Sentinel of the Soul (5)
When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—
Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.
Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors. Psalm 73.16-19
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that God does not sit idly by while His children stray into the paths of sin. He is our Father, and He loves us enough to bring discipline against us, until we turn from our wicked ways and renew our journey along the path of righteousness (Heb. 12.3-11).
And, the writer hastens to add, such discipline as the Lord brings against us is never pleasant.
As Asaph, heeding his conscience, began to recognize the sin he was contemplating, and to turn from it, he found a way of escape by remembering that we never sin alone. The sins we indulge always affect others.
At the same time, he remembered that God hates sin and is opposed to those who pursue it. Sin, Asaph reflected, is a slippery slope, leading to judgment. Once we have begun on a path of disobedience, it’s easy to continue on that road, as we saw in the case of Peter. One sin leads to another, and the likelihood, for those whom God has called as His children, is that, at some point in that slide, they’re going to meet up with Him.
And it won’t be pretty.
We have seen that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111.10). The fear of the Lord is also a pretty good deterrent to sinning. When we remember that sin is what sinners do, and God brings judgment against those who break away from Him (Rom. 1.18ff), the fear of the Lord can provide a second step along the way of escape that can help us to grow through temptation unto maturity, rather than fall through it into sin.
In this matter of the judgment of God, Asaph had a front row seat in seeing how the Lord dealt with David. David decided to shirk his duty as a king and stay home during the season when kings go out to secure their borders and eject any foreigners who may have made incursion on the land (2 Sam. 11). Perhaps he considered that he was just too great a king for such routine stuff. Or perhaps he had other plans.
Either way, his neglect of duty was a sin, and he and the people of God would pay dearly for what ensued.
One sin leads to another
As it turned out, David spent the evenings gazing on his neighbor’s wife, until he could no longer resist the temptation to have her. Bathsheba – no bastion of purity in this affair – was an easy take. What neither of them planned on was her becoming pregnant.
Not a problem, David thought, now deep into a web of sin and disobedience. He sent for Bathsheba’s husband under a pretense of wanting a report on the war, and arranged for him to spend the night with his wife before returning.
What he didn’t count on was that Uriah was a more noble fellow than David expected, and he refused to enjoy the privileges of marital bliss while his comrades were risking their necks in battle.
On to plan B: David sends a message to Joab – a scab if ever there was one – by the hand of Uriah, instructing Joab to arrange for Uriah to be killed in battle. By this time, sin has sapped David’s conscience and captured his heart, so that he can only think like a rebel against God rather than His anointed king. His instructions to Joab being faithfully carried out, David took Bathsheba for his own wife.
But the child she conceived died shortly after birth – one more bit of collateral damage from David’s sins – and from that point forward, David’s family fell into disarray and dissolution. He very nearly lost his kingdom; and all his troubles traced back to a failure of self-control, in the season when kings go out to battle, and he didn’t.
All that was undoubtedly quite fresh in Asaph’s mind as he remembered the plight of those who follow the path of sin, and he turned away from temptation and sin’s slippery slope.
We don’t have to be prophets to know that giving in to even the smallest sin is not a good idea. Each little compromise builds on previous ones until falling through temptation to sin becomes a way of life. And each such compromise sears the conscience a little more, making it less fit to recognize temptation and muster the resources of heart and mind to stand firm against it, and less inclined to fear the Lord Who hates sin.
The fear of the Lord can be a wonderful aid in finding the way of escape, when temptation is calling us to break free of God. But now is the time to be nurturing that fear, so that, when we need it to escape temptation and avoid the slippery slope of sin, the fear of God will be there to keep us on the path of growing in the grace and wisdom of the Lord.
1. What do we mean by saying that unconfessed sin can be a slippery slope? How can remembering this be a way of escape through temptation?
2. How does the fear of the Lord function to deter sin?
3. How can we nurture a proper fear of God, at the same time we are growing in love for Him?
Next steps – Transformation: What is involved in nurturing a proper fear of God? What will you do today to make sure you fear Him as you should?
T. M. Moore
All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.