Understanding right and wrong #1
Over the next few weeks, I want to consider with you about right and wrong. Let’s be honest and agree that this should be a pretty simple concept. You’re saying well I know what is right and wrong, but as we all look around us today I am not so sure many people actually do.
As I have considered this thought, it has occurred to me that now, just as in times past, mankind has always struggled with right and wrong. Recently reading in Jeremiah and the message he was given by God for the people was that they were doing wrong.
In Jeremiah 42:2 NLT we read-
“Jeremiah the prophet. They said, “Please pray to the Lord your God for us. As you can see, we are only a tiny remnant compared to what we were before.”
Jeremiah agrees to go before the Lord on their behalf and they pledge in Jeremiah 42:5-6 NLT-
“Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord your God be a faithful witness against us if we refuse to obey whatever he tells us to do! Whether we like it or not, we will obey the Lord our God to whom we are sending you with our plea. For if we obey him, everything will turn out well for us.””
Scripture later tells us that 10 days later Jeremiah gives them the Lord’s response in Jeremiah 42:10-12 NLT-
“‘Stay here in this land. If you do, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you. For I am sorry about all the punishment I have had to bring upon you. Do not fear the king of Babylon anymore,’ says the Lord. ‘For I am with you and will save you and rescue you from his power. I will be merciful to you by making him kind, so he will let you stay here in your land.’”
We can clearly see from this account that God’s plan and instruction were what He had for them. It was the right thing to do. What is of such interest in reading this account is how people will hear and know to be right but simply will not do it but do the wrong thing and then question why things turned out so badly for them.
In Jeremiah 43:1-4 NLT It tells us-
“When Jeremiah had finished giving this message from the Lord their God to all the people, Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the other proud men said to Jeremiah, “You lie! The Lord our God hasn’t forbidden us to go to Egypt! Baruch son of Neriah has convinced you to say this, because he wants us to stay here and be killed by the Babylonians or be carried off into exile.” So Johanan and the other military leaders and all the people refused to obey the Lord’s command to stay in Judah.”
Is there a way to distinguish clearly between right and wrong? Are there actions that we would all generally agree are wrong? In our world today the categories are not as clearly defined as they may have once been. Clearly, there are actions that are wrong and, sinful.
In most situations today, people sense that there is something wrong. Something wrong with their family, their friends, their communities, and their society. They are not quite able to put their finger on it or what they should do about it. They are stressed out, empty, and lonely. Self-esteem struggles behind a smiling face trying to hide the pill-popping solutions they seek for their emptiness.
I want you to clearly understand something about God and about sin. When we confess our sins to God and turn from them, He forgives us and restores us to a right relationship with Him.
Most people know that they have sinned. Some people believe that they have gone too far-that God could never love them because of what they have done. They believe that they have no hope for forgiveness.
Even some Christians feel they cannot be effective for God because of past failures. I want you to know and to understand what it is to be forgiven. God’s love is the basis of forgiveness.
In Psalms 51 David is acknowledging to God his sin. It would not be one sin but one sin upon another each a result of the previous sin. Sin began as it often does in the quietness of the moment and in an unexpecting way. For David, it was in the cool of the evening when he saw Bathsheba bathing on another rooftop. David was not where he should have been. We know that in the Scriptural account he should have been with his army on their campaign. His lust for Bathsheba leads to an adulterous affair with her. Once he hears she is pregnant he brings Uriah, her husband, back from the battlefield. His plan is to have Uriah return and go to his own home. Then the appearance would be that the child would be his because it would be thought that he slept with his wife. Of course, we all know that Uriah would not go home but stayed with the King. Leading David to give instructions for Uriah to be exposed on the battlefield in order for him to die. This is exactly what happens and then David takes Bathsheba as his wife. The child is born but becomes gravely ill and dies even after David's request of the Lord to spare the child.
In Psalm 51:1-2 NKJV we hear David as he calls out to God regarding the sins in which he has indulged-
1 Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.
Then in Psalm 51:3-4, we read David's admission to God-
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.
4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.
God's Love: The Basis of Forgiveness provides 4 things David did to reveal that he understood what was necessary to receive God’s forgiveness and salvation.
1) He cried for mercy
2) He was honest with God about his sin
-my iniquity-“perversion of what is right”, refers to the murder, deceit, and treachery
-my transgressions-referred to his rebellion against God’s authority
-my sin-he accepted personal responsibility for his actions, his errors, his wandering away, of rejecting God’s commands
3) He recognized God’s desire to forgive and appealed for pardon based on God'’ character
-have mercy-God is under no obligation to forgive but does so as an act of unmerited favor
-lovingkindness-God’s love for this world
-tender mercies-the word David used would be compared to the Hebrew word for “womb”, meaning a mother’s love
4) He acknowledged God’s ability to forgive by using three-word pictures
-blot out-would show the picture of an accounting ledger and the debt being removed from the ledger
-wash-removing of sin is pictured as washing a stained garment thoroughly to remove all impurities
-cleanse-would be the picture of ritual purity, such as a cleansing from leprosy
Knowing right from wrong is not that difficult. The difficulty is when we allow ourselves to do the wrong thing in the clear light of what is right. We might be prone to think that we should expect that from a lost world, but let's be honest it is real in our lives and our churches today.
Next week we will understand more about Confession: The Demand of Forgiveness.
In God's Grace,