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Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. Psalm 19:13 (NIV)

Tucked away in the book of Daniel is a little phrase that to this day haunts me. Daniel is interpreting the handwriting on the wall to King Beltashazzar (Daniel 5). He reminds the King of the lessons his father, Nebuchadnezzar, learned about acknowledging God as being the one true God. He reminded him of the lesson his father learned about worshipping the God of Heaven and not the god of silver and gold. Then comes the statement in Daniel 5:22 (my paraphrase): “But you knew better.”

The lesson? Nebuchadnezzar worshipped false gods because of ignorance. Beltashazzar worshipped false gods because he wanted to. He chose what to worship in full knowledge of the lessons his father learned.

The passage would imply that God’s judgment is harsher on those who sin willfully than it is on those who go astray on their own volition. Nebuchadnezzar was removed temporarily from this throne for his ignorance. Beltashazzar was killed for his rebellion.

Choosing to sin when we know better is nothing new of course. Eve knew better, as did Abraham, Moses, David and, well, those of us who call ourselves Christ followers. We all can identify with the Apostle Paul in Romans 7. The good things we long to do, we fail to do. The bad things we hate doing, we keep doing over and over again. There is small relief for us when the writer that says (1 Corinthians 10:13) there is no temptation that attacks us that we can’t overcome is the same person who writes of his struggle to overcome temptation. But the question is, why? What is it within our human nature that keeps us from doing right?

Willful sin attacks us for several reasons. I list a few here. You may be able to think of others. We sin willfully:

  • Because it is fun! We may not want to admit that on the surface, but the reality is we choose intentionally to do things we know we shouldn’t because we’d rather trade momentary pleasure for eternal peace.
  • For self-preservation. When our identity is attacked or we perceive it is, we react to protect it. Why do we react to being cut off on the interstate or when someone attacks us verbally or gives us bad service at the coffee shop? Because their actions tell us we aren’t important and we react accordingly.
  • Pride: Pride could actually be the summary of all these reasons, but the pride I’m talking about here is the pride that tells us, “I deserve this little ‘vice’ because I work hard; I’m a good parent; I do so many good things for God; etc, etc. So we visit the websites we know we shouldn’t; we tell our friends one little piece of gossip; we allow ourselves the indulgences we know hurt our relationship with Christ because all of us deserve an occasional lapse in judgment.
  • Ignorance: When we follow Christ, we acknowledge that he died on the cross for the penalty of my sin; that he rose from the dead to conquer death and that he went back to heaven to intercede for us, prepare a place for us and so he could send his Holy Spirit to guide us. However, on occasion we choose our own way because we forget or fail to realize the pain Christ suffered for us and how our rebellion, small as it may seem, hurts the relationship with Christ.
  • Apathy: This one is a tough one, but if we think back to those times we’ve chosen to go our way, we’ve done so because we really just didn’t care. We know we’ll be forgiven. We know we’ll go to heaven. We don’t take time to think of consequences.


The Psalmist isn’t as concerned about the sins he commits in ignorance as he is the sins he commits out of choice. May each of us who bear the name of Jesus echo his prayer.

PRAYER: Father God, I echo the prayer of Psalm 19:13. Much as I love you I confess that many times I choose to go against you out of willful desire. Forgive me for those sins that easily beset me, the sins I know are wrong but I do them anyway. Thank you for Jesus. May I live worthy of the calling that is within me. Thank you for your grace. Amen.

He makes known secrets that are deep and hidden; he knows what is hidden in darkness, and light is all around him. Daniel 2:22 (NCV)

I love to camp. There is just something about the great outdoors and falling asleep to the soft noises of the night…most of the time. Several years ago I was camping alone in a favorite, nearby state park. At that time I had a small two man tent, just big enough to be cozy and warm in. The site next to me was occupied by a couple of young men. I watched them occasionally from my campfire as I read. In a word, they were strange.

They arrived shortly after I did on Friday night and set up camp. From the start it was obvious they didn’t camp much as they didn’t look prepared to camp at all. Shortly after their arrival they put up pieces of paper on the trees in their sight and then walked away. My curiosity overwhelmed me so I went to check on the paper. They were just a bunch of weird designs. Nothing made sense about these two the rest of the evening.

That night I was awakened by a strange noise. It sounded like someone fighting. No yelling, but the sound of punch after punch finding its mark. Then…silence. A few moments later I heard something that sounded like a body being drug through the woods. Had there been a murder? Was I fully awake or partially dreaming? I didn’t know. I knew one thing though. I was scared!

The sound came closer to my little tent and I froze. I didn’t dare look outside, and didn’t know if I was in danger or not! Then a new sound. The sound of a nearby tree cracking and slowly falling to the ground. I braced for impact. Then, nothing. Complete silence. As you can probably imagine, I didn’t sleep much the rest of the night.

The next morning my friends next door left. I noticed a small tree had fallen on the other side of my campsite, several yards from my tent. To this day I have no idea what I heard or what went on that night. As I thought through things the next morning I ascertained that most likely the thumping sounds were made by a passing bear and the tree could have fallen victim to that bear or just fallen from natural causes.

Physical darkness can be fearful for us, but physical darkness is nothing like the fear we in broad daylight. Those times when we wonder what is going on in secret before our eyes. Evil surrounds us. We question the motives of friends and foe, family members or co-workers.

Making it through the times of emotional or spiritual darkness involves trust and trust, on the human plane is risky at best. We trust our lover and then find we’ve been cheated on. We trust our employers until we hear our jobs are on the line. We trust our children until the police car pulls into the driveway.

Daniel was faced with a challenge. His life depended on the answer he would give. I don’t think Daniel was worried. He didn’t trust the King. He didn’t trust the men surrounding him. But he did trust his God.

You may be going through a period of time in your life when you are confused or scared by what you see around you. You may be nursing the wounds of being cheated on, lied about or deceived. You may have lost faith in all mankind and even started questioning God. During times of fear and confusion trust is the hardest thing to grasp ahold of and the most important thing to cling to.

We may not always know what is going on in the ‘darkness’ of our lives. We can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that our loving, gracious and merciful Father knows. We may have to endure a few times when we don’t understand what is going on around us. But he is a God of light. He doesn’t give light. He IS light. In his perfect time all things will be exposed. You can trust him to see you through the darkness.

PRAYER: Father God, I know these words are true, but it doesn’t make it much easier right now to be honest. I’m scared. I’m worried. I’m hurt. Everyone I’ve trusted has failed me, but I ask that you would empower me to trust you in the darkness. Amen.

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