Psalm 51: Darkness and Light
Paul David Tripp
For I know my transgressions. (Psalm 51:3)
He’d lived in the darkness for so long he didn’t know that it was dark. Dark was normal, and since he’d never experienced light, dark didn’t seem dark to him. It wasn’t as though he woke up in the morning praying and longing for light. And it wasn’t that he had to work to accept the darkness. No, darkness was all he’d ever known. Sure, he fumbled around, bumped into things, and fell down a lot, but none of it bothered him. It was what every day was like for him. He didn’t really long to see. He didn’t long to see because he didn’t know that there was anything worth seeing. He really did think that he saw all there was to see—darkness. He didn’t have an accurate sense of size, shape, or color. He had little sense of beauty. He didn’t really know what things looked like because the darkness he lived in was so pervasive that the objects around him were but shadows, blobs, and blurs.
He had no idea what he looked like because he’d never really seen himself. He thought he knew what he looked like because he’d touched his face and run his hands down his torso, but he’d never seen himself in the light. He was actually quite content in his darkened world, and he was quite happy to do what people do when you live in a dark place. He just got up everyday and did what you do when you can’t see. Except he didn’t know that he couldn’t see, because he’d never seen, because he’d always lived in darkness.
Then it happened one day. He hadn’t longed for it. He hadn’t asked for it. It just happened. A shaft of light exploded into his world. At first it scared and confused him. He didn’t know what it was and his eyes didn’t seem able to take it in. All he really knew was that it was different from the darkness he’d always known. It was bright and beautiful and it hurt his eyes, but he couldn’t stop looking. He couldn’t keep himself from walking toward the light. The closer he got to the light, the more he began to see what was around him. There was a whole world of shapes and colors he’d never seen. But something even more profound began to happen to him. It was shocking, disturbing, and exciting all at once. The closer he got to the light, the more he saw himself! The first thing he realized was that he was naked. For the first time he felt naked. For the first time his nakedness made him uncomfortable. But he not only realized he was naked, he realized he was dirty. And not only was he dirty, he was confronted with the fact that he was lame.
He kept walking toward the light, and he felt joy as he did so, but the joy was mixed with grief. As he walked he began to weep. He’d never wept like this before. He wept at the pain he felt over his condition. He’d not known how dirty he was. He’d not known how crippled he was, and he felt overwhelmed at what he now knew. He was stunned by the fact that he’d been this way since birth and he’d never known it. He was shocked that he’d never figured out that he moved with a limp. But his shock was quickly mixed with the deepest longing he’d ever felt. It was like he was starved for something he’d never eaten but now wanted desperately. What he wanted desperately for the first time in his life was to be clean. For the first time in his life he wasn’t satisfied being crippled. He longed to be healed. And even though he didn’t understand light at all, for the first time in his life he wanted to live in it. And he couldn’t imagine ever being content to live in the darkness again.
So he started to run. He ran because he felt drawn—drawn to the light that had so radically altered his world. He wanted to be in the light because somehow he knew that if he could get in the light, he’d be washed and he’d be clean. Somehow he knew that if he could get to the light he would be healed. He’d never run before because he knew he couldn’t run because he was lame, but he did run. The light was drawing him. The light was giving him strength.
He remembers well those darkened days in that darkened place. He remembers it all with a broken and a celebratory heart. And he is very aware that not only has he been cleansed and healed, he’s been given the ability to see as well. And he’s deeply grateful that he’s been clothed with what he couldn’t purchase and that deep within him has been placed the desire to be clean.
Generous in love—God, give grace!
Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down. (Psalm 51:1–3, The Message)
Take a Moment
1. By his amazing grace God has freed you from darkness and freed you to live in the light of his love and truth. Where are you still tempted or attracted to the darkness (an old habit, a previous relationship, a secret desire, a troubling pattern of thought)?
2. What changes has God brought into your life that you need to see, to remember, to celebrate, and to pursue?