Integrity [Happiness Formation 6/10] (Video)

The topic for today is Integrity: the fifth spiritual muscle for happiness formation. How does integrity affect our happiness? Let us explore this secret from the Bible.

[Hi, in case you don’t know me, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper. You are the light, and I am the keeper! Your light is your service to the world, and my job is to help you shine your brightest so that you are gratified, and God is glorified.]

Now, what does integrity have anything to do with happiness? King David said,

Because of my integrity, you uphold me
and set me in your presence forever
.” (Ps 41:12).

It says his integrity is the key to God’s presence. According to King David, God’s presence is the place for ultimate joy and eternal happiness. He said,

In your presence, there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore
.” (Ps 16:11b).

So, if we want to be at the presence of God and experience the ultimate and eternal happiness, you need to tone the muscle of integrity.

Now, what is integrity? Most people think integrity is the same as honesty, but it is more than that. The Latin root “integritās” means “wholeness,” “oneness,” “flawlessness,” or “blamelessness.”

Depending on the meaning you pick from here, integrity is quite challenging to have. How can anyone be whole, flawless, or blameless? The Bible says, “No one is righteous, not even one.” If that is the case, the biblical definition of integrity is different from the secular definition.  It is neither righteousness nor perfection.

It is not honesty, but commitment. Keep this thought in mind as we explore the Bible on this subject.

If you know King David’s story, you know that he was far from blameless. Yet, twice in the Bible, David was mentioned as “a man after God’s own heart.” The first time was when Divided was anointed to be the successor of King Saul. It says,

The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart; and the LORD has appointed him to be ruler over his people.” (1 Sam 13:14c).

Later in the Book of Acts, Paul repeated King David place in God’s heart,

In his testimony about him he (the Lord) said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’” (Acts 13:22b).

The good news is if someone as sinful as King David can be a man after God’s own heart, you and I have hope. The question is what qualified David to be the man after God’s own heart? What is the “secret chord” he has that when he played it, he pleased the Lord.

You know the song, right? Lenard Cohen’s Hallelujah is hailed as the greatest pop song ever written. It starts this way,

“I’d heard there was a secret chord,
That David played, and it pleased the Lord.”

Have you wondered what that chord is? That chord is the chord of integrity, but it is different from the way the world defines it. That is why it is a “secret” chord. Three thousand years after David walked this earth, it is counter cultural and counter intuitive. Leonard Cohen hid this secret chord in the term “Hallelujah,” which means “God be praised!”  

So, let us unpack this secret chord by looking at the darkest time of King David’s life. It reads like an episode in the crime TV series, such as Law and Order or NCIS. You might remember that it all begins with loitering and lust. Instead of leading his army in an ongoing war, David was loitering on the roof of his palace. As the proverb says, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” The Bible says,

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, ‘She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her … Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, ‘I am pregnant.’” (2 Sam 11:2-5).

This is a 3,000-year-old story. If you like to watch Law and Order or NCIS, you might say that there is nothing new under the sun. A man in power saw a beautiful woman, committed adultery with her, and got her pregnant.

Her name was Bathsheba, the wife of an elite soldier, Uriah, who was away fighting a battle. King David betrayed his own soldier, who was faithful to the country. Psychologically, this was not a consensual affair because David was the king in the position of authority. It was an abuse of power.

In our days, when a president commits something like this, he would be impeached, and we have done that to President Bill Clinton. However, in King David’s time, there is no check and balance system setup to keep the king accountable. He was free to sink deep into his sin without any human being keeping him checked, except God of course.

Now, she is pregnant. The only way to cover it up is to bring her husband home and make him sleep with her so that it would look like the pregnancy was normal. The problem was that Uriah refused to go home because, as a good soldier, he felt his conscience did not allow him to enjoy a relaxing night at home with his wife when his commander and the fellow soldiers were camping in the warzone.

Hearing he did not go home, the next day, King David invited him for dinner and got him drunk and sent him home again so that he would sleep with his wife. Yet again, he slept with other soldiers without going home to be with his wife.

As you see, King David is now stuck. He consented to commit an even worse crime. He ordered his commander, Joab, to send Uriah to the frontline and got him killed by the enemies. Now, David had committed not only adultery but also murder. This is what happened next. The Bible says,

When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.” (2 Sam 11:26-27).

Even though there was no political check and balance, there was spiritual accountability. There is a higher power, the Lord himself, who was displeased with what David had done. He had to pay a steep price for his sin.

David might think he had his crimes well covered up, but soon the day of reckoning arrived. Prophet Nathan was sent to convict David, but he knew he could be silenced if he was blunt. So, Nathan came up with a story to make David convict himself. The Bible says,

The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (2 Sam 12:1-7a).

According to David’s own conviction, he has committed a capital crime, punishable by death. When Nathan said, “You are the man,” it must be like a thunder falling on his head.

Nathan reminded him how much God had blessed him. God protected him from the tyranny of King Saul, his master. God gave him the kingdom and many concubines, and God is willing to give him more if he wanted. However, he stole the wife of a poor soldier and have him murdered.

What was interesting about this story is that God felt despised. The Lord said,

And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.” (2 Sam 12:8b-10).

The Lord did not define David’s crime as an injustice to men, but as in insult to God.

Suddenly, David recognized his sin and repented immediately. In his Psalm of repentance, David wrote,

Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge
.” (Psalm 51:4).

From this, we have learned that every injustice or evil committed on a fellow human being is an insult against God. “Against you, you only, have I sinned.” How does it happen? Usually, when we offend someone, we think we only owe that person an apology.

King David said his sin was against God and God alone. Why? It is because every human being is created in God’s image, and when we insult a human being, we insult God’s image or God himself. I will not cover the entire Psalm 51 because it is long, but we found the “secret chord” in this psalm. David said,

Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
” (Ps 51:11).

This verse is a great example of King David as “a man after God’s own heart.” The biblical definition of integrity is not perfection but determination or commitment to maintain oneness with God. It makes sense because integrity means wholeness, oneness, or fully integrated. Life without God is a disintegrated life.

This verse is similar to Jacob’s refusal to let God go after wrestling with Him all night long, and God had put his hip out of joint, he still did not let him go despite the pain. Jacob said,

I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (Gen 32:26).

Jacob refused to lose his oneness with God.

You know the story of Job (which was your reading assignment last week). Job at first lost his property, livestock, servants, all his wealth, and even his children. His wife was still with him up to that point. However, it did not stop there. The Bible says,

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.” (Job 2:7-8).

Can you imagine what it is like to have loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head and have scrape himself with a potsherd and sit among the ashes? Remember he was a man of abundance until a short while ago. For his wife, that was the breaking point. The Bible says,

Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.’” (Job 2:9).

His wife was done with God. In this verse, we see another biblical example of integrity. It indicates a refusal to let go of God. It is maintaining oneness with God in thick and thin. Job was one of God’s favorite man. Even though the Bible did not state it, he was obviously another man after God’s own heart. God said to Satan,

Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” (Job 2:3).

This is the secret chord. Leonard Cohen beautifully used one word to depict this chord, “Hallelujah.” It is his poetic representation of integrity and holding on to oneness with God.

Job said even near the end,

Till I die, I will not put away my integrity from me.” (Job 27:5).

All the great men of integrity, including David, Jacob, and Job that we have talked about, showed that they rather die than losing oneness with God. In fact, the kindest way to treat people is keeping your integrity and maintaining oneness with God.

In the same way, the greatest fear of King David was not God’s punishment. His greatest fear was God’s rejection, disconnection with God, or losing oneness with God. That is what makes him a man after God’s own heart.

David never turned to idolatry. There are about forty kings in the Bible, and most of them have turned to idolatry, including his son King Solomon, but David never did. His integrity with God has allowed him to write 73 beautiful psalms that billions of people around the world have read them in the past three thousand years.

Now let us summarize it. Integrity means maintaining oneness with God through thick or thin. This verse shows us how David held on to oneness with God.

Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
” (Ps 51:11).

Integrity places us in God’s presence.

Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.” (Ps 41:12).

God’s presence is where the ultimate joy and eternal happiness are experienced.

In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore
.” (Ps 16:11b).

Now, your homework today is to sing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and think about the “secret chord.” Let us all be able to maintain a spirit of hallelujah through thick and thin, so the Lord will set us up in His presence forever and always experience the fullness of joy. Amen!