“Inexplicable!” This was the word used by one sports commentator concerning a recent violent on-field incident involving two Australian Football League (AFL) players. One ended up in hospital with a broken jaw and teeth and will be unable to play for the rest of the season. The other was suspended from playing for the rest of the season.
But was it really “inexplicable”? The word means, “unable to be explained or accounted for, incomprehensible, unfathomable, beyond understanding.”
Or is there an explanation that, once understood, liberates us from self deception?
Another phrase used by a commentator, referring to the player who inflicted the injury, was that the violence was “out of character”. Another called it “a moment of madness”!
Psalm 35, an Imprecatory Psalm, is followed by Psalm 36 with the title, “Of David the servant of the Lord”, and in the first 4 verses we read the following:
1 I have a message from God in my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
before their eyes.
2 In their own eyes they flatter themselves
too much to detect or hate their sin.
3 The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful;
they fail to act wisely or do good.
4 Even on their beds they plot evil;
they commit themselves to a sinful course
and do not reject what is wrong.
Maybe you are thinking, “Oh no, haven’t we had enough of talking about “the sinfulness of the wicked”? Well, it seems not according to the people who put the Psalter together. In fact, Moore wonders if they may have “thought [we] might still have a problem with the language used in the imprecatory psalms [and] that’s why they followed up…with…psalms which talk about God’s judgement on the wicked.” He continues, “It tells us that there isn’t any wriggle room for us to gloss over the message of the imprecatory psalms. “ (# 36)
Now, you may also be wondering how the words of this psalm applies to a random incident by a man who had no prior history of violence on the football field. And even, how it applies to you and me personally. Certainly, there are more nasty examples in our world that would seem more relevant to such strong language. Things such as the crime on our streets, human trafficking, terrorism or malevolent dictators. But, these things are often too far removed from our experience to apply to ourselves, whereas, the football incident brings it “closer to home”.
So, hopefully, as we consider this psalm, and what else the Bible teaches on the subject of “sin”, things will be clearer.
To begin with, we shall consider David’s words here in these first 4 verses of Psalm 35.
David says that sin in a person causes them to have no fear of God before their eyes. In fact, in their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin. Broyles suggests that “this amounts to self-idolatry. When primacy is given to one’s self, God need not be feared. But to carry out this action, self-deception is necessary…transgression has penetrated his heart and self-flattery has displaced God in his eyes.” (# 4)
This all leads to actions that comes from the heart where sin dwells. David describes it in this way: The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good. Even on their beds they plot evil; they commit themselves to a sinful course and do not reject what is wrong.
The player who initiated the violence on the field was later devastated by his own actions. It was as if he couldn’t believe that he was capable of such an action. He was remorseful and full of regret, guilt and shame. Not that we just want to just accept it, but why are we so surprised at our sin?
The Apostle Paul wrote concerning this problem 2000 years ago:
…I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:14-20)
But the good news is as the Apostle John says:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us [but] If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)
Thankyou Father that when we admit before you the truth of our own waywardness, you reveal to us the answer to this problem – Jesus! Through his death and resurrection, we can have forgiveness and the power to live differently. Amen