We must all beware of our own "day of infamy."
First Kings is a roller coaster ride through the leadership of Israel and Judah. Actually, reading the accounts of Israel's kings is like a long drop down the hill of hopelessness. Jeroboam, the first king of the north, was rotten. All his successors were just as bad or worse. If you like big dips on the roller coaster ride, read about these guys. What a plunge. They took the nation on a 250 year dive -- right into exile.
Then there are the leaders of the Southern Kingdom; a mixed lot. Abijam was the second king of the divided kingdom. You won't find his picture in the hall of fame. He was a bad guy. But God gave him a successor because David, his great grandfather, walked with God:
"Nevertheless, for David's sake the Lord his God gave [Abijam] a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem. Because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." 1 Kings 15:5 ESV
David was a man after God's own heart ... "except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." There it is, eight words that form the ugly footnote to the life of David.
A footnote is a past event or a memory that we would just as soon forget, but we cannot. These personal days of infamy are haunting reminders of our fallibility.
What do we do with a footnoted life? We learn three important lessons from David's life:
- One event can stain us.
David's epitaph reads, "A man after God's own heart" -- and still he fell. David is a sobering reminder that anyone can fall fast. All it takes is a single action or a crippling habit. As a friend of mine remarked to a group of men, "We are all a breath away from adultery." Sins can stain us.
- One event does not define us.
David's life is also a refreshing reminder that past sins are past. When we confess God forgives. He takes all the space between the east and the west and drops it right between us and our sin. He's good like that. God shows us mercy. He cleans up the dirty places in our lives. He restocks joy and gladness on the shelves of our hearts. He restores us. That's why we cry out with with Paul, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1
- God forgives AND there are consequences.
No sooner did David acknowledge his sin and repent, than God forgave him: "David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.' And Nathan said to David, 'The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless ...'" (2 Samuel 12:13-14 ESV). God forgave David's sin, but God did not remove the consequences. "Nevertheless" introduces the immediate consequence (his son died) and the avalanche of trouble that plagued David the rest of his life. "God forgives the sin, but he does not always remove the consequence." We ignore this truth to our own peril.
Reading the footnote to David's life took me back to the words Nathan the prophet delivered to David, "Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?" (2 Samuel 12:9).
David's rebuke is also my encouragement. It is God's word, not my word that has the final say about the footnotes of my life. Here is that word:
I can re-read my footnote or I can rest in God's word. One condemns me, the other restores me. I know where my focus must land.