities are purposefully creating hordes of these cultural revolution goons … tragic credentialed, entitled lives with no actual useful skills but masters of personal and civilizational destruction.  So, it hasn’t stayed on the campus.  Buckle up, it’s going to be a rough ride.

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (26)

King-David-at-Prayer-Pieter de Grebber

King David in Prayer – Pieter de Grebber

King David and Bathsheba (6)

Concluding Remarks

I have liberally used John Calvin’s commentary on Psalm 51 as a key resource for indicting David’s behavior.  It thus is only fitting that John Calvin’s comments should also be central to an explanation of God’s revealed purpose and motivations in this particular matter.  This issue is of the highest import because it sheds light on a core issue of the Christian life — that being the torturous tension between our salvation and our continuing irresistible compulsion to sin.

Firstly, let there be no doubt that we the saved elect are not supposed to sin.

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin (Romans 6:6, NIV)

However, in this earthly life that possibility for sinlessness falls prey to the residual power of sin in our lives.  The Apostle Paul’s anguished words connect this abstract issue directly to our living flesh and blood selves.

14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:14-20, NIV)

This is the state in which King David existed, and, in which all humans, including Christians still exist.  Thus, the pretense of some Christians that they are more “moral” or “disinterested” or “loving” than the rest of us is a deadly lie.  No, the terrible truth is that, were it not for the fact that Christ’s obedience and satisfaction had been imputed unto us, we would be ultimately indistinguishable from any other human being.

What then is the distinguishing mark of a Christian with regard to sin?  It is this — that the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work exposes our sinfulness which leads to, over time, increasing acknowledgment of and repentance from the power of sin in our lives.  This sanctifying work is never completed in this worldly life.  But sure proof of our elect state is provided by the Spirit’s progress in moving us towards the goal.

What then, you might ask, is the definition of sin?  It is not defined by a secular political movement, or by highly credentialed academics or by celebrities or by anyone else.  No, sin is only what God’s Word says that it is.

With this preamble, let’s then turn to John Calvin’s discussion of this sanctifying process at work in the specific life of King David.  First, he comments on the humility with which David responds to the exposure of his terrible sin.

This is such a humility as is altogether unknown to the wicked. They may tremble in the presence of God, and the obstinacy and rebellion of their hearts may be partially restrained, but they still retain some remainders of inward pride. Where the spirit has been broken, on the other hand, and the heart has become contrite, through a felt sense of the anger of the Lord, a man is brought to genuine fear and self-loathing, with a deep conviction that of himself he can do or deserve nothing, and must be indebted unconditionally for salvation to Divine mercy. That this should be represented by David as constituting all which God desires in the shape of sacrifice, need not excite our surprise. He does not exclude faith, he does not condescend upon any nice division of true penitence into its several parts, but asserts in general, that the only way of obtaining the favor of God is by prostrating ourselves with a wounded heart at the feet of his Divine mercy, and supplicating his grace with ingenuous confessions of our own helplessness.

John Calvin on Psalm 51:17

This is the humility to which the Apostle Paul gave eternal voice in 1 Corinthians 1:27-31.

27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

The+MessageCalvin then proceeds to comment on the situation of God’s Church.

From prayer in his own behalf he now proceeds to offer up supplications for the collective Church of God, a duty which he may have felt to be the more incumbent upon him from the circumstance of his having done what he could by his fall to ruin it. Raised to the throne, and originally anointed to be king for the very purpose of fostering the Church of God, he had by his disgraceful conduct nearly accomplished its destruction. Although chargeable with this guilt, he now prays that God would restore it in the exercise of his free mercy. He makes no mention of the righteousness of others, but rests his plea entirely upon the good pleasure of God, intimating that the Church, when at any period it has been brought low, must be indebted for its restoration solely to Divine grace.

John Calvin on Psalm 51:18

When we survey the wreckage of the modern Western church these words burn bright both in condemnation and hope.


The bottom line is that, although we are not supposed to sin, we yet will; and that our sin, be it individual or corporate, cannot obstruct God’s providential purposes.  King David indeed sinned terribly.  Yet his sin could not obstruct God from His sovereignly decreed purpose of building His Church from King David’s house.

Therefore, when you encounter Christians who presume that some sort of moral superiority (of any kind, from any source) lies behind their faith and/or opinions, you should become very skeptical.  For, to place yourself outside of the only true source of salvation — the imputing of the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto you — is to utterly misunderstand both God’s acts of providence and your own place in His creation.  That position of ignorance can only result in terrible errors and heresies.

 

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (25)

nathan-confronts-davidKing David and Bathsheba (5)

The Collapse: 2 Samuel 12:7-14

The LORD God works in an unspecified manner through the prophet Nathan to expose King David’s sin.  Nathan lures David into self-condemnation by conveying a story that is different in detail, but directly analogous to David’s actions.  Thus, when David condemns the protagonist in the story, Nathan immediately turns upon the king with this powerful rebuke.

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.

God had protected David and had delivered all that King Saul had into his hands; even those things that while pleasing to man are yet at odds with God’s ultimate purposes.  Thus, God includes the polygamous situation of many wives in this list of “good things.”

Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.

The full truth that David had worked so carefully to coverup is now out in the open.  The consequences will damage terribly David’s life, family, kingship and nation.

10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

Now the specific judgement of God is revealed.

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

Were we to discuss the entire remaining chapters of 2 Samuel the direct and indirect consequences of this curse would be unambiguously apparent.  David sought to hide the shame of his sin from the nation.  Therefore, God will humiliate David before the nation in broad daylight.

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

This is the instant when the fact of David’s election by God is revealed.  David’s conscience is reanimated by this terrible event.  He doesn’t try to continue hiding or to justify his sin.  Nor does he attempt to minimize its true nature — for he names it as sin against the Lord.

We can never know for sure if a person is “elect of God” who has been “effectually called” into salvation.  Here we must include some doctrine in order to grasp what is happening.

Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

Westminster Confession: Chapter XI, Paragraph 1.

But what are the “marks” by which we could know that someone is indeed “elect?”  This issue is discussed in our confessions, with the underlying understudying that we cannot ultimately know the answer, as it lives in the impenetrable mystery of God’s sovereign grace.  However, one thing is clear, that being that an elect person will continue to commit sins, and that God’s sovereign justice will be applied to that sin.

God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may by their sins fall under God’s Fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

Westminster Confession: Chapter XI, Paragraph 5.

Let there be no doubt that King David did indeed confess his sin, beg pardon and renew his faith and repentance.  Let Psalm 51 testify to this fact.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
 
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Psalm 51:1-4 (NIV)
John Calvin rightly comments:
This will be the exercise of every true penitent. It matters little to obtain our acquittal at the bar of human judgment, or to escape punishment through the connivance of others, provided we suffer from an accusing conscience and an offended God. And there is, perhaps, no better remedy against deception in the matter of our sins than to turn our thoughts inward upon ourselves, to concentrate them upon God, and lose every self-complacent imagination in a sharp sense of his displeasure.

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

Note that David has indeed been found to be within the bounds of God’s sovereign grace: “by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone.”

We should not be concerned that King David, who lived prior to Christ’s time on earth, was a beneficiary of this same grace.

The justification of believers under the Old Testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the New Testament.

Westminster Confession: Chapter XI, Paragraph 6.

I will certainly not dare to judge just whom, in His infinite, unsearchable mercy God has sovereignly chosen to justify through election.  However I must say that anyone who claims this blessed status for themselves yet clings to their fantasies of self righteousness, or, who condones sin — they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:32b, NIV) — should consider their situation with fear and trembling.saved-by-grace

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (24)

bathsheba-mourns-tissotKing David and Bathsheba (4)

The End of the Road: 2 Samuel 11:22-27

We now follow David to the end of the road that he started down at the beginning of chapter 11.  This is by no means the end of the story, for the consequences of this sin will torment David to the very end of his life.

22 The messenger set out, and when he arrived he told David everything Joab had sent him to say. 23 The messenger said to David, “The men overpowered us and came out against us in the open, but we drove them back to the entrance of the city gate. 24 Then the archers shot arrows at your servants from the wall, and some of the king’s men died. Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.”

It appears that the messenger has further embellished the story, adding details that explain why the Israeli warriors were so close to the city walls.  But, once the cover story is in place he wastes no time before sharing the key information: your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.  Can we not surmise with confidence that the messenger was well aware that this situation was deeply wrong?  He thus feels obligated to contribute his own part to the creation of this evil lie, both for purpose of self-preservation and standing with the king.  Thus, David’s sin has corrupted everyone who has become involved in the vile coverup.  

25 David told the messenger, “Say this to Joab: ‘Don’t let this upset you; the sword devours one as well as another. Press the attack against the city and destroy it.’ Say this to encourage Joab.”

Here we reach the disgusting, putrid moral sludge.  King David has turned all of the wit and cunning that had before been used to survive King Saul’s murderous assaults to the rape of a man’s wife and then this same man’s murder.  In so doing he also irrevocably undermined his own political and moral standing as king.  Is there in the annals of Scripture a more complete and disgusting example of sin through the abuse of power?

26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him.27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son.

The final step is obvious.  For what purpose all the evil if the prize is unclaimed at the “victory?”  Thus, the widow Bathsheba is made King David’s wife and she bore him a son.

I can find no Biblical text that suggests the slightest moral failing on Bathsheba’s part.  Some say that her public bathing was a purposeful incitement of King David’s lust.  Perhaps, but the Biblical text, besides simply describing the event, makes no mention of her motives.  Thus David and David alone bears the explicit responsibility for all of this monstrous sin.

But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.

David has conducted the perfect coverup from a human perspective.  To all who are outside Uriah’s death is indistinguishable from the other thousands who have given their lives for the nation.  For those few in the know, they are so personally complicit with the crime that their lips are sealed.  And, Bathsheba is not under the King’s power as his wife.

There’s just one loose thread…the LORD God Himself, who is displeased.

From a human point of view all is lost.  In the next chapter we will see just how God’s promise is yet preserved in spite of King David’s sin.  John Calvin provides the preview.

Upon the fall of one who was so great a pillar in the Church, so illustrious both as a prophet and a king, as David, we cannot but believe that many were shaken and staggered in the faith of the promises. Many must have been disposed to conclude, considering the close connection into which God had adopted David, that he was implicated in some measure in his fall. David, however, repels an insinuation so injurious to the divine honor, and declares, that although God should cast him headlong into everlasting destruction, his mouth would be shut, or opened only to acknowledge his unimpeachable justice.

Commentary on the Psalms — 51:4

road-end