Have you ever been sprayed by a skunk? I was involved in the Boy Scouts for much of my childhood, and we had many adventures outdoors. We took every precaution on these trips to avoid dangerous wild animals: we would hang our food from a branch to protect it from bears; we would shake out our boots before putting them on to avoid spiders and scorpions; we wouldn't enter certain bodies of water to avoid leeches and water snakes; and more. But the most fearsome animal that we ever encountered while camping was, you guessed it, a skunk.
On one particular camping trip, us boys were dropping crumbs from our snacks on the ground while playing cards at a picnic table. Oblivious to us, a skunk was waddling through the camp, coming right toward us. Our scoutmaster was on the other side of camp when he spotted the animal. Yet, what could he do? If he stayed still, the skunk would spray us; if he yelled at us to be quiet, the skunk would spray him! So, he stayed quiet. I don’t remember exactly who it was that startled the skunk, but the entire table ended up getting sprayed. As if spending a few days in the woods with a dozen unwashed teenage boys wasn’t enough, adding skunk spray to the mix was nauseating!
What made the smell worse was that it lingered. No matter how roughly we scrubbed ourselves in the lake with Joy dish soap, we couldn’t rid ourselves of the smell. One kid had scrubbed so hard that his skin was redder than my sunburn! When we finally gave up washing, we headed back toward our tents... only to retch at the smell coming from our campsite: our clothes, our cards, our shoes, everything near the picnic table reeked of skunk!
I know there are many old home remedies to get out skunk smell, but the truth is that none of them work quickly. No matter how hard you try to clean yourself, you still stink! That kind of nightmare leaves an impression.
Years later, I was in an open room in Guatemala, working on my laptop, when a skunk wandered through the door. I wouldn’t have been more scared had it been a lion! Having flashbacks to the boy scouts, I practically went into shock. I know what it’s like to wash and wash, and never be able to get clean. I never want to go through that again!
If skunk smell is that bad, then how much worse is the stench of our sin! That is what David laments in today’s verses.
Please read Psalm 51:2-3.
“My sin is ever before me.” Like the stench of a skunk’s spray, David is haunted by the smell of his sin. He has just been confronted by Nathan, accosting him of his gross sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. Surely David is mourning this specific sin. Yet, as he begins to weep over this sin, he is reminded of his other sins: his pride, his lust, his envy, his lies, his lack of care for others, and a host of other sins that were hidden in his heart.
We often cover up our sin, and sweep it into the closet. Then we avoid the closet like the plague, because we know what will happen if we crack open that door: the host of our sins will come crashing down upon us! But David has opened the closet. Now he knows his iniquity, and he knows that there is nothing he can ever do to become clean again.
Some youth pastors like to use a sheet of paper as an illustration on sexual purity. They hold up the sheet in front of the crowd, then tear it in half. They say "this tear is what happens when we give ourselves sexually to someone outside of marriage." Then they tear it again and again, each time talking about another sexual act that we commit with someone who is not our husband or wife. In the end they have a handful of scraps, and they say “this is all you have left to offer to your future husband or wife.”
It’s a powerful illustration, if not a harsh one. Students look at that paper and realize that they could never put it back together. Even if they used tape, the paper would never be whole: they would never again be pure.
But Jesus offers purification. When God saves us, He makes us a new creation. We could never tape ourselves back together, but God has made us new. We could never be rid of the stench of our sin, but God has washed us clean in the blood of His Son. Praise God for purification!
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