restoration

God is truly just.

God is truly just.

2 Chronicles 19

I was recently having a conversation with friends about justice. Particularly about our "justice" system and whether it correlates to God’s definition of justice. I don’t believe so, and I’ll tell you why. In this world, we are typically limited to a style of "justice" that is more retributive than anything else. For instance, if one person murders another, the only option available to us is to inflict some sort of punishment on the perpetrator for their wrongdoing—whether that be prison time or even sentencing them to death.

God has three Rs of His own.

1 Chronicles 20

In English (especially colloquial English), we have two sets of famous Rs. More specifically, the three Rs. There is one set of Rs to describe the main subjects in school: reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic (math). Of course, these three words don’t all begin with the letter r, but all of them begin with the sound of the letter r. More recently, a second pair of three Rs has been coined and made famous by the environmental movement, as a reminder for what we should do to protect the Earth: reduce, reuse, recycle.

But, did you know that God has His own set of three Rs? His list—when it comes to dealing with His sinful creatures—is reclaim, redeem, restore. 1 Chronicles 20 gives us a glimpse into the restoration part of a story that unfolded in 2 Samuel 12. You might not have realized it, but an awful lot transpired between two of the sentences in the first verse of this chapter. "In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, Joab led out the armed forces. He laid waste the land of the Ammonites and went to Rabbah and besieged it, but David remained in Jerusalem. ** Joab attacked Rabbah and left it in ruins." (vs 1)

Where I marked the text with asterisks was that whole sordid affair with Bathsheba and Uriah that marred David’s career as king. Instead of being out on the battlefield with his army (as he should have been), David remained in Jerusalem... and got into a lot of trouble. It was only after the prophet Nathan confronted him and David repented that he returned to the battlefield as Joab attacked and defeated Rabbah.

Photo © Unsplash/Clark Young

Photo © Unsplash/Clark Young

David had made grievous errors in judgment as king. He had committed adultery and murder, totally straying from the mission God had laid out to him in his role as the shepherd of Israel. He had betrayed Israel’s trust and God’s trust. He had failed. Even after repenting and turning from his sin, should David still have been allowed to be king? Had his sins been too great for redemption?

Apparently not. In a beautiful twist, the very next verse says that the precious-stone-laden crown from the king of Rabbah was taken and put on David’s head. To me, it was as if God was once again anointing David as king. Even though you have screwed up, my child, I can use what was meant for evil and bring good from it. God wanted David to know that He hadn’t abandoned him as king.

When God encounters us in our sin, He reclaims us. He confronts us, relentlessly pursuing us, trying to persuade us to turn around and come back to Him. If we are willing to turn back to Him, He redeems us. No matter where we have been or what we have done, God is able to take all of our mistakes and turn them into something beautiful—even better than we can imagine.

Photo © Unsplash/Dietmar Becker

Photo © Unsplash/Dietmar Becker

And finally, He restores us. If you remember the story of the prodigal son, the father didn’t just accept his son back home. He immediately threw a robe around his shoulders and put the family ring on his hand (or, in other words, gave him the family checkbook). He restored him to his previous position. And that’s what God does with us. Though we have fallen so far, He doesn’t treat us like that. He makes it clear that He doesn’t even see us like that. Just as He wanted David to know that He still thought of him as king, He wants us to know that we are no less precious in His sight because of what we have done. He is just anxious to reclaim us, redeem us, and restore us.

God makes beautiful things out of our mistakes.

God makes beautiful things out of our mistakes.

1 Chronicles 2

Okay, ready for genealogy lesson number two? In this chapter, we revisit the genealogy of the twelve tribes of Israel. In it, we find the story of Er and Onan (the sons of Judah) and Tamar. Tamar was married to Er, but before they could have children, Er died. As Er’s brother, Onan was supposed to marry Tamar and continue the family line. He refused, and he died. Tamar appealed to Judah regarding her situation, but even he was unsympathetic.

God wants to change our hearts.

God wants to change our hearts.

2 Kings 21

Ah, the old, familiar refrain—another evil king in Judah: "Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done." (vs 1-3)

God doesn't make junk.

God doesn't make junk.

2 Kings 17

Evil, evil, and more evil. Where does it all lead? To the ruin of God’s creation! Did you notice this verse? "But [the Israelites] would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the Lord their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless." (vs 14-15)

God can restore everything.

God can restore everything.

2 Kings 8

Since I didn’t end up commenting on her in chapter 4, I’m glad the Shunammite woman is back again. You remember her: She was the gal who (along with her husband) built a room in their home for the prophet Elijah. And, in order to repay their kindness, Elijah told the childless couple that they would have a son. This obviously delighted the woman, but it was clear that she didn’t want to get her hopes up. What I really loved about her, though, was what she did when her son died of a head injury several years later. The woman went immediately to Elijah and said, "Did I ask you for a son, my lord? Didn’t I tell you, 'Don’t raise my hopes?'" (2 Kings 4:28)

God brings life to dead places.

God brings life to dead places.

2 Kings 2

God is life. No matter how barren a place, no matter how dead, His Spirit can bring new life. At least, that’s what we see happening in this chapter of 2 Kings: "The people of [Jericho] said to Elisha, 'Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.' 'Bring me a new bowl,' he said, 'and put salt in it.' So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, 'This is what the Lord says: "I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive."' And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken." (vs 19-22)

God is looking for willingness.

God is looking for willingness.

1 Kings 15

There is a lot of controversy in Christian circles over the issue of obedience to the law, sanctification, perfection, etc. Some people say that perfect obedience to God’s law is required for salvation. Others say that the law was nailed to the cross with Jesus, so there is no law to keep. Still others say that Jesus kept the law perfectly so we wouldn’t have to. He keeps it for us. To be blunt, I think they’re all wrong.

God's justice is different than ours.

God's justice is different than ours.

2 SAMUEL 3

Sometimes it’s difficult to make a statement about God from a chapter in the Bible that doesn’t really mention God at all. However, in this particular chapter, one of the small (and often overlooked) events really stood out to me, and I realized it was a great opportunity to draw a contrast between our type of "justice" and God’s justice.

Fear {gn46:3}

genesis-fear-poem.png

Someday we will understand
just how much
we were ruled by fear
in this world,
how we inhaled
and exhaled
fear
when all the time
we thought we were
breathing oxygen.

Fear is our daily diet.
Fear of dying,
fear of living,
fear of being stuck.
Fear for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
and as many snacks as we can
cram in between.
We are so steeped
in fear
that we think
to be human
is to be afraid.
But this was not
the original
design.

Fear is what we ate
at the tree,
fear the disease
that infected
our first parents
and then their children
and their children
and their children's children.

Fear is malware,
implanted by an enemy,
introduced by an interloper
so long ago,
a virus that will
eventually
crash the system
for good
if we don't allow
our manufacturer
to return us to
the factory default.

God is always telling us
to not be afraid.
This is not parental placating.
This is war propaganda.

To choose to be unafraid
is not a rejection of our nature,
but a rejection of the enemy.

To choose to be unafraid
is not a sentimental act,
but a revolutionary one.

 

God dissolves sin.

God dissolves sin.

1 SAMUEL 12

Out of this whole chapter, there was one verse that jumped out at me. As Samuel was giving his farewell address to the Israelites, they began to lament over the new evil they had done—asking for a king. In response to their distress, "Samuel answered, 'Don’t be afraid. It’s true that you have sinned, but don’t turn away from the Lord. Serve the Lord with all your heart.'" (vs 20)

A Change of Heart {gn44:33-34}

Photo © Unsplash/Fadi Xd

Photo © Unsplash/Fadi Xd

as the years had come and gone
since selling Joseph like a pawn
Judah'd had a lot of time
to contemplate his clever crime

but watching how his father grieved
had been much worse than he'd conceived
it wore him down, right to the bone
he reaped much more than he had sown

until at last, a broken man,
he lived a different master plan:
a willingness to be the slave
to sacrifice, and thus to save

redemption needn't seem so strange
even dirty hearts can change

 

God does not restore us.

God does not restore us.

RUTH 4

So, in the end, Ruth finds love. She has left her homeland, her people, and her customs to move with her mother-in-law back to Israel. And because of her willingness to follow God, she ends up as the wife of Boaz and the great-grandmother of King David (not to mention a direct ancestor of Jesus). From her lowly status as a heathen woman, she becomes a woman honored in the history of Israel. I think that’s incredible.

God has a Happy New Year for each day.

God has a Happy New Year for each day.

DEUTERONOMY 30

I found it curious that, in this chapter, Moses almost seems to prophesy that the Israelites will turn away from God: "When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you." (vs 1-3)

God reveals the heart.

God reveals the heart.

DEUTERONOMY 8

I was intrigued by this verse today: "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." (vs 2)  As I read, I thought, didn’t God already know what was in the hearts of the Israelites? Of course He did. God knows us intimately and reads our hearts.