Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In the Shadow of His Wings

Second Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Garments of Grace: Clothing Imagery in the Bible”
For the week of May 8-14, 2011
 In the Shadow of His Wings
This lesson could be described as “A Tale of Two Covers.” David is the primary character, and he reveals these two covers in his life.
On the one hand, David wrote the words, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Psalm 32:1). David understood the need for cover in relation to sin.
On the other hand, the lesson rightly says, “At the pinnacle of greatness, David faces his fiercest battle. The war isn’t waged on the bloody fields of Rabbah but over the six inches of mental turf that lies behind David’s frontal lobe. Satan chooses his “weapon” well. What Goliath with his monstrous lance failed to do to David, a bathing woman, seen from the king’s rooftop, does. . .One small stone and down falls a giant. One small glance and down falls a king. David did many things to “cover” his sin of adultery and avoid exposure.”
How would we understand the difference between the “cover” that David pursued after his sin with Bathsheba versus the “cover” that David pursued during his repentance? Are they both coverings for sin? Is the only difference the identity of the one doing the covering? Can we say that if we cover our sin it is a bad thing, but that if God covers up our sin then it is a good thing? Or, are we actually talking about two different “covers”? 
The two covers are totally different in origin, method, and purpose.
After his sin, David attempted to cover his guilt by having Uriah sleep with his wife. Failing to accomplish that, David had Uriah executed, albeit in a subtle manner. Like David, we try to cover our sin.  The cover-up originates from a fear of punishment or consequences. Covering up our sin always involves further deception. Self-preserving actions lead to further needs for covering up.
The origin of this fear, and the need for cover, goes all the way back to Eden. Adam and Eve believed the lies that Satan told them about God. Satan said that God was controlling and restrictive (Genesis 3:1). Satan said that God was deceptive and untrustworthy (Genesis 3:4). Satan finished by telling Eve that the reason that God was controlling, restrictive, deceptive, and untrustworthy, was that God was selfishly trying to keep His exalted and beautiful sphere of existence away from Adam and Eve.
When you believe that someone close to you, someone that you trusted, is deceptive, selfish, and controlling, the natural response is one of fear. And then, when you encounter that person (God), you will run for cover. Fear, shame and remorse will compel you to deal with your sin by shifting responsibility away from yourself to another. So Adam shifted responsibility to Eve, and Eve to God. For millennia we have continued to take cover by shifting responsibility for our sin to others or to God. Isaiah calls this a “refuge of lies” (Isaiah 28:15).  This refuge of lies is really a psychological mechanism of self-preservation. It’s a cover to prevent us from having to look at and deal with the guilt, and remorse, and shame that are inherently and naturally connected with sin.
But what is God’s cover for sin? Is it another “cover-up” where the sin is left intact, but merely covered up to continue to fester? “Blessed is he . . . whose sin is covered.” (Psalm 32:1). How is God’s covering for sin different than our covering of sin?
When we, like David, attempt to cover sin, the purpose is to hide, conceal, and obscure what we have done. God’s cover for sin involves a process of self-revelation; of exposure to the truth of what sin is and what sin does, so that we will experience a hatred for and fear of sin. This appropriate hatred and fear then replace our natural fear of God and enmity towards Him (Romans 5:10 & 8:7).  God’s cover for sin then becomes a protection from sin
Sin is the entity to be feared, not God. When we cover up our sin, it will continue to work its destructive consequences of guilt, shame, and fear.  When we come to God in repentance, the result isn’t a festering wound of sin, but a cleansing from sin, followed by a covering – or protection – from ongoing sin, guilt, and fear. That’s why David could plead, “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23). He desired healing from the effects of past sin, and then the covering of protection from future sin. No more did David want his sin “covered up.” He wanted it destroyed.
We have many ways of “covering up” our sin, which really are subtle ways of keeping our sin. Legalism is one way. We cover up a core of self-interest and self-preservation under a veneer of external conformity to a code of ethics and behavior. But the core sin problem of self-interest remains undisturbed. As we mentioned previously, we can also “cover” our sin by shifting the responsibility to God and others – “the devil made me do it,” “I was born this way,” or “if he hadn’t done that then I wouldn’t have done this.”
“The righteousness of Christ is not a cloak to cover unconfessed and unforsaken sin; it is a principle of life that transforms the character and controls the conduct.  Holiness is wholeness for God” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 555-556). So often we want to deal with sin by having the righteousness of Christ cover our sin, rather than having the righteousness of Christ as an actual possession that blots sin out of our life. The righteousness of Christ is NOT a cover for unconfessed and unforsaken sin, but the righteousness of Christ is a principle of life that will “control our conduct.” A principle that will cover (protect) us from being entrapped again by sin.
God is not engaged in a universal cover up of sin. God is engaged in a universal elimination of sin. He seeks eternal protection for all of us – and the whole universe – from the destruction and devastation that come as the natural consequences of sin. May we be actively and fervently engaged in receiving “God’s cover” for sin. And may we never spread the erroneous idea that the righteousness of Christ is a covering up of sin, rather than a reclaiming from sin.
God is our friend. Sin is the enemy. Let’s spend our time and energy with our friend, not our enemy.
 --Bob Hunsaker