Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Does God Sideline Messy People?

This question came up in a recent conversation. We were discussing the idea that God sidelined people in the Bible and He continues setting people aside today. The question is,

Does God move people out for a time so they can "get better?" 

Take Moses, for example. He grew up to be a great leader among his adoptive Egyptian family. When he observed the distress of his own people, the Hebrews, he defended their plight by killing one of their Egyptian oppressors. Moses immediately fled the scene.

Moses Flees to Midian

Replica of Michelangelo's Moses at Victoria and Albert Museum
"One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by well."
Exodus 2:11-15

It would be easy to think that God was done with Moses, at least for the time being. He needed time to cool off, learn his lesson and repent before God could consider using him again. We are quick to join in with that kind of thinking and we shout, "Off to the desert with you, Moses!"

Not only is that not what I see as I read scripture, it is not what I believe about God

"Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock. When they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come home so soon today?” They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” He said to his daughters, “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”
Exodus 2:16-22

Contrary to God being done with Moses and sending him on a slow boat to China, he sends him on a rescue mission! Without flinching, Moses descends on the haughty rude band of broods who threatened the women at the well. Defender of the weak and oppressed, Moses continues doing what he does best. He steps in and saves. God then prepared the way for Moses to marry and have a family. Moses served his father-in-law by caring for his flocks. "And Moses was content..." Rather than setting Moses aside because of the mess he was in, God continued using him. God used the uniqueness of his personality to care for this family in the way only Moses could. No doubt, Moses had plenty of time to reflect on all that happened in Egypt. However, he was not idly sitting by while God marched on without him.

A Right View of Scripture

We tend to get passages like this wrong when we view the Bible with a wrong lens. The Bible is the story of God redeeming and using messed up people. That is all of us. Messed up people is all God has to work with. The Bible is not the story of God cleaning us up bit by bit to the point of readiness for His Kingdom. If we view it that way we can't help but see this story as an example of someone who really messed up, repented long and hard enough and was let back into God's Kingdom to get going again.

 A Right View of God

If our theology tells us that God is done with us and our messes, we are all in a heap of trouble. Thankfully, God is not done with us and never will be. From the beginning He had a plan to rescue lost and sinful people. By sending Jesus to die and take upon himself the whole mess, not just part, He made a statement. We are so loved and so valued that God sent His Son on our behalf. Not after we got cleaned up, but in the midst of our muck. This is the ongoing story of redemption. God doesn't wait for Mr. and Mrs. Clean. He moves in and rolls up his sleeves. God is pleased to meet us right where we are and use us right where He puts us. He is not the one with the timeout chair. We are. We "discern" when others need to sit on the sidelines, judging them as "less than." Less than whole. Less than capable. Less than the standard required. Less than solid. Less than "godly." (There are certainly times in our lives when stepping away from ministry or specific roles is beneficial. That is a far different situation than assuming God has set people aside from usefulness in His Kingdom.)

Do you know what happened to David after he had Bathsheba's husband killed? Nathan called him out. His son died. But God...gave him a son! Solomon. Then he gave him victory over the Ammonites! If David had committed adultery in our day we would have rushed him off to counseling in some far away treatment facility and sanitized the area to rid ourselves of any association with that creep. We would assume that God is sidelining him for a time until he is "better." We wrongly conclude that God is done with him. We have forgotten who God is - the One who uses messed up people right where they are. This is the good news of the gospel. God does not wait for us to get better.

If you are feeling set aside or sidelined, know that that is what the world does. It is not what God does. Regardless of your situation or circumstance, God is using you. You may not feel like it, but it's true. You don't have to manufacture a testimony, write about a trial or speak about hard times. Just live. Live in light of God's favor on you, God's love for you and God's delight in you.

1 comment:

  1. Why are you not posting? Your words, and honesty, have helped me.Please write again.