Have mercy on me, O God,according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Psalm 51:1
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
The Lord gave us many victories against our traditional enemies and soon we had subdued them all. Not only the Philistines, but the Edomites, Ammonites, Moabites, and the Arameans became subject to Israel. Our kingdom finally extended all the way from the Euphrates in the North to Egypt in the south, just as God had promised Abraham. My son Solomon would extend it even farther building with diplomacy on the conquests I had made through warfare.
One day I asked my advisors if there was anyone left of Jonathon’s family to whom I could show kindness for Jonathon’s sake. He and I had entered into a covenant relationship some time earlier that among other things obligated us to look after each other’s families in the event one of us died. Jonathon had died with his father in the battle of Beth Shean.
They brought in one of Saul’s former servants who told me of a crippled boy named Mephibosheth. He was Jonathon’s son, living in a place called Lo Debar. When I became King of Israel, all of Saul’s family had fled for their lives for fear that I would take revenge on them for the way Saul had mistreated me. In their haste to escape, his nurse had picked up the 5 year old Mephibosheth to carry him, but they had fallen on the stone floor. The nurse landed on him, breaking both his legs, and crippling him for life. (2 Sam. 4:4) As he grew up his family had convinced Mephibosheth that I was responsible for his condition and still wanted to kill him.
Upon learning Mephibosheth’s whereabouts, I sent soldiers to fetch him. When they brought him into my presence, Mephibosheth, fearing for his life, asked if I was going to kill him now. I reassured him that I would do no such thing and told him of the covenant I had with his father Jonathon. Then I forgave him for hating me all his life, restored to him all of his grandfather Saul’s property and gave him servants to work the land so his needs would always be met. Finally I asked him to come live in Jerusalem, and eat at the King’s table just like one of my own sons. Mephibosheth agreed.
This is one of the Old Testament’s actual events that also serve as a model for what our Lord has done for us. You see, the covenant I made with Jonathon is symbolic of another one. Just put me into the role of the Father and let Jonathon represent the Son and you’ll understand what I mean.
Before the beginning of time The Father and The Son entered into an agreement called the Everlasting Covenant and these are its provisions. After the Son’s death the Father would seek us out and offer to forgive us for hating Him, restore our inheritance, and bring us into His presence to eat at His table as one of His children, so we’d never again have to fear for our lives or worry about our survival. All we would have to do is agree.
Like Mephibosheth, we didn’t understand these provisions, so while God pursued us we ran for our lives just like he did. We too had heard the stories of God’s wrath and had been told that He was responsible for our infirmities. Finally one day He caught us and as we trembled at His feet in fear of our lives, He told us of the covenant, and of the kindness He wanted to show us for the sake of His Son.
“My Son died for you,” He said, “And now I want to forgive you. And when I do, all your past, present and future sins and the shame and guilt that go with them will be wiped away. All you have to do is agree.”
When we do our inheritance is restored, we’re set forever, and we sit at the King’s table as one of His children. Just like Mephibosheth. By the way, in one of those fascinating twists the Bible is full of, Mephibosheth’s name means, “to cast away shame.” That’s exactly what the Lord’s death has done for us.
When Nahash, the King of Ammon died, I sent a delegation to express my condolences. His son Hanun had succeeded him and his advisors convinced him that my delegation was really there to spy on them. Hanun had half their beards cut off and the backs of their robes cut out, leaving them exposed. Then he sent them back to Israel. This was meant to humiliate them and it did. It also upset me.
Hanun heard that I was upset and hired 20,000 mercenaries from Aram to help him stand against the attack that he knew was coming. The Lord was with us and even though Hanun hired still more Arameans, my General, Joab, defeated his armies, punishing the Arameans so badly that they refused to help Hanun any more.
The next spring I sent Joab against the Ammonites again. (You know these people as the Jordanians.) I stayed behind in Jerusalem and one night as I was gazing out over the city I saw the most beautiful woman I could ever imagine, bathing on her rooftop. I found out that her name was Bathsheba, the wife of Urriah the Hittite, one of my soldiers. It didn’t matter to me. I knew immediately that I had to have her. This wasn’t just some arrogant King taking someone’s wife because he could. This was a man willing to risk everything for the love of a woman he couldn’t live without. I sent for her and immediately we fell into each other’s arms. It was a night I’ll never forget.
Shortly thereafter she sent word that she was pregnant. In a panic I summoned her husband, thinking that if he came home for a day or two it would appear that the baby was his. But he refused to take comfort in his wife’s arms while his comrades were out in the battle lines. So I sent him back and arranged with his commanders to place him at the most dangerous part of the battle and then abandon him so the enemy soldiers would kill him. They did and Urriah was killed. After a suitable mourning period, Bathsheba and I were married.
As you might expect, this upset the Lord greatly, and He told me that He had already made me King over all of Israel, with all the wives and concubines I wanted and if that wasn’t enough He would have given me anything else my heart desired. Why did I have to do this terrible thing, and embarrass Him so?
Out of the incomparable riches of His grace, He forgave me. There would be consequences, however. Bathsheba’s baby, our son, would die. And out of my own household, calamity would come. My wives would be unfaithful with one close to me, and my own children would rise up against me.
The evil effects of sin were all too obvious. Adultery had led to an attempted cover-up, which led to lies that culminated in murder. What a tangled web we weave. A good man was dead, and the Lord Whom I love beyond all else was embarrassed and offended by my behavior.
Our son died soon thereafter, going peacefully to be with the Lord. I reconciled myself to that, knowing I’d see him again in the Lord’s Kingdom. I mourned with Bathsheba, consoling her on the loss we had brought upon ourselves. In His mercy the Lord allowed her to conceive again and bring forth Solomon, Israel’s next and perhaps greatest King.
But I was just beginning to pay the price for my ingratitude. Before it was over, I would walk up to the Ark of the Covenant and place my hand upon it, expecting to be struck dead. It was during this time that I wrote Psalm 51, acknowledging my sin and begging God to forgive me and restore to me the joy of my salvation.
He saw my broken spirit and contrite heart and forgave me, just as he will with any sin you commit, no matter how big. There’s nothing you can do that’s stronger than His love; He already gave His life to set you free. Demonstrate genuine remorse, ask for forgiveness and almost before you’re finished you’ll feel the weight of your guilt being lifted off you. I know. I’ve been there.
Meanwhile Joab was busy defeating the Ammonites. When he had captured the royal citadel, he sent word to me so I could bring the rest of the army and officially preside over the final defeat of the Ammonites. Joab took the royal crown from the head of Molech, their chief idol, and placed it upon my head. It was made of solid gold, weighed nearly 100 pounds, and was encrusted with all kinds of precious gems. We took much spoil from the Ammonites that day, and consigned all their people to labor for Israel. Their whole country was made subject to us because a young, arrogant king sought to embarrass me by humiliating my officials.
The Lord used this event to compare the fate of Hanun, King of Ammon, at my hands with my fate at the hands of the Living God. I had embarrassed the Lord even more than Hanun had embarrassed me, and the Lord was well within His rights to tear my Kingdom away from me and place its crown on someone else’s head just as I had done to Hanun. But His mercies are new every morning, and reading the anguish of my heart, He forgave me. Then He did something that’s almost impossible for us humans. He forgot all about it. While that didn’t relieve me of the earthly consequences of my behavior, it did show me that our relationship hadn’t changed. I was still His man for Israel, and He was still my God.
Over and over the Bible demonstrates that God’s relationship with us isn’t based on our worthiness, but His faithfulness. When Adam sinned in the Garden, God didn’t abandon him, but made provisions for his redemption. When Abraham took matters into his own hands to bring forth the son God had promised him, God blessed Ishmael and still provided Isaac, the promised one. When Moses died after disobeying God and disqualifying himself from leading His people into the Promised Land, God Himself buried his body and carried him into heaven. When Peter denied the Lord three times on the night of His betrayal, the Lord restored him and gave him responsibility for the entire church.
When you stumble and fall after making your commitment to the Lord, He’ll pick you up, dust you off and set you on the path again, even carrying you for a time if need be. And like the rest of us, you’ll discover His attitude toward you has changed not a bit. You’re still His child and He’s still your God. 05-22-05