Thursday, June 29, 2017

Stripping our veneer

     Veneering is a process that has been around for thousands of years.  Even the ancient Egyptians were able to use this process in their making of furniture.  Veneering is a process where we take a very beautiful/expensive wood and cut it very thinly in such a way that we can glue it to a thicker cheaper wood.  To those looking at the furniture are therefore fooled into thinking the article is made entirely of the expensive wood when in actuality it's only maybe 5% expensive wood and 95% cheap wood.  Many times we accept veneering when we buy furniture.  We are interested in just the look and not the durability of the item.  Maple, for example, is a hard wood and very durable while particle wood is not. We buy the illusion and just hope it lasts long enough so that when we are tired of it and needing something new we can throw it away.

    In life, we are all like veneer wood.  Like a maple desk, all the exposed surfaces are covered with beautifully polished veneer, but when we open the drawers or look underneath we see we have been cheated.  But God is not interested in "looks".  He demands quality from us, through and through.

   David experienced God's process of veneer-stripping.  King David was his generations version of Tom Brady.   He came from nothing.  He went from farm-boy to King of Israel.  He kicked the Philistines asses. He killed Goliath.  He survived be hunted down by King Saul.  He was Israel's "golden boy who could do no wrong!".    But that was just an illusion.

    We hear how he happens to find himself on the roof top of his home and sees Bathsheba taking a bath at night.   Was that just happen-stance?  A coincidence?   King David didn't know she was living next door to him until that night?  I don't think so.  In those days they did not have hot water heaters.  What had to be warmed by the sun during the day.  It was common to take baths on the roof at night.  I think King David knew who would be up there and made sure he just "happened" so see her. He later invites her over for dinner.  A ruse of "just helping a woman of one of my soldiers" I am sure. To those around him he was just "taking care of his vets".  But soon he was bedding her and the advent of a baby was at issue.  The plan now was to sell the baby as her husbands and not David's.  David brings back her husband for some needed "R&R" and "information from the front gathering".  But the plan fails as her husband is more faithful to the cause than David is to him.  The final plan is to do away with him.  David sends a message to the leader to put him in the front line and then pull back.  The leader must be thinking that he did something horrible to offend David but in fact it's the other way around.

     David's plan ultimately works and the veneer sticks but God knows what he has done and doesn't let David get away with it.  He sends Nathan the prophet to confront him with his sin.  Nathan's method of "veneer stripping" is a thing of beauty to behold.  He tricks David into becoming angry at a man who steals another mans lamb when he owns hundreds of sheep.  Nathan's "You are the man!" catches David off guard and he exclaims, "I am undone!".

    The veneer is gone.  All that is left is the cheap crappy wood underneath.  Exposed for all to see now David must accept what comes.  David saw what happened to his predecessor, King Saul, who disobeyed God.  How could this happen to a man God said, "he is a man after my own heart".  How can David face God now?

   Sins we commit when we are young and stupid sometimes are easier to forgive than when we should be older and wiser.   Even harder are sins we commit when we should know better and we have been warned.  These sins expose us for who we really are.  Sometimes our veneering is so good we even fool ourselves into thinking it's high quality wood through and through.

   David goes on to write one of the most quoted Psalms ever... Psalm 51.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.
18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
    to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
    in burnt offerings offered whole;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

  God doesn't just want us to strip off the veneer an replace it with new veneer.  He rips out the crappy wood and replaces it with good wood.   David asks God to "Create in me a pure heart".  David calls to God to "have mercy". "blot", "cleans", "wash", "hide", "restore", "deliver", and "open".  He acknowledges that there is nothing he, himself, can do.   There is no sacrifice he can deliver to pay for his sins and that God must do all the work.  Like a child watching his mother kneeling down on the carpet working to clean the stain out of the carpet from the spilled grape soda on the white carpet, David feels completely helpless before God.  David can't do anything to fix the situation or pay for what he has done.  In another psalm he writes that a 1000 bulls on a 1000 hills would not be enough because all the bulls are all Gods.   It would like be paying for your neighbors car you wrecked with their own credit card.

  David also comes to the realization that he is sinful from birth.  His capacity for evil is not something new he has developed but is part of who he is.  He is revealing to God the rotten wood hidden beneath that has been there for a very long time.  God of course knows all of this already.  His X-ray vision sees what is hidden beneath. He says,
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;  so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
   God's judgment is right because he sees all that we do.  The veneer is not going to work with him. He knows our thoughts from afar.

   God does forgive David his sin.  Out of his own mercy he forgives him.   David is still a man after God's own heart.  Suffering will still come from his sin however.  He will lose the respect of people around him and that will be a problem for him later on.  His own son will rise up against him and try to take over his thrown (possibly because of this transgression by David).

   We are all like David too.  We have rotten, bug infested, wood covered up with thin sheets of beautiful wood for others to see.  We keep people away so they won't look too closely at us or see what is underneath.   It's an illusion we feel we must keep up.   Oh we will confess small sins in public of lying or foul language.   We will tell stories of our youth where maybe we got a little too drunk or a little too rowdy, but we will make it seem it was all in good fun.  But the "big sins" we have committed we keep hidden with thicker layers of veneer.  Sins we knew were wrong.  Sins we committed on multiple occasions.  Sins we were warned against doing but did them anyway.  Sins that almost took over our lives and turned us into people we didn't want to become.

   God still loves us.   He renews us.  He forgives us.  He creates in us what we cannot do for ourselves.  All he asks is that we let him.

   Does that mean we will never sin again?  No.  Daily we must come to God and confess our sins and our failures.  We must expose our hidden areas of our lives and ask for his help.  Does that mean we will become perfect?  No.  Paul prayed 3 times to have God take away a "thorn from his flesh" but God replied to him, "My GRACE is sufficient for my power is made perfect in weakness".