*May 7 - 13
|In the Shadow of His Wings|
Read for This Week's Study:
|Exod. 19:4, 2 Samuel 11, 12, Pss. 17:8, 32:1, 36:7, 51:2, 57:1, 61:4, 63:7.|
|“Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of
Your wings I will rejoice” (Psalm
“There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four which I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the air” (Prov. 30:18, 19, NKJV).
|The eagle is a live jet fighter.
Armed with a hooked beak and razor’s-edge talons, it is loaded
like a jet fighter, too. The eagle is wind and wing, bone, sinew, and
blood. The eagle is scavenger, fisher, and thief. The eagle hurls
itself from clouds toward water with the speed of a cyclonic storm. The
eagle hobbles on balled-up claws in its nest to keep from dicing up its
young. The eagle is majesty, power, and grace. The eagle is all these
metaphors, yet greater than their sum. Small wonder, then, that the
Bible writer failed to understand the fierce beauty of the
David himself turned to a similar image in his psalms about being sheltered under the wings of God. This week, we will meditate with David through his psalms on how God shelters us and covers our sin. But first we will look at the events that inspired his need for these coverings, and then we will seek to understand why we, too, need to be sheltered under those same wings.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, May 14.
The Naked Truth
Eagles can soar to an altitude of 10,000 feet, higher than most birds. Like the eagle, David soared high. The shepherd-king reached heights of greatness few monarchs ever attain. He was clothed in the spoils of military victory and covered with honor and glory. But David forgot that his kingly robes were a gift from God. They could not hide a man’s sins—even a king’s—from God’s sight.
David’s garments, in a spiritual sense, were priestly, as well as kingly; he was the head of Israel’s theocracy, too. The bitter sins that stained these garments inspired Psalms 32 and 51. To appreciate fully the imagery in these psalms as a covering for sin and the imagery in other psalms of God’s wings as a divine covering, we need to look at how the narrative events of David’s life inspired them. As we shall see, how ironic and tragic that in a study devoted to the spiritual lessons of garments, the sad story of David’s fall begins in a literal lack of them.
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. Obviously, David forgets the lesson of his sling: how easily a “giant” is felled by one small stone, or, in this case, one small glance.
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. What were they? 2 Samuel 11. Why do our attempts to cover sin to avoid detection or punishment lead only to committing greater sins and to the threat of still greater exposure? How do the narrative details of David’s story enforce this point?
One forbidden glance sets in motion events that end in murder and near civil war. David’s story is of concealment after concealment to avoid consequences. The awful reality of sin is that committing one sin, without confessing and forsaking it, leads to committing another more heinous sin in order to hide the previous offense. David committed adultery and murder under the cloak of kingly power. But God’s eye sees beneath the outer garments and lays bare the heart.
|It has been said, “If adversity has slain its thousands, prosperity has slain its ten thousands.” With David’s life in mind, what dangers does prosperity expose the soul to? Why does adversity often draw us closer to God? How can we avoid prosperity’s pitfalls?|
Nathan Bares All
For a whole year, David hides his sin under a veil of deceit. It looks as though the king has gotten away with murder. Sin hardens David’s heart to stone. But God sends Nathan to break it. Instead of directly exposing David’s sin—and risking royal wrath and very likely his own neck—Nathan clothes the truth in a parable.
Read Nathan’s parable in 2 Samuel 12:1–12 and its interpretation, keeping in mind that Jesus also resorted to parables. What are the advantages of using them? What was it about David’s condition that made clothing the truth in a story a more effective, even necessary, way of reaching him?
Only a few verses long, Nathan’s parable holds precious lessons for reaching the sin-hardened heart. First, Nathan does not come to David as an accuser; instead, he humbly and tactfully solicits David’s help. David’s heart may be hardened by sin, but his sense of justice is not completely deadened. Second, by clothing the truth in a parable, Nathan breaches David’s defenses. Third, Nathan’s method of presentation invites David to listen without feeling judged. The result? David condemns himself.
Nathan's verdict, “Thou art the man,” rips through the veil of self-deceit in which David shrouded himself. David’s response, “I have sinned against the Lord” is met with “the Lord also has put away your sin” (vs. 13, NKJV). Why was the Lord able to put away, or cover, David’s sin? See 1 John 1:9.
David’s sin is covered, but the child conceived in sin must die. For David, this tragedy must have been more bitter than his own death. He removes his kingly robes and puts on the garments of humility and mourning. He openly prostrates himself before God in repentance, pleading for his child’s life. How ironic that, a year earlier, under the cover of darkness, David secretly prostrated himself in lust with Bathsheba on that fatal eve his dying child was conceived.
David reacts to the child’s death in a manner that baffles his advisors. He rises. He bathes. He changes his clothes. He, the anointed of God, anoints himself anew and worships God. These actions demonstrate how those who have mourned for their sins must allow God to restore them: First, God raises the grieving sinner and bears him to Himself. Next, He washes away the guilt of our sin and clothes us in His righteousness. He anoints us with His Spirit so that we may worship Him.
David’s fall into sin begins and ends with a bath. This final washing, however, is not a prelude to sin but a sign of a clean heart.
|What hope do David’s bathing, garment change, and anointing give us? Why can we who have been washed clean by Jesus have full assurance that we may come worship Him?|
Blessed Is He Whose Sin Is Covered . . .
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Ps. 32:1).
For a whole year after his sin against Uriah and Bathsheba, David refuses to confess his sin, even to himself. But as Psalm 32 tells us, he suffers severe agony of mind and body as a result of his silence.
Read Psalm 32:3–5. In what ways does David use poetic imagery and symbolic language to describe what happens to him when he refuses to confess his sin? According to verse 5, what does David do to end his suffering?
With lies and bloodshed David covers his sin of adultery, but the weight of his own guilt crushes him. As Psalm 32 shows, though, David casts himself in true humility and repentance on the sure mercy of God. In his cry for forgiveness, David does a number of things that are instructive for all who seek God’s covering of forgiveness. (1) David makes no excuse for his sin. (2) He makes no attempt to justify himself. (3) He does not find fault with God’s law for condemning him. (4) He blames only himself for his sin. (5) He genuinely hates the sin that separated him from God and turns from it. And God covers it.
David conceals his sin (Ps. 32:3, 4); God covers it (vss. 1, 2). What is the difference between our concealing and God’s covering? Before the righteousness of Christ can cover sin, what must be done to it?
God does not overlook sin. But sin is covered, meaning its guilt is no longer to be imputed, or brought against, the sinner when it is repented of. Confession alone is incomplete without repentance. We must not only be sorry for our sin, we must turn away from it in God’s power. God can forgive and cover all sin. His grace not only forgives sin but accepts the repentant sinner as though he or she never sinned! That is the power of Jesus, our Substitute, upon whom God lays the sin. In this way Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the repentant sinner.
|How readily do you acknowledge before God your own sin and wrongdoing? If not, in the end, are you deceiving God or only yourself? Dwell on the implications of your answer.|
Whiter Than Snow
Psalm 51, like Psalm 32, is a penitential psalm, written after David confesses his sin. Just as Psalm 32 alludes to garments in order to illuminate the concept of God’s covering for sin, Psalm 51 also alludes to the imagery of garments as a sin covering. But here the emphasis is on the washing and whitening agents used to clean garments and on their spiritual significance. In other words, in this psalm, David metaphorically does his “dirty laundry.”
David asks God to wash him thoroughly. What does this washing involve? How do
the images of “purge me with hyssop” and “whiter than
7) help us understand the nature of this cleansing?
The word that David uses here for washing is used elsewhere in Scripture to refer to the washing of a garment (see Gen. 49:11, Exod. 19:10). Purge suggests the idea of making atonement for sin. Hyssop, a gray-green marjoram plant, was used as a spice and had medicinal properties, thus it was both a nutritive and a healing agent. Hyssop, as David knew well, had a long history in Israel. It was used in the original Passover ritual (Exod. 12:22), in the day of cleansing a leper or a house (Lev. 14:6, 49), and in the offering of the red heifer for the purification of men and items unclean through contact with the dead. Moses used hyssop at the ratification of the covenant (Heb. 9:19, 20). See “Hyssop” in The SDA Bible Dictionary, p. 497.
All these uses signify that hyssop was a powerful cleansing agent. David’s use of hyssop shows he understood that only the remedy with the greatest purifying power could cleanse him from sin’s defilement. And that remedy is the atoning blood of our Savior.
51:10, David prays for God to create in him a clean heart. What does having
a “clean heart” mean?
God does not merely cleanse the heart from iniquity; He creates in His forgiven child a new heart. A new heart is a new mind. Paul exhorts us: “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2) “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ” (Titus 3:5, 6, NKJV). Prayer for forgiveness always should be united with prayer for heart renewal and holy living. David desires to be clothed in an entirely new mental and moral nature. He prays to be steadfast in obedience and not to be deprived of the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In the Sanctuary of His Wings
“I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings”(Ps. 61:4, NKJV).
Some eagles have wingspans of up to nine feet under which they can shelter and protect their hatchlings. God’s mercy, like the wings of the eagle, shelters those who forsake their sins, no matter how deep they may have fallen. But unlike the guilt of our sin, which is blotted out, the consequences or results of sin often may not be removed. David experienced the bitter reality of this truth, fourfold, in the deaths of three of his sons and in the rape of his daughter Tamar by her own half-brother, Amnon.
What did David seek in the shadow of God’s wings? What do they offer us covering from? Pss. 17:8, 36:7, 57:1.
Under the wings of God are found lovingkindness, mercy, and a shelter. The eagle’s wings amplify this truth in a spectacular way: a father eagle teaches an eaglet to fly by carrying it on his back up to a great height. He then tips his wings, and the eaglet falls earthward, flapping and tumbling. Before the eaglet hits the ground, the father eagle swoops underneath and catches it on his wings, bearing it back up again. No matter how far we fall, God flies faster than that fall. He uses our fall to teach us to fly. Like David, if we repent, we will be closer to God after He catches us from our fall than before we fell!
Perhaps this knowledge of the eagle’s flight inspired David’s trust in God’s sheltering wings in Psalm 61. David probably composed it while in exile during the time Absalom usurped the throne. It declares trust in the covering mercy of God, possibly referring to the mercy seat in God’s sanctuary. Here rests the ark of God’s covenant with His people, with its covering cherubim, whose overarching wings shelter the law—the written transcript of God’s character of love. David may have been expressing a desire to dwell, through faith, with God in His sanctuary, his soul garbed in the transforming light of that love.
|Perhaps, even now, though you’ve dedicated your life anew to God, you are suffering the consequences of sin: estrangement, exile, physical ailment, emotional pain. What hope of healing does the shelter of God’s wings offer?|
“David’s repentance was sincere and deep. There was no effort to palliate his crime. No desire to escape the judgments threatened, inspired his prayer. But he saw the enormity of his transgression against God; he saw the defilement of his soul; he loathed his sin. It was not for pardon only that he prayed, but for purity of heart. David did not in despair give over the struggle. In the promises of God to repentant sinners he saw the evidence of his pardon and acceptance. . . .
“Though David had fallen, the Lord lifted him up. He was now more fully in harmony with God and in sympathy with his fellow men than before he fell. . . .
“Whoever under the reproof of God will humble the soul with confession and repentance, as did David, may be sure that there is hope for him. Whoever will in faith accept God’s promises, will find pardon. The Lord will never cast away one truly repentant soul. He has given this promise: ‘Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me.’ Isaiah 27:5. ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.’ Isaiah 55:7.”—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 725, 726, author’s emphasis.
| As a class, discuss the
futility of coverings of our own devising compared with what Jesus
willingly provides. What does He provide, and why is it the only
covering for sin that can heal and save?
Laundry detergent advertisements for bleaching agents promise to whiten and soften clothes. To bleach out a stain without softening it could be too harsh for fabric. To soften fabric without attending to the stain leaves it dirty. Why, then, do we need both the whitening power of God’s justice and the softening power of His mercy to cleanse the soul’s garment?
|I N S I D E Story|
TEXT of Story
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