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The Conscience of David


Picture a child growing up in a home polluted by evil parents who don't care about right ways and good influence. Such a growing conscience begins to see the enmity between good and evil. It can feel distressed, but self-confidence is weak. Outside influences from those who should be reliable guides (the parents, in particular) can overpower the internal sense of unfairness. This conscience can be systematically squashed and forced into a mold it does not believe is right. The mind is brainwashed, and the soul is twisted.


But this leaves a scar, a flaw, a hole, where something can penetrate some day and prick. There is a buried tender core that is shielded behind the callous exterior crafted by years of bad influence and domination. What is it that can burrow in? How does a ray of light filter into that afflicted and so deserted, imprisoned, incarcerated heart?


We can look to king David of Israel for an example of the wayward soul. David was always regarded as a good man, but even good men are tempted and we cannot expect to be shielded from it. The question is: What do we do about it?


When David was enticed by his encounter with Bathsheba, his heart was stricken in a similar way. The good core of his heart was covered over by the lust for pleasure that is magnified in the carnal mind. As a powerful king, he needed to remember that he was responsible to control his own desires - after all - everyone around him was cowing to his desires. It is easy to lose sight of perspective when you are in such a one-sided environment. But it is no excuse.


When he saw the woman, he forgot how it is wrong to want what belongs to another. When he was with her, he forgot the needs and desires and rights of her husband. When he found she was pregnant, he forgot the honesty of facing the truth and sought to create a false appearance. When Uriah would not cooperate and play into his facade, he even went as far as murder to protect his own image.


But it was all false. It was one lie built upon another, making a confused spider web of sin that only got stronger and buried the soul deeper. After it grew this way, the evil plot seemed to take on a life of its own and became the master, and David found himself applying all of his effort just to satisfy its ever-intensifying cancerous growth. He became a slave to it.


But his heart was touched, even after it was so heavily blackened. How was he rescued? What got through?


His advisor, the prophet Nathan, told him a story of a malicious deed so painful that the seed of righteous judgment still left in David's being could not escape seeing the truth - "The man must surely die! And pay fourfold what he has taken! Because he victimized one so helpless and weak." Then the prophet released the arrow that struck David's heart - "Thou art the man."


David knew in an instant what Nathan was talking about, and he was dumbfounded. He could not answer. He could only feel the knot forming in his throat that convicts one who is caught in their crime and they know they cannot escape. It was as though a veil had been removed from his sight and he could see the truth now - and it was all about him. When he regained his composure, all he could say was, "I have sinned."


David was restored to God, but only after allowing his heart to be contrite. The grip Satan had over him was entirely composed of fleshly lust, and was magnified by its own effects to such a degree that the man lost sight of his true nature. The grip was broken when he saw himself and recognized what he had become. What set him free was truth - recognition of the truth, and surrender to it. "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:32).


It was a moment of stark injustice that shocked David's conscience to life. Nathan broke David's arrogant self-indulgence with a tender story of helpless cruelty. This took pure guts and trust in God - to stand up to your king and tell him he is a murderer! Nathan didn't know whether David would react fiercely and strike him down too, or whether he would be touched in his heart and surrender. He surrendered. Nathan broke David's misled trust and false confidence with a pure appeal to truth. It made the king look into the mirror and see what he had really become - a monster. Psalm 51 shows how he let that realization spur him to repent:


1 Have mercy upon me, O God,

According to Your lovingkindness;

According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,

Blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

And cleanse me from my sin.


3 For I acknowledge my transgressions,

And my sin is always before me.

4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,

And done this evil in Your sight—

That You may be found just when You speak,

And blameless when You judge.


Further along he says, looking toward restoration:

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,

And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.


David had to give up the powerful intoxication of sinful pleasure - to pull himself off his high horse and humble himself before Nathan first - and truly to God. And that is what he did.


David was described by Scripture as a man after God's own heart. It is not because of the terrible trouble he got into or what he did as the greatest political leader of Israel. It was because he stayed tender and faithful to God. He chose the right path, and when he went wrong he returned to it. That is what we must do too. That is why the stories of David's life and experiences are important to us. He was a role model.


Let us keep our attitudes oriented as God directs. Let us not think too highly of our own thoughts and ways so that we will remain tender in heart like David was in the end.


Mark Vining