Cries for Help
Recognizing our offense against God.
The field in which I stood was engulfed in flames. My mind raced to find some way of addressing the fire that was burning out of control. It is never wise to panic. “Think. Stay calm. Find a solution,” I thought. But my emotions ran high as every possible alternative that came to mind dissipated into despair. I had nothing. I had nothing to extinguish the blaze that consumed everything in its growing path.
The only remaining option was to use my voice. I cried out for help with as loud a voice as I could. It was all I could do to yell and yell and yell that one word: Help!
No one heard me. At the same time my surroundings now charred and smoldering from the inferno that continued to expand at a faster pace than before demanded a solution. So, I continued to cry out until I was heard. In time the fire trucks and the firemen they carried arrived and extinguished the field blaze. It was over.
After I answered their questions, the firemen left. I stood there in that blacken smoldering field emotionally spent. I felt humiliated that I was responsible for the disaster. But even more so, I felt humiliated that I was so incapable to find a solution to handle the problem on my own without the help of others. Over and again my mind reran what I had just experience thinking of the possible solutions that did not surface in the time of panic. Most will never face the same circumstances that confronted me that day. Yet, spiritually speaking we all stand in a burning field.
In Psalm 139, David seems to have a sense that there are issues within his soul that need attention. Yet, he is not sure exactly the nature of it. So, he asks that God would reveal it to him:
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (vv. 23-24)
Just how serious might it be? What does God discover when he looks at our hearts, thoughts, and life?
Psalm 51 has a very different tone. David is not asking that God would show him his sin. His sin has already been exposed, and his soul is on fire with guilt and remorse. Nathan, the prophet, has confronted him with his calloused act of adultery and murder. In response to what David sees and owns, he cries out to God for mercy:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment (vv. 1-4).
Psalm 51 reminds me that I need to seek God’s help to see not only my sin, but the depth of my offense. I need to see it as God sees it. Often, I view my sin as one who is only broken. That is, I live in a world that needs to be fixed, healed, and mended. Such a limited view leaves us as victims only. Owning my contribution to the charred ruins seems distant. For sure, the world is broken and needs healing. Yet that is a small portion of the entire picture. My ruined life needs radical redeeming by a holy Savior. My sin offends God and causes him a great deal of pain and suffering to such a degree that Jesus cries out on the cross on which he hung for the sake of my sin. This is very clear throughout the gospels. I am in rebellion which is something different than being broken.
I often tell God that I want my way and care little for submitting to his sovereign will as Lord. I need to see my sin as God sees it. When I get a glimpse of the depth and offense of my thoughts and actions, I will have a better understanding of what God sees. So yes, I am both a victim of sin and responsible for my sin. How does this inform my prayers?
First, I must search my heart, thoughts, words, and actions and identify those which are acts of rebellion. I must own the charred burnt field in which I stand. I have nothing to offer as a justification for my sin. I have no remedy.
Second, I need to own and acknowledge the pain and suffering that I caused my Savior.
Third, I need to humbly receive the grace and love of my Father who cares so very much for me. Daily, I need to be washed with his cleansing blood that was shed on my behalf.
Chuck Garriott is the founder and Executive Director of Ministry to State.