There was once a king.
He was admired by all for his wisdom, courage, and devotion to the Lord.
He was an accomplished musician, a brave soldier, and a spiritual leader to his people.
And then one day he found himself caught in a terrible web of sin.
He became infatuated with another man's wife and almost before he knew what had happened, he'd used his power and influence to take this woman as his own. Enjoying the taste of this fruit as much for its forbidden nature as for its beauty.
Fearing that his sin would come to light and that all would know of their king's disgusting fall into sexual immorality, he began to grasp at ways to keep it hidden. When nothing else seemed to work - no lie and no clever scheme - he foolishly multiplied his guilt by doing the only thing he believed would secure the safety of his secret: He used his station as sovereign to secure the death of his mistress' husband.
And so the king became an adulterer who became a murderer.
If not for the grace of his God, he would have continued on this dark path: for leaving it would have meant being found out for what he truly was.
But the Lord was kind to the king and did not allow his sins to remain hidden - rotting away at his soul.
The Lord loved him and reproved him just as an earthly father would his own child.
The king was disciplined severely and forgiven completely.
This king continued his rule for many years afterward, his image forever sullied by his sins, his character forever humbled by his fall, and his soul forever cleansed by the mercy and forgiveness of his God.
And we, the children of his King (Psalm 110:1), hold both his sins and his redemption close to our hearts.
We read his story and remember that this king was a man - a man who loved God, but simultaneously loved his sin.
We look to his tremendous fall as a humbling monument to our own fallenness, and we look to his restoration as a brilliant example of our God's abounding grace.
Never has a man's private sins been more public - passed down in the recorded history of mankind from generation to generation - and yet at the same time, never has a man's private sin been more of a blessing to the generations to follow as his. For they serve to warn and humble us.
We live in an age of connectedness. Somehow, as if by magic, the internet takes the entire world and smashes it into one small device, no bigger than a king size Hershey's bar. In this new reality we find that we are able to know details about people and places that we would never have dreamt of knowing just 10 years ago.
Indeed, in our handheld devices, it is as if we are given little windows into the most intimate details of strangers' lives. These are people we wouldn't previously have known about, much less shaken hands with or muttered a "good morning" to as we passed by them in a coffee shop. But now it is not unusual to know their children's names, their political stances, or even the gritty details of their divorces. The internet, has taken the place of the greasy grocery store tabloids. Its unending nature has given us the ability to look into more people's lives in more countries of the world than ever before.
But not all details are created equal in our consumer-driven economy. We've all heard the phrase, "there's no news like bad news," and at times it truly feels as though news outlets and blogs survive on one thing: revealing the horrendous sins and failings of others. Painful, shocking, and scandalous stories produce more clicks, and more clicks produce more revenue.
If our media is even a slightly accurate barometer, we humans seem bent on destroying ourselves and those we love, while simultaneously paying to be entertained by the ensuing devastation.
Indeed, at the rate these stories attract digital traffic, we can only surmise that we have an unhealthy obsession with our own brokenness. We can't help but be curious about the horrifying carnage of each train wreck. Perhaps because deep down we have a terrifying hunch that we're all traveling on similarly defective trains.
The digital news media serves its consumers' curiosity like a Chinese buffet serves the bellies of it's guests: with an unending supply of soul-deadening MSG. There is no lack of scandal to be served. On the contrary, the more we consume, the more they dish out. And the more we consume, the more we slumber through the beautiful, good, and honorable things of this world.
Our pallets become unrefined.
We salivate over each new scandal to cross our Facebook feeds.
A famous family values advocate's entire life was built on a disgusting lie.
A mother absentmindedly left her helpless child in a locked car on a hot summer day - how could she forget?
A "conservative" senator is revealed as a homosexual.
An ordinary parent finds out their son just became the latest mass murderer - was is something they did or didn't do?
Thousands of "normal" husbands are exposed as having sought out affairs through an adultery website.
A child accidentally kills his sibling because his parents didn't properly store their loaded gun.
A celebrity pastor's marriage and ministry is ransacked by an affair coming to light.
The list goes on and on...
Before the internet and cable news outlets came into being, these people's failures would have been limited in their publicity. Those in your family, your city, or your church, would have been the primary audience for your sin. Your shame - while still severe - would have been limited to those immediately affected by your failings.
But now, when sin comes to light, its ramifications often include national and global attention. When you err in our infinitely connected world, you run the very real risk of suffering the shame of the entire human race.
Scripture warns, "be sure your sin will find you out." In a world where your sins can bring a monetary profit to media outlets, this truth has never carried more immediate ramifications.
In the School of Failure
I've thought about this often as I've seen the headlines of ordinary people who've made grave mistakes. To be sure, I'm absolutely horrified and disgusted by their sins, and yet a part of me can't help but sympathize with them. Their public image has been forever altered; their name forever connected to the scandal. For these people there is no going back to before the incident. More heart wrenching still is the truth that their sin has forever altered the lives of those closest to them. Their spouses, their children, their parents, and their friends are all brought into the gross lime light of a salivating public ready to consume a new scandal.
It sends shivers down my spine.
Their failures serve as ominous danger signs for my soul. They reminding me of the true and often tangible, here-on-this-earth wages of our sin.
Death takes many forms in this life and the sin that brings it should never be underestimated.
I must be vigilant to guard my own heart from impurity - to continually seek to abide in the Savior's purifying embrace. For as John Bradford is credited to have said upon seeing a criminal walk to his execution, "there but for the grace of God [go I]."
Rather than reveling in these people's failures and seeking to fish out the grittiest of details, I must instead encourage my heart to take careful notes as the Holy Spirit faithfully uses their shame to instruct my soul. This moment of their lives is meant to be a parable of warning to me.
Like David's horrendous fall and subsequent restoration, these people's sins provide an opportunity for Christians like myself to rehearse the gospel message.
Lesson 1: Our Common Shame
As their sins are tantalizingly dished up for hungry consumers, I can't help but be reminded of the utter depravity of God's created beings. We are all so hopelessly lost apart from him. I'm reminded that I am one of those broken people. For "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."
Our sin runs deep, to the very core of our being, and affects every aspect of our lives. I can't look at another human's sins and not be reminded of my own, for the same sin sickness that made their great fall possible runs through my own veins. I suffer from the same fallen condition that they do.
We are all capable of sinning greatly, because we are all great sinners.
Therefore, I must be sober-minded and watchful. For our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
Lesson 2: Our Common Shame-Taker
But at the reminder of this horrifying reality, the Spirit also assures me of his unending love and grace. Yes, my sin runs deep, but his grace is more.
He is the forgiving God, and the one who will stick with us when everyone else gives up hope. To those who are currently being destroyed by their choices, he offers salvation. To those who desire purity and holiness, he offers sustaining grace. Though I am affected in every way by my sin, I am simultaneously being affected by something much, much more powerful - the blood of the Shame-taker.
This Shame-taker took the place of his filthy, scandalous, and corrupt people. He was perfectly pure and holy, but in love, willingly took on our filth so that we could be counted clean.
The blood he poured out on Calvary is full of powerful, healing stuff. It is full of forgiveness and justification. It is full of purity for me and you.
Yes, there is a lion, prowling about, looking for ways to wound and kill the Savior's blood-bought sheep. Yes, my sin-nature makes me vulnerable to his attacks, but the Spirit reminds me of this world-altering reality: there is a faithful Shepherd who holds that devil's leash.
This Shepherd has made a promise: "My sheep will never perish; They will NEVER be snatched from my hand." (John 10:28)
"You, daughter, will never parish. You will never be snatched from my hand."
Can I not trust the one who holds the planets in their orbits with the safety of my soul?
Yes, I can rest in him.
Beauty for Ashes
Somehow, all of these years later, the story of David and Bathsheba is made beautiful by God's inconceivable grace. But in the midst of David's sin, it was anything but.
Consider the disgusting nature of his adultery and of planning out the slaughter of an innocent man. Consider what must have been Bathsheba's experience. Was she complicit? Was she coerced? Was she forced? How devastating were the consequences of their sin! Her husband's death, their baby's death, his nation's military security, David's wives being taken from him, familial unrest...
And yet, ultimately, their is great beauty in God's forgiveness of David, because it reveals the beauty of God himself.
Let us pray for each new scandal that crosses our newsfeed. Let us pray for the repentance of every sinner whose failures are splashed across our television screens. Let us beg the Lord to reveal his grace to them - our fellow fallen brothers and sisters.
May his salvation be sweet in the midst of their bitterness, and may their stories not end in failure, but in beautiful displays of gospel victory.
Let us learn from their mistakes. Let them warn and humble us. Let them drive us to the Savior.
For one day all of our sins will be laid bare before creation. In that moment, when our private sins go public, the only thing that will matter is whether or not they are covered by the Holy One's blood.