Psalm 51: Grace that Hides
It seems like the last thing you would want to pray. It seems like it would be the thing that you'd fear the most. Who would want God to "hide his face?" God "shining the light of his face" on us is a picture of acceptance and blessing. The darkest moment of suffering for Christ was when God turned his back on him in those final moments on the cross. In a horrible moment of grief Christ cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Yet, as David stands before God as a humble repenting man, he does what seems to be unthinkable; he asks God to hide his face. What is it that David is pleading with God to do?
On the other side of lust, adultery, and murder, David is filled with the sense of the enormity of his sin. The weight of what he's carrying isn't just about how he used his God-given position to take a woman who wasn't his and use her for his pleasure. The weight on him wasn't just about how he plotted the death of Uriah, Bathsheba's husband. The weight had to do with his understanding of the extent of his problem with sin. David acknowledges the fact that he came into the world with this profound moral problem (v.5). He scans his life and can't recognize a point where sin wasn't with him. But there's an even deeper awareness that sits on David's heart like a lead weight. He's come to understand that his sin was directly and personally against God. What he did, he did in the face of God. He rejected God's authority and made himself his own master. He rejected God's wisdom and acted as if he knew better. He rejected God's call and decided to do what pleased himself rather than what pleased God. In the middle of the outrageousness of his rebellion, how could David ever stand before a holy God?
This confusing request actually demonstrates that David gets it right. He understands the comprehensiveness and the directness of the rebellion of his sin.
He understands that as a sinner he can't stand in the presence of a holy God. What David doesn't understand is that when he prays for God to hide face, he's praying for the Cross. Something needs to come between God's holiness and my sin. Something needs to happen so that sinners, like David, can stand in God's presence and be completely unafraid. David couldn't have possibly known where the story of redemption is going, so he asks the only thing that makes sense to him, "Lord, won't you please hide your face from my sin, because if you don't, I'm doomed."
The Cross was what David was pleading for. The Cross provides our covering. The Cross provides our cleansing. The Cross makes it possible for God to accept us fully without compromising his holiness. The Cross allows me to be accepted, not based on what I've done, but based on what Christ has done. The Cross allows sinners to be declared righteous! Christ covers us, so that as God looks on us he sees the perfect righteousness of Christ that's been given to our account.
Isn't it amazing that the the life, death, and resurrection of Christ means that sinners no longer have to be afraid of God's face? Christ has answered David's prayer. He took the Father's rejection so that we'd be able to stand in the Father's presence and be unafraid. So we don't have to ask God to hide his face and we don't have to search for ways to hide from God. Jesus has made it possible for sinners to stand before a holy God and rest until the sin inside those sinners is no more.