What to Do With a Guilty Conscience
There is a sense in which the story told in part in these verses can be viewed in terms of conscience—a sensitive conscience, as found in David, and a hardened, seared conscience, as found in Saul.
David knew that although the Spirit of God had departed from Saul, Saul was still the Lord’s anointed king, and the anointed of the Lord should never be cursed or killed (Exodus 22:28). Because his conscience was sensitive to God and His law, he was immediately burdened by what he’d done in cutting Saul’s robe—even if he could have done much worse. So David repented of his sin before his men and prevented them from attacking Saul (1 Samuel 24:6-7).
After David spoke to Saul openly about his withheld vengeance (1 Samuel 24:8-15), Saul was moved to tears by his kindness. But Saul did not seize this opportunity for reconciliation. As genuine as his tears may have been in the moment, his response was ultimately superficial and short-lived, the result of a hardened and blackened heart. We know this because he continued to hunt David.
The Bible says the conscience is a basic building block of our humanity. The law of God is written into the human heart, whether we have heard His commandments or not (Romans 2:14-15). When we ignore God’s law to follow our own way, we experience guilt and shame. In that moment, we are faced with a choice: Will we seek forgiveness and reconciliation? Or will we allow our conscience to be further hardened by pursuing our selfish desires?
A guilty conscience is a heavy burden, but it can also be a gift. Walter J. Chantry writes, “Conscience is a friend to hurry you into the arms of the only Saviour from the broken law and its curse.” If you are experiencing the burden of a guilty conscience, do not mistake momentary sorrow for real repentance. Turn to God in repentance, turning from your sin and in His strength resolving to change. That is the way to be forgiven. For if a guilty conscience is the gift that drives you to God, a cleansed conscience is the gift that you will receive from Him.
How is God calling me to think differently?
How is God reordering my heart’s affections — what I love?
What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?
Teach Me Your Paths
1To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
3Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
6Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
8Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11For your name's sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12Who is the man who fears the Lord?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14The friendship1 of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
18Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
19Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
22Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his troubles.
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