Hiding from God vs. Hiding in God

Psalm 32

Of David. A maskil.

Blessed is the one
    whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
    whose sin the Lord does not count against them
    and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent,
    my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
    your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
    as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
    my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
    the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
    while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
    will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
    you will protect me from trouble
    and surround me with songs of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
    which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
    or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
    but the Lord’s unfailing love
    surrounds the one who trusts in him.

11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
    sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Dear Friends in Christ,

I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying, “It’s just like riding a bicycle.”  What that simply means is that something we’ve learned to do at some time in the distant past is something that stays with us for the rest of our lives.  We never forget how to do it…just like riding a bicycle.  But I’ve got to tell you, learning how to ride a bicycle was not an easy undertaking for me.  Oh, believe me, I tried.  I tried because everyone else in our neighborhood knew how to ride a bike.  And even though I was the youngest kid around, I did not want to be left behind when all the other guys went gallivanting all over town on their bikes.  So I tried to teach myself how to ride this 2-wheeled contraption, but with no success at all.  Learning the art of balancing and pedaling and steering all at the same time was a bit too much for my little brain and body to grasp.  And I can remember falling many a time in my attempt to do so until finally my knees were so skinned up that I basically gave up.  I made up my mind that I would be able to make it through childhood just fine without ever learning how to ride a bike.

But then my older brother Steve got in on the act.  I might have been able to get along just fine not knowing how to ride a bicycle, but he wasn’t about to be embarrassed by his little brother’s inability to do this one thing that seemed to come so naturally to all the other guys in the neighborhood.  So one day he made it very clear to me that I was going to learn how to ride a bike before that day was over or else!  And guess who was going to teach me?  He was!  But guess who wasn’t interested?  I wasn’t!  So guess what I did?  I hid from my brother.  I distinctly remember going over to our neighbor’s house where they had some large forsythia bushes growing alongside their garage and it was there in those bushes that I planted myself for probably an hour or two until I felt that my brother had gotten that hair-brained idea out of his mind.  And it worked…until some time after that when he caught me off-guard one day and made me ride his bike home from the other side of our block.  He put me on it, gave me a push, and told me to start pedaling.  And guess what?  I did it!  And I’ve been able to ride a bike ever since then.  And aren’t you proud of me!

Well, one thing I learned from that experience was that I might be able to hide from my brother for a while, but I couldn’t hide from him forever.  And that’s a great lesson that we’re going to learn this morning in this great psalm that comes from the pen of the great King David:  We might think we can hide from God for a while (which we really can’t), but we can’t hide from him forever.  And so rather than hide from him, we’re going to discover today that we would be much better off to hide in him.

Now, hiding from God is nothing new. It’s been around for a long time. In fact, it’s been around since the beginning of time. Recall what happened when our first parents Adam and Eve violated the one and only rule that God had given them to follow.  He had told them that they were free to eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden except for the one in the middle of the garden, what he called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In fact, they were not even supposed to touch it. But when Satan in the form of a serpent tempted Eve with the prospect of becoming just like God if she ate of that fruit, she couldn’t resist. And so she took her first bite and gave some to Adam as well, and just like that sin was introduced into God’s perfect creation and the once perfect relationship that Adam and Eve had with God was now tainted, tarnished, ruined. In fact so much so that when God comes to the garden looking for Adam and Eve, they’re nowhere to be found. They’re hiding from him. Now they had never hidden from God before, but they had never sinned before either. And that sin was acting like a wall that separated them from their Creator.

Now let’s fast forward about 3000 years to the time of David, the author of our text for today. David, the slayer of giants and defeater of Israel’s enemies, is now king of Israel. And while his armies are out on the battlefield defending him and his kingdom, David remains behind in Jerusalem. Big mistake! For one evening as he strolls around on his palace rooftop, perhaps surveying the kingdom that God had given him, David sees a beautiful woman named Bathsheba taking a bath in the privacy of her own home. Now what should David have done at that point? He should have strapped on his Nikes and took off running, but he didn’t. Instead he allowed himself to indulge in it and became so full of lust that he sent his servants over to Bathsheba’s house so that they could escort her to the palace and David could meet her. Though both were married, there was an instant connection between them and before they parted ways that night, they both proved unfaithful to their respective spouses.

Then a couple of months later Bathsheba sent word to David that she was now carrying his baby. So what was David to do? After all, the punishment for adultery back in those days was the death penalty. So David came up with a plan. He had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, called back from the battlefield, thinking that once he got back to Jerusalem, the first thing he would do is go home to his wife. And since they had been apart for a long time, David thought it would only be natural for them to spend time in the bedroom together.  Then Bathsheba would eventually break the news to Uriah that she was pregnant and he would have no reason to believe that the child wasn’t his. Sounded like a pretty cut and dried plan to David, but he underestimated Uriah. You see, Uriah was a very noble man and there was an unwritten rule back in those days that a soldier could not rest in the comfort of his own home as long as his fellow soldiers were out on the battlefield. So Uriah refused to go home to his wife, forcing David to come up with Plan B.

Plan B involved David inviting Uriah to a feast at his palace the next night and getting him drunk, thinking that in his drunken state of mind he would find his way home to his wife. But that plan failed as well and Uriah spent the night out on David’s palace doorstep. This resulted in Plan C. David sent Uriah back to the battlefield with a note for his commanding officer whose name was Joab. The note said that Joab was to place Uriah in the front line of battle and when the fighting got fiercest everyone was to pull back from him and leave him out there alone so that he would be killed. And that’s what happened. Then, after a reasonable time of mourning, David took Bathsheba to be his wife and felt very confident that he had swept all of his dastardly deeds under the rug.

So David, this king who was once described as a man after God’s own heart, in essence, was hiding from God at this point in his life. And it had its consequences, some of which David writes about in our text for this morning when he says: “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.”  David was feeling the full brunt of a guilty conscience, wasn’t he? And my question for you this morning is this: Have you ever felt the same? Have you ever felt the heavy hand of God resting upon you when you did something wrong?  Of course you have.  We all have.  And I’m sure we would all agree that it’s not a pleasant place to be.  And that’s why we need to learn from David that rather than trying to hide from God, it is much better to hide in God. But what exactly does that mean?

Well, getting back to our story, after God allows David to kind of stew in his own juices for a while, he sends a prophet to him by the name of Nathan. And Nathan tells David a gripping story about a very wealthy man in his kingdom who had lots of flocks and herds and who lacked for nothing. Well, this fellow had a neighbor who was dirt poor. The only thing he really owned was a little lamb, but oh how he loved that lamb. He treated it like one of his own children. He allowed it to eat out of his bowl and drink from his cup. He cradled it in his arms like a precious child.

Then Nathan went on to tell David that the wealthy man had a guest stop by for a visit, but instead of serving one of his own animals to his friend, he went over to the poor man’s house and took that lamb from his arms, slaughtered it, and prepared it for his guest. Well, when David heard that he went through the roof. He said, “There is no way that such behavior will be tolerated in my kingdom. That man deserves to die!” Nathan then seized the moment, pointed his finger at David, and said, “You are the man! The Lord has blessed you with wives and children and wealth beyond compare, yet you took the only thing that Uriah had, his wife Bathsheba, and you made her your own.”

Well, what could David do at that point? He’d been caught red-handed. No longer could he hide from God because God was fully aware of everything he had done. So David decided to hide in God.  You’ve heard the saying, “Confession is good for the soul”?  Well, that’s exactly what David does here. In 2 Samuel 12:13 we read: “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’”  And while I’m sure it would have been very tempting for Nathan to clap his hands together and say, “Great confession, David! But don’t you think you should have thought about that a little bit sooner? You don’t think for a moment you’re going to get off that easy, do you?”  But that’s not what Nathan says. Instead, he says what I’m sure God told him to say. He says, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”  Now I know what some of you are thinking: David sure got off easy there, especially considering what he had done. But do understand, my friends, that there were certain consequences that David would have to deal with because of his sin and that Nathan apprised him of, not the least of which would involve family problems that would haunt and hound David for the rest of his life. And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. But as for the eternal consequences for his sin that David could have very easily received, which would have included the eternal punishment of hell, God removed those. And the relief and joy that David felt in his heart as he found himself on the receiving end of God’s amazing grace and forgiveness is borne out in our text for this morning when David writes: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” Then a few verses later he says: “I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.’” Oh how sweet those words of forgiveness must have sounded in David’s ears! And oh how sweet they sound in our ears as well!

So what about you, my friends? Do you need to hear those words of forgiveness right now? Are you carrying around a heavy burden of guilt in your heart even as I speak? Are you involved in some secret sin that nobody else knows about? If so, please understand that you can never sin secretly. You might be able to hide it from your parents. You might be able to hide it from your spouse. You might be able to hide it from your pastor. But you can never hide it from God. The Bible says that sooner or later your sin will find you out.

So rather than trying to run from God and rather than trying to hide from God, I hope you’ve seen this morning that it’s best to run to God and hide in God.  Like David says in v.7 of our text, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” That deliverance that David wrote about there is really what Lent is all about, isn’t it? For that deliverance was secured for us on an old rugged Roman cross 2000 years ago when Jesus, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God died in our place to suffer the penalty and punishment for our sins, all so that we could enjoy an eternity with him. May we never take such love and sacrifice for granted, my friends, but instead may we be moved by the power of the Holy Spirit to live our lives for him and to give our lives to him out of nothing but sheer gratitude and appreciation for the great gift of forgiveness and salvation that he has made possible for us and all who believe in him as Savior and Lord. Amen.