Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for the West Side Church. Please feel free to follow along.
In today’s sermon Marty referenced part of today’s reading (Psalms 51 & 52). Marty told the story of why we hold up our right hand when being sworn into a testimony in a court setting.
The practice can be traced back to the Middle Ages. When someone was standing trial before a court and all the evidence was staked against them, they had one option left … They could appeal to a clergy. What would happen is a clergy man would come in and ask the defendant to read Psalm 51. Psalm 51 is what David writes following his encounter with Bathsheba:
David has had an affair with a woman he caught bathing on her roof. The woman was married and her husband was one of David’s best fighting men. It was the time of war and he was out fighting for his king. David soon learned that the woman was pregnant with his child, so he summoned home her husband in hopes he would sleep with her. But this fighting man was too noble and would not sleep with his wife. So David decided to have him killed in battle. The plot plays out, the husband dies and David makes the woman his wife. When the baby is born, Nathan the profit comes to David to tell him a story. David is troubles by the story and rules that the man in the wrong in the story should be punished. Nathan then tells David the man in the wrong in the story is David. Soon the baby created out of lust dies, David mourns, and then writes this Psalm.
So, the defendant would have to read this psalm, and if he could get through it without any mistakes, without slipping up, without stuttering on one word, the person was free to go. If they slipped up, they would then be sentenced. However, a person was only allowed to appeal to the clergy one time in there life. To mark whether a person had done this, they would brand the palm of their right hand. If a person was accused again and brought before a court they would ask them to raise their right hand to show whether they had appealed to the clergy or not.
So what does this have to do with our Bible study and our reading? Not a whole lot. It was more of a fun story to tell. However, let me remind you that the grace and love of Jesus is not a one time appeal. When you slip up, if you mess up in life, Jesus does not hold it against you that you have already been branded. In fact Jesus looks for the mark and is gland when he finds that you have already been branded. Jesus is all about creating in you a pure heart and renewing your steadfast spirit. What an amazing God we serve.