“And Then There Were None” – sinners in the hands of an angry conscience

And_Then_There_Were_None_US_First_Edition_Cover_1940I’m currently reading the classic Agatha Christie novel, “And Then There Were None”.* In the story, 10 people are lured to a large estate on an island by a mysterious host. On their first evening there, they are shocked by the sound of a strange voice coming from the walls. The voice accuses each one of them of a different murder and gives them each a death sentence. Later, they find that the sound of the voice came from a gramophone player in the next room. The novel progresses with each guest dying in strange and cryptic circumstances. (The novel and others like it are the source material for so much parody that as a post modern guy reading it through the filter of “Clue,” I sometimes forget that it’s not a comedy.)

gramophone 1918The picture of a gramophone player behind the wall has stuck with me. It’s a great picture of what goes on in my head sometimes: an accusatory voice-recording that plays over and over, recounting my sins and pronouncing judgement. The voice recalls things that I did today, yesterday and far in the past. Sometimes it even accuses me of things that I might do in the future, things that I have the capacity to do. Then the voice passes judgments like, “You are going to fail, you are going to mess up your kids, you are going to destroy your ministry, you are going to derail God’s mission, you are going to die alone and disgraced.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that you probably have a similar voice in your head.

In the Bible, there’s a great story about a voice of accusation. The prophet Zechariah has a vision of Satan accusing one of the High Priests named Joshua.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” – Zechariah 3:1-3

The LORD uses HIS more powerful voice to rebuke Satan and to undo these accusations. Then He removes the filthy clothes which represent his guilt and his failures and then the LORD replaces them with clean clothes which represent a restored record of conduct and new identity. Then the LORD commands Joshua to listen.

“‘Listen, High Priest Joshua…I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day. – Zechariah 3:8b-9

He is going to speak a new word that will not only remove the sins of Joshua but also pronounce the death sentence of all the sin in the whole land. The death sentence will be carried out by the LORD’s servant, the Branch, the stone with seven eyes (representing wisdom and insight). Today we know the servant/branch/stone by the name Jesus. He has removed the guilt and the accusations and has silenced the voice of accusation.

Through Jesus my guilt has been removed, but I still sometimes listen to the gramophone in the wall. In response to that voice, I have to make a daily practice of “preaching the gospel to myself” over and over again. It’s a major part of my ministry of worship music leading, too. Our songs are weapons against the voice of accusations. We sing them over and over to assure our hearts that the voice of the LORD has spoken his judgment with greater power and efficacy. HIS judgment is:




*Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that the original British versions of this novel used an old racist poem, “Ten Little N******s” as the title of this novel. Yuck! Later publications scrubbed the racist elements of the poem to be “Ten Little Soldiers” which is the edition that I’m reading. Since the racist content had no bearing on the actual story, I think they made a wise choice in changing it – not to mention the fact that racism sucks. If you think about it, the changes to the novel represent a similar removal of “filthy garments,” that was described in Zechariah.

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