An out of town lawyer friend of mine text me recently to confirm the address of one of our satellite offices. I text him bad “Yep,” paused, and then called. “You’re trying to get there and your GPS has you lost, doesn’t it?” He chuckled. “Okay, tell me what you see.” After I figured out that he was on Main Street, about 5 minutes from his destination, I began to give him turn by turn directions and stayed on the phone until he got to the gate. Even with my directions, he passed the building once, thinking I said it was on the left instead of the right.
A GPS is a wonderful thing — until it isn’t. Depending on one usually works out fine, but it is not infallible. And when it does fail, boy, does it fail. I am a lot like a GPS. Usually, I make good decisions – decisions that arguably point others to Christ. But when I mess something up — and don’t point people to Christ — it’s usually in epic fashion.
This week I was reading Psalm 69 – a theologically rich passage written by David. Many verses of it are considered messianic or pointing to Christ as the Messiah. Overall, the passage is a lament and deals with suffering. Tucked in the middle of that theme, verses 5-6 almost seem out of place:
O God, You know my foolishness;Psalm 69:5-6 NKJV
And my sins are not hidden from You.
Let not those who wait for You, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed because of me;
Let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel.
In the middle of “suffering,” David is worried about his sin. Well, that fact alone is convicting. When I suffer, I tend to look for other people to blame. I rarely look to myself to see if “I” am the reason I am suffering, but that’s not even what David is doing. The verses after this make clear that David “is suffering because of his identification with God.” (The Open Bible 1982 footnote Psalm 69:7-9)
David wants to suffer well. If he is not trying to pinpoint the cause of his suffering, it only makes sense that he is processing how he responds to his suffering. He examines two effects of his actions: shame and confusion. David doesn’t want to bring reproach upon God or the people he represents. Like a GPS, he wants to point others to the one true God.
David first considers how his sin will shame his faith family. The phrase “those who wait for you” highlights faith as a Christian identifier. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains: “True piety is often, in the Scriptures, represented as waiting on the Lord. See Psalm 25:3, Psalm 25:5; Psalm 37:9; Isaiah 40:31.”
Confession time: when I consider the consequences of my sin, I’m usually considering how it affects me. I’m not thinking of other Christians. Now, as a well known leader (either as king or as a military leader), David’s sin would be prominent and attached to his nation, but is it any different for us?
Have you ever met someone, and made decisions about an entire group based on that person? Bob Goff makes this point in Everybody Always. He travels to a new city and experiencing a friendly person and by that labeling the whole city as nice people. Whereas, if the person he met had been a jerk, he might have assumed that everyone shared that temperament. When we moved back to my hometown, my husband and I had to find a church home. There was one that I crossed of my list having never really visited. Why? When I got down to the root of the issue, I realized that the teens who attended that church when I was in high school were not welcoming. I attached that sentiment to the church even though it was years prior and a small segment of the population.
My sins reflect on other Christians. When Christians fall, we make a mockery of the Gospel we proclaim. We shame other Christians working quietly and patiently waiting on God. There are countless examples, historic and recent, of prominent Christian leaders who have made shockwaves in their churches and the Christian community as a whole for private sin exposed or failings went viral. If “heroes” can fall, we have to all realize that we are not safe from temptation and sin.
And we don’t have to have a superstar for our sin to impact others. No matter how ordinary you think you are, when you stand as a Christian, you are part of a body. Each part of that body affects the other parts.
Next, David Considers how his actions cause confusion within his faith family. “Those who seek You” refers to Christians who are earnest to do God’s will. This second half of verse six is both a rephrasing and juxtaposition. Waiting and seeking are different but not mutually exclusive. God’s will can include both waiting on His will and seeking His will at the same time.
Some translations use the word dishonored instead of confounded, and while the Hebrew verb can be translated both ways, I think choosing a different verb from the first part was intentional.
Last year some very disturbing accusations came out about a Christian apologist that I respected. He had seemingly devoted his life to making Christ known. As time went on, it became apparent that those accusations were facts. I believed the women who stepped forward to speak the truth regarding this influential man, but where did that leave his ministry? Was he even a Christian? or a self-seeking imposter that used faith as a vehicle for power? If so, certainly not everyone in his ministry was the same? I still face a lingering, unresolved dilemma with how to reconcile these failures with faith.
We all sin. Even after salvation; sin exists in our lives even if it is not the pattern of our lives. Our sin is not separate from our faith but part of our story. David sinned. Abraham sinned. Moses sinned. God used them all and we count them all as heroes. But did the people around them look at them as I now look at this modern apologist? With confusion? Did they wonder if they could trust those leaders?
If you know me, you have probably seen me fail. I speak carelessly and harshly. I get jealous and impatient. My mistakes could fill their own book. And even when I recognize my sin and repent and apologize, I must recognize that I have sewn confusion within the body of Christ. They can’t trust my “GPS directions” anymore — or at least not until I prove reliable again. My “directions” for other Christians have dropped them, in the middle of a subdivision when I said I was taking them to a shopping mall.
Jesus Suffered Well
Don’t forget that this Psalm also points to Christ. While Jesus never sinned, he did suffer, and he suffered well. In his tortured death, he was a majestic king and a humble servant. He did not speak back or lash out. To the end, he acted in love.
When we suffer, do our actions point to Christ? Do they do so in a way that causes others to want to follow our directions?
Another look at suffering: Why Do Bad Things Happen?