Summary: Guilt can be self-inflicted. Not all guilt comes from God. And there can be times when you or I have committed a sin and we feel guilty so we pray and ask for forgiveness and we still feel guilty.
I have noticed in the last year or so that on certain menus in restaurants and on certain items in the grocery store that they now offer certain food items that are “guilt free.” This also may mean they are taste free. I mean let’s face it…sugar tastes good.
Apparently there are people who when they eat certain things they feel guilty. I am not one of those people. Maybe you are. But it brings up a couple of thoughts about this thing called guilt. (1) there are some people who suffer from an overactive conscience. They feel guilty about things when they shouldn’t. Have you ever noticed that some people beat themselves up over these things---others----it doesn’t bother them. I remember one of our teenagers telling me pastor I ate a whole package of chocolate cookies…I was like wow you’re my hero… And they didn’t feel an ounce of guilt over it. Some of us would beat ourselves up for a week if we did that.
So that brings me to the 2nd thing I want to say about guilt. Guilt can be self-inflicted. Not all guilt comes from God. And there can be times when you or I have committed a sin and we feel guilty so we pray and ask for forgiveness and we still feel guilty.
The story is told of a famous playwright in London named Noel Coward. He sent an identical anonymous letter to well-known men in London. The note said “we know what you have done. If you don’t want to be exposed, leave town. Within 6 months all ten of them moved. Now that’s a terrible prank he played on them but it sure shows the power of guilt.
This passage we are looking at today was written down by the Psalmist David. David was a good man….the Bible describes him as a “man after God’s own heart.” But, as good as David was he was far from perfect and he knew what it felt like to feel guilty. David was a shepherd boy who was chosen one day to become the King of Israel. The Bible tells us that after he became king that there came a day when his troops were out to war and David decided to stay home. Homes in that era often had a ladder of sorts attached to the house and you could climb up on top and sit and look at the stars, etc. One evening David was there and he noticed a beautiful woman named Bathsheba who was bathing. David finds her to be attractive so he calls for her to come to his palace. Now David is married and so is Bathsheba just not to each other. So an affair takes place.
It is not long after that, Bathsheba informs David that she is pregnant with his child. David knows he is guilty so now he figures he needs to come up with a plan as to what to do.
So he calls Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, in from the battle field to spend the weekend with his wife. His hope is that they will have relations that weekend and then when the baby is born, Uriah will think it is his. What he didn’t consider was that Uriah, being a very faithful man, both to his wife and to the King, said “I cannot go to my wife this weekend because I will not seek pleasure while my fellow soldiers are all out fighting.”
So now he still has a problem. He has a faithful soldier and a pregnant woman. So he decides to have Uriah killed. King David sends Uriah up to the front lines of battle…by telling the captain of the army that Uriah is a traitor and he wants to put him up in the heat of battle and then pull all the other troops back. So that is exactly what happens and Uriah is then killed in battle. Now his problem is solved. He thought. You would think that everything was solved now. But there was still one problem. Guilt. Now you might want to write this down.
The Bible shows us that there is a distinct difference in being guilty and in feeling guilty.
They are not the same thing. Now David is guilty. He has committed adultery and then committed murder.
So a year passes and then what was seemingly a secret sin now is an open scandal. So God sends Nathan the prophet to speak to King David. Nathan confronts him…he says, look God knows what you have done and David, now being confronted with his guilt, falls to his face and cries out, "I have sinned!" When you read Psalm 51 you almost feel like you are walking into David’s private prayer room because this prayer is very personal…very private…as we hear him cry out: "Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my shameful deeds - they haunt me day and night."(Psalm 51:2-3 NLT)