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Whiter Than Snow


Whiter Than Snow

 

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Madison Avenue would go out of its mind.

Can you imagine being able to offer Mr. Average citizen, at absolutely NO cost, something that would guarantee him peace of mind and would relieve him of burdens he had been carrying for years, would make him filled with the kind of joy and happiness that lasts forever, and would give him the freedom to live his life without the weight of past failures? The world would package it, patent it, and promote it. God just quietly offers it ... to whosoever will.

And He has chosen to call it... forgiveness.

Forgiveness! At the mere mention of the word, our spirits sigh a sigh of relief. At the mere though of it, clouds of confusion are replaced with sunlit mornings; heaviness vanishes in a sea of grace; fear takes flight, being chased by mercy. Forgiveness! It means the past cannot be held against you. It means that seemingly interminable hallway of guilt empties at last into an open arena where freedom encompasses the soul. It is something only God can give; something only a Christian can have; and something every living soul who has ever lived has longed for.

When God forgives, life begins again. When God forgives, the rerun of our failures that has been playing over and over in the theater of our minds, fades into nothingness and a brand new feature film called "Eternal Grace" begins its never-ending run. When God forgives, all things become new. When God forgives, old things are passed away. When God forgives, reason changes, priorities change, devotion changes, commitment changes. When God forgives the mind begins to heal, the body begins to heal, the spirit begins to soar. When God forgives, life begins, and even death becomes captive to the captain of our souls. When God forgives, the freshness of a morning breeze sweeps upon a life that has been seared by the torment of an unending bout with guilt and grief, and suddenly love and life begin to mean all they were intended to mean.

If the world had a product like that, they would market it in every facet of the media with an unlimited budget for an unlimited audience. But only God offers it, and it is free. It is that wonderful breath of God's spirit called forgiveness that breathes into us His divine mercy that captures our attention today.

At the moment, King David, our man of the hour, our Living Legend, is a man desperately in need of something. He has sinned the most grievous of sins, and has in his deepest hour of need been confronted by the Word of God with what he has done. Now all of the guilt, all of the stark self-condemnation, all of the embarrassment, all of the anger descends upon David. And the finger of God points without wavering, and the voice of God speaks without hesitation, and the verdict of God is offered without compromise. Guilty as charged. David has been tried in the tribunal of eternity and found to be without excuse. Now either the judge grants him mercy, or all of his life, thus far so productive, fades into insignificance as the sentence is passed, and his life falls under the grim shadow of judgment forever.

Perhaps you have been there. Mr. Success, you were. Miss Miraculous you were. Everything in life was going your way. But ever so subtly the phantom of temptation stole into your heart and stole away your sense of reason. Then one day, reality settled in. You had been found out! What you had considered to be a secret known only to your own conscience, you came to find had been carefully recorded in the heart of a grieved and brokenhearted God. Now, not only were you aware that God was aware, you were aware, as well, that everything that mattered was vanishing under the cloud of your indiscretion. You, too, were... Guilty as charged. Apart from a miracle, life was over.

Then suddenly, you felt a tender touch upon your shoulder, as God placed His loving arms about you and with a quiet voice whispered into your ear, I forgive. At that moment, all of life stopped cold. For a brief moment or two, you could not even so much as believe such a thing could be. Then you fell to your knees in humility and awe and accepted this invaluable gift called forgiveness. The burden was lifted, the skies turned a brilliant blue again, and a living God spoke directly to your heart and said, “Child, thou art forgiven; now go thy way, and sin this sin no more." In II Samuel, chapter twelve, David discovers what it means to be forgiven. And history begins a new to write the remaining chapters in David's' life that he and we were sure no longer could be written.

When our last study concluded, King David had been confronted most effectively by God's man with the gravity of his own sins. Nathan the prophet had requested an interview with the Monarch, and in the process he posed a problem for the self-righteous ruler to solve. Through use of the parable, a most effective tool in God's arsenal of conviction, Nathan painted a picture that portrayed a man who violated some of the same moral absolutes violated by David himself. David's response was immediate. Not seeing himself, but rather seeing the offense, the King demands justice. Nathan responds, "David, Thou art the man!"

David's moment of truth was at hand, and like the man of God he was, he fell to his knees in repentance and cried, "I have sinned against the LORD." As we learned in our last study, God's response was also immediate. It is, in effect, God's response to which we address ourselves in this lesson.

You're Forgiven - Now Go To Jail

It is important for us to realize that one of the most practical theological problems ever to face the Christian is the problem of separating the love of God from the consequences of life. On the one hand, there are those who because of the consequences of sin, both corporately and personally, paint God as a power-hungry ruler seated on the throne of Heaven waiting for his children to fail so He can rain judgment and cause them to repent. They paint a picture of God that is works oriented, performance based, and never satisfied. At the other extreme there are those who cannot believe a God of love would allow suffering. They cannot believe a God of love would allow death. They cannot believe a God of love would punish anyone, let alone let anyone spend eternity in hell.

As is so often the case, Satan's intent is to bend the truth to either extreme. The Truth is, that ours is a God of infinite patience, of incredible love, a God whose middle name is forgiveness. The rest of the Truth is, that this same God while He is loving, is still allowing the processes of sowing and reaping, and of divine discipline to run their course. His attitude is forgiveness; forgiveness that carried with it total freedom from the guilt of the transgression. The individual is restored immediately to the position of fellowship that existed before the offense occurred. Incredible!

But while His immediate intent is restoration, His ultimate objective is transformation. So the minute you repent, two things happen. In the spiritual realm, that amazing process called forgiveness unfolds. The barrier that existed between you and God caused by that unconfessed sin is immediately removed. God, at that moment, takes and casts the sin behind His back, removing it as far from Him Scripture says, as the East is from the West, never to be remembered anymore. You are forgiven. You are restored. You are once again usable and you once again have all the power available to you that raised Christ from the dead.

Spiritually, you are restored. But we also live in a physical world. That world is the workshop God uses to fashion you spiritually. And though you have been totally restored to fellowship, the earthly consequences of your sins do not end with your forgiveness. God allows two things to happen.

1- He allows the natural laws of sowing and reaping to operate within the limits of His Grace. In other words, what you reap is but a fraction of what you have sown. But nonetheless, some consequences are necessary, or there would be no restraints to keep you from willfully doing the same thing again.

2- God sometimes brings into your life what is called divine discipline, that God-ordained punishment that is either to

a) - keep your attention, lest you forget His grace,

b) - to publicly demonstrate His righteousness often in proportion to how your testimony affects His reputation, or

c) - to maximize the value of the lessons you are supposed to be learning from your mistakes.

So there are times when God will lovingly say, "I forgive you, now go to jail." You have been restored, now here are the consequences. Such is the case with our man David. Turn now to II Samuel, Chapter twelve, and let's read of God's plan to restore David to immediate fellowship while still allowing him to reap the consequences of what he has done. Let's begin reading where God is speaking through Nathan to David:

10 “Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.

11 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto they neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.

12 For thou didst it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.”

13 And David said unto Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said unto David, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.

14 Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die."

15 And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bore unto David, and it was very sick.

16 David, therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.

17 And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them.

18 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, "Behold, while the child was yet alive we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead?"

19 But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: there David said unto his servants, "Is the child dead?" And they said, "He is dead."

20 Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.

21 Then said his servants unto him, "What thing is this that thou hast done? Thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive: but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread."

22 And he said, "While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live?

23 But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."

God, in essence, said, "David, you're forgiven, go to jail." He said, "Things are now okay between you and me. Believe it or not, you and I can have exactly the same relationship that existed before you sinned so grievously."

"Now, here are the physical consequences you must experience here on earth. There are some short term consequences and some long term consequences. There are the consequences of what you have done, and the consequences of how what you have done has affected My Reputation."

Lovingly, God prepares David by telling it just like it is. That is a pattern in God's discipline that ought to characterize a parent's discipline as well. David knew what to expect.

1- There would be long-term consequences. The sword shall never depart out of thy house. David, the man of war, would live in conflict for the rest of his life. Not conflict from within. He would have peace available to him in the midst of the conflict, but the circumstances would be tense from now on because David had violated the inner sanctum of God's holiness by violating His portrait of salvation, moral fidelity.

2- There would be medium range consequences. At some point in time, David would suffer the same embarrassment in his household that he brought upon Uriah's household. Only what David had done in secret, God would allow to happen in public. Not only before all of Israel, God said, but before the whole world.

3- There would be even more devastating immediate consequences. And there is a clear cut reason for it. Because thou has given great occasion to the enemies of the the LORD to blaspheme, the child born out of this immoral relationship will not be allowed to live. The first two consequences were the result of his sin. This one was the result of what that sin cost the reputation of God because David was one of God's leaders... therefore he was one of God's picture books, one of God's examples. That's why James tells us that those who lead, those who teach, those who disciple add a new burden of responsibility to their lives. They now become increasingly accountable to obey, proportionate to the degree their disobedience will affect God's reputation.

So the consequences would be immediate, and the consequences would be continuous, and the consequences would be grievous. That had nothing to do with God's forgiveness... nothing. God had totally forgiven David.

Now the process begins. Immediately, the child born to David and Bathsheba is stricken with disease. David fasts and prays and grieves before God for his deliverance. That was not in contradiction to God's will. Were he not to grieve, would he have learned the depth of God's grief? And was it not possible that God would honor those prayers and postpone the child's death? So David mourned while the child yet lived. He was not only mourning the sickness; David was mourning the cause of the sickness. A week passed. David did not eat or talk. He fasted and prayed. The child died, and though his servants did not understand, the moment the child died, David got up, washed his face, and went to church. A Holy God had kept His Word, a loving God would now comfort him, and a responsible God now expected his servant to get on with life. Self-pity was not in the book. David's concluding remark in verse 23 was no doubt designed to speak volumes of hope to grieving parents... "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." With that testimony of confidence, David arises, worships, and proceeds to become David the man of God again.

That Incredible, Unbreakable Covenant

The question you may be struggling with in your mind, however, was how a God of Holiness whose law prohibited what David had done could forgive him and allow him to live? How could a righteous God allow His King to flagrantly violate His commandments and immediately, without so much as an hour of penance, say, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die"?

The answer lies in that incredible, unbreakable covenant that God had made with David but a few years before. Mark it well. It is a hand painted portrait of the grace God has offered you, etched tenderly on the canvas of Scripture as a foretaste of what every man or woman who would ever accept His covenant of grace could experience...

What God told David in chapter seven was this: "Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever." He had warned David, that both he and his seed after him would suffer consequences should they violate His Word. "If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the stripes of the children of men; but my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took if from Saul..."

In other words, God had entered into a covenant with David... an incredible, unbreakable, covenant. Nothing David had done had earned it. Nothing David could do would make him worthy of it; and nothing David might do could provoke God to take it from him. It was based on something that was later to be revealed more clearly as grace. The law would make people aware of their transgressions, but God was unveiling anew a demonstration of a miraculous commodity called forgiveness. Man could sin, and instantly be restored to fellowship with his God. And even though the fellowship had been momentarily broken, the relationship could not be broken. It was sealed by the divine decree of a God whose Word was immutable.

And now, oh, child of the King, you too have been offered, and most of you have acknowledged and received that incredible, unbreakable, covenant as your very own by asking Jesus Christ to come into your life. If so, you may sin, and God may well chasten you with the rod of men, and with stripes of the children of men, but His mercy shall not depart from you. He will simply say to you, as you repent, "There may well be consequences from your sin, but the Lord hath put away thy sin, thou shalt not die." Your fellowship with the Master may be broken, but your relationship with the Master may not be broken; because it is based solely on a covenant He initiated. It is not predicated on anything you can do, have done or will do, nor is it breakable because of something you may do. It is based on the infallibility of His Word. And it is predicated on grace. Therefore, no matter what, it will stand. Deserve it? Not on you life. Abuse it? I pray not. But acknowledge it? By all means. It gives glory to Him when we do. We are secure in Christ... sealed through eternity in the covering of that incredible, unbreakable covenant called "Grace".

The Solomons God Sends Along

So David faces consequences, but David is eternally secure in his relationship with His God. Now life must begin again. He is forgiven. Now he must resume living the life as GOD intended it to be lived. But is it worth living? He has been told of all of the consequences of his sin that will plague him for the rest of his life. Will God still use him? Will God still bless his life? Or does this mark the end of David's usefulness? IS he destined to spend the rest of his years in unfruitful labor? NO! Our God does not work that way. Look at Adam. Look at Jonah. Look at Moses. Look at Abraham. All of God's greats made mistakes. God simply received greater glory when they were used again.

But how will God keep His word to bless David's seed while still keeping His Word that the sword shall never depart out of his house? It's simple. From the very womb of the one whose child HE had sentenced to die, God would bring forth a blessing.

24 And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him.

25 And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet: and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord.

Oh, the Solomons God sends along. The rainbows of mercy God sends to remind us of His presence, even as the showers are still falling. God was not through with David. God was not through with David's seed. So from the most unlikely of his wives, God brings forth the answer to His prayers, and the fulfillment of His promises. And even as the child comes forth from the womb, God loves him. And my friend, God is not through with you either. That's why so often, as your heart is broken, and you are grieved over your sins, and it seems that the hand of power and fruitfulness will never rest upon you again, God sends along a Solomon, all of grace, to quietly say: "Don't you see, child, I have forgiven you; and I still plan to use you; you are mine." What an incredible God we serve! We break His heart. We break His commandments. We dishonor His name. Yet because of His incredible, unbreakable covenant, He never disowns us, and because of His amazing love, He sends along a Solomon, just when we thought we were no longer usable to remind us that it is all of grace. David knew of God's great love for Solomon. No doubt Nathan had told him. for we read in verse 25 that he nicknamed the lad "Jedidiah" which means "beloved of Jehovah". Beloved, indeed.

Paging General David

You say well, so much for that sad, sad, chapter in the life of the Living Legend of David. That's that! Well, almost. But there are two aspects of this incident that still must be glanced at if we are to see the whole of the picture from God's perspective.

The first is a very vital principle. And we read about it in the rest of Chapter 12.

26 And Joab fought against Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and took the royal city,

27 And Joab sent messengers to David, and said, I have fought against Rabbah, and have taken the city of waters.

28 Now therefore gather the rest of the people together, and encamp against the city, and take it; lest I take the city, and it be called after my name.

29 And David gathered all the people together, and went to Rabbah, and fought against it, and took it.

30 And he took their king's crown from off his head, the weight whereof was a talent of gold with the precious stones; and it was set on David's head. And he brought forth the spoil of the city in great abundance.

31 And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickklin; and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned to Jerusalem."

What a sharp contrast to chapter eleven. Joab was still battling the Ammonites, and as he closed in on the capital city of Rabbah, once again he sent an airmail special delivery letter to David. It read like this: "Dear King. Here we are again. I am about to conquer the Ammonites. I have the city under siege and we have cut off their water supply. We are ready to close in for the kill. Am I going to take the city myself and take credit for the victory? Or would the King like to return to battle?" In other words, paging General David... it is time to return to active duty. Your unplanned, ill-fated leave time is over.

The unwilling warrior this time heard the call to battle as clearly as he had heard the words of Nathan the Prophet. Immediately, he gathers the troops together, converges on Rabbah, takes the city, personally removes the crown from their pagan king and symbolically places it on his own head, as he orders the natives to pass before him and he assigns tasks of heavy labor to the now captive Ammonites. When that is done, David the Victor, David the General, David the King, David, the man after God's own heart, returns triumphantly with his people to Jerusalem. The healing has run its course. Once he had repented, and once he had consented to go back, doing what he had been unwilling to do in the first place, God immediately granted him victory once again.

It is interesting to note, however, that he first had to return to the place where he had veered off the mainstream of the will of God. Like the children of Israel, David had wandered off course, wasted God's precious time, and damaged the reputation of His God in the process. It is called the law of wasted motion. Cloverleaf Christianity, if you will. Now, having taken one of Satan's unnecessary side trips, God as always said to David... "would you like to be back in the center of my will? Then go back to the last point of your disobedience, own up to it, and do what you were unwilling to do before."

That's what he said to Jonah. "Now that you've had your little unexpected swim, what was it I asked you to do before you took your flip from the ship to the tale of the whale? I see, I said Go to Ninevah. Now guess what I want you to do now. That's right; Go to Ninevah."

God says look at the map of your life. See that point? Put an "x" there. Now write by it... you were here. You were here when you decided to take a short cut that by-passed the will of God. You want back in the center of that will? Then do not pass "go"; go instead directly to the point of your rebellion, and do the last thing I asked you to do. I forgive you, Jonah, now go to Ninevah. I forgive you, David, now put on your armor. Nobody ordered you into early retirement. You've just been sent back into active duty. You'll get into less trouble there, than you will back at the palace, counting your cash and peering onto rooftops. Back to the battle, David, where you belong.

David did what God asked him to do. The rest is history. Immediate victory was his once again. And it will be yours, as well, if you go back to that point in your pilgrimage where you deviated from the will of God, and simply set about doing the last thing you refused to do. General David is back on active duty. Hallelujah!

Whiter Than Snow, Indeed

One last thing. We have looked at the consequences of David's sin, we have rediscovered that incredible, unbreakable covenant that granted him instant forgiveness; we have witnessed the Solomons God sends along to remind us we are still loved, and we have seen General David return to active duty, once again wearing the victor's crown we thought perhaps would never again grace his head.

Full circle we have come. Now we must, in closing, look carefully at the heart of this man as the process of forgiveness touches him and changes the course of his life. To do that, we must simply turn to Psalm 51, for David, unlike most of our Living Legends, has recorded in a diary the very beat of his heart throughout the course of his life. In most of your Bibles, above this Psalm, you will read these words "To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet came unto him after he had gone in to Bathsheba". So here is David's heart, once he was confronted with his sin. Let's look together at a few of the key verses. You may want to pray this prayer with David.

1 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 thoroughly 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: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones that thou hast broken may rejoice.

9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

10 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.

13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

Several things are clear:

1- David understood the gravity of his sins.

2- David understood the loneliness that accompanies separation from full fellowship with God.

3- David understood that no matter who had been hurt or what had transpired, his sin was against God, and to God he must answer.

4- David understood that God was the only one who could forgive him, and restore him, BUT

5- He also understood that it was actually possible for a loving God to purge him until he was clean; to wash him, until HE WAS WHITER THAN SNOW.

Whiter than snow! Do you realize the intensity of that statement? David actually asked God to restore him to a place of holiness so pure, a place of fellowship so sweet, a state of restoration so complete that compared even to crisp, pure, freshly fallen snowflakes, his heart would be whiter, purer, cleaner than that.

Whiter than snow! The perfect description of the human heart that has tasted of that miraculous prescription that only the Great Physician can dispense called... forgiveness.

David had indeed fallen to a place so low, no doubt he never dreamed that restoration was possible. Then he looked in the eyes of His God. And once he repented, he saw in those eyes not the cold, hardened, glare of judgment; but the soft, tender, look of love. And he heard from those lips, not the harsh cry of condemnation; but the quiet, sensitive, words of One whose love transcends man's understanding of love itself. He heard those two little words that change the course of history... "I forgive". So powerful were those words that guilt evaporated; fear vanished; self-condemnation was submerged in a sea of divine mercy, and David could cry to his God; "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."

Now the circle is complete. Now King David is ready for the Solomons God sends along. Now King David is ready to march into battle once again, clothed in the garments of God's Holiness, more aware than ever before, of how precious and how priceless they were.

That gift; that unspeakable gift called forgiveness is yours as well. It has not been rationed. There is no short supply. It is rather such a part of the nature of God that our confession of sin automatically causes it to flow from His Spirit with such freedom that we too become... whiter than snow.

If you have never tasted that cup of forgiveness and experienced the joy of having your sins forgiven, your burdens lifted, as God's incredible peace floods your soul, you have simply missed the meaning of life. You are carrying loads God never intended you to carry. Jesus died to exchange those sins for something so wonderful, we but weep at the mention of it; He wants to exchange your sins for... forgiveness. Give Him that opportunity. Pray Psalm 51 back to God. Ask Him to take your transgressions, to wash you thoroughly of your iniquity, and cleanse you from your sins. I can promise you one thing... He will.

And if you are a Christian who has been wallowing in defeat; bound in chains of guilt over offenses you know have broken the heart of God, may I remind you again of one thing... You belong to a God who forgives. He has made an incredible, unbreakable covenant with you. He will never turn His back on you, no matter what you have done.

There may be consequences. No doubt there will be. But, oh, the freedom; oh, the joy; oh, the power when Jesus reaches down and whispers, "I still love you, child, and I forgive."

The sheer ecstasy when once again, perhaps after years of living with the stench of sin, you look into His eyes and as His Holiness is reflected back into your life, you realize... Praise God, I am whiter than snow.

Taste of it today, and as you do, listen to the Master gently whisper this benediction of grace: "Now go thy way; you have been set free... free to sin that sin no more may abound, for thou hast been forgiven!

Forgiven! Oh, the bliss of it

The freedom God's children can know

Inspite of the past, God's promise is fast

You still can be whiter than snow

Forgiven! Oh, the power of it

To sing mercy's lilting refrain

That even a life, filled with fear, guilt, and strife

Can be used to touch others again

Forgiven! Oh, the love of it

God's child on unblemished sod

And no matter the sin; he's been cleansed once again

And again know the mercy of God

Forgiven! Oh, Satan dreads it

For the Christian to know that for sure

He is once again free; God's anointed to be

And in God's eyes again he is pure

But forgiven is but the beginning

As God's billows of love o'er us pour

His soft tender voice, whispers, "Now, you've a choice

Go thy way, child, and sin... ye... no more!"

 

 


 
 
 
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