Torchbearers for Christ
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
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FAILURE NEED NOT BE FINAL

Some of God’s most favoured servants have been guilty of gross failure and sin against God. We could think of Moses, David, Peter and numbers of others. But, in spite of their failure, God did not reject these people; rather He forgave them and restored them to their former state. Mercifully for us all, God is the God of the second chance; failure is not necessarily final.
 
Let us consider the case of King David as found in Psalms 51 and 32. These two Psalms should be studied against the background of King David’s sin against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah the Hittite recorded in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. David had been divinely chosen and anointed as God’s king on His throne. He had become the nation’s spiritual leader and had enjoyed God’s favour wherever he went (2 Samuel 8: 6,14). He had written many Psalms, his enemies had been defeated and he had been promised that his house would be established forever. In the midst of all these high privileges, David saw, wanted and took for himself the wife of Uriah the Hittite. He then sank further into depravity by arranging the murder of Uriah in battle.
 
Let us think of David first as the barren man. For almost a year after these sinful acts, David lived with a guilty conscience and inward turmoil (Psalm 32: 3,4). There had been a refusal to acknowledge his sin and confess his failure to God. He describes his condition at this time: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer”. In Psalm 51:3 he tells us, “My sin is ever before me”. What a pathetic condition for a man who so often called upon believers to “shout for joy” (Psalm 32:11) and to drink of the “river of God’s delights” (Psalm 36:8). David had lost his peace of mind, his joy, God’s favour and a good conscience. One wonders why he waited so long before appealing to God for mercy. It may have been that he felt a sense of worthlessness and shame, or perhaps that he may have gone so far into sin that God would not restore him, but whatever the case, we find that God was not finished with His servant. 
 
Let us now think of David as the broken man. In 2 Samuel 12:1-14, we read how God sent his servant Nathan to David with a stern message, reminding him how God had dealt so bountifully with him, anointing him to be king and adding many other blessings besides and yet, in spite of all God’s bounty, David had despised Him. (2 Samuel 12:10) and given God’s enemies occasion to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14). David immediately acknowledged his sin, saying “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). Psalm 51 tells us how that, from the depths of despair, David appeals to God for mercy. He does not excuse himself in any way or attach blame to Bathsheba; he alone is responsible for this sin against God. He pleads for a clean heart, a restoring of the joy of salvation, a right spirit, and for deliverance from guilt that he might sing praise to the Lord. He promises that if God will restore him, he will share the news of God’s forgiveness with others. He presents to God a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).
 
The final scene in Psalm 32 shows God’s response to David’s deep contrition and how the broken man becomes the blessed man. This Psalm tells the joy of forgiveness and David’s complete restoration to God’s favour. He has been pardoned, cleansed, given a new heart and a peaceful conscience. His plea for mercy has been completely answered and the Lord has promised to lead and watch over him. David had promised that if God were to forgive him, he would make known the good news to sinful men (Psalm 51: 12,13) and that is one of the reasons that Psalms 51 and 32 have been given to us and quoted in the New Testament. In Romans 4:6 Paul, quoting from Psalm 32 tells us when referring to David’s forgiveness, “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him”.
 
What do these two Psalms have to teach us today? Firstly, there is the awful possibility that, having enjoyed God’s favour for years, a man may fail God and bring shame on himself and others. On the brighter side, we learn that failure need not be final. God can freely forgive, restore, and use once more the man who shows genuine repentance for his sin. But there is no need for the believer to fail. The Scriptures abound with promises of God’s ability to keep us from falling all of our days, provided we genuinely wish to follow Him (2 Timothy 1:12, Jude 24).
 
This article was written by Pastor Geoffrey Davies. He is a frequent contributor to this column. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, where he pastored a church for over twenty-five years.  Since 1983 he has travelled widely, continuing his ministry of encouragement and Bible teaching.