Read: Hebrews 11:35-38
This week, my husband and I listened to Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, on Family Talk. What a powerful word she gave concerning the preciousness of life from the womb to the tomb. She understands the forgiveness Jesus holds out having had two abortions, prior to being born again. The love she has received from her Savior radiates out through her words. Although I enjoyed several different topics Alveda King spoke about, there was one quote that has not left me. May I tell the story and share the quote?
She didn't tell us how old she was when this occurred. Most likely she was a young child not yet in her teens. She had gone shopping with her grandma whom they called Big Mama. The two of them passed near a tea shop called the Magnolia House. It was beautiful inside, and they could see dressed up women and little girls happily going in.
Alveda King and her grandma were dressed nicely in their "Going shopping" clothes. Alveda longed to enter that tea shop and have its delicious fare along with the other young ladies, but sadly, she was told that they would need to eat in the basement of the shop. Along with the help. Alveda King wanted to know why? Her grandma gave this wise answer. "It shouldn't be this way. It won't always be this way." What profound words. Her grandma held out two parallel truths. First, Big Mama told her granddaughter that being denied this sweet experience wasn't right. She didn't blow off Alveda’s question or try to say that it didn't matter, and that led right into the second part of the quote. "It won't always be this way." She offered hope to the child not vitriol and bitter words. Rather, she held out the truth that things would someday, be different. It turns out that Martin Luther King had received those same wise words when he asked his mother why he couldn't go into the shoe store and try on the shoes right there. Martin Luther's response to this quote? “Someday”, he said, he would "turn the world upside down." It happened just as he predicted. He was involved in changing the discriminatory laws and practices that were so hard for him and Alveda to understand.
I think that quote has stuck with me because the words are applicable in so many circumstances of life. So often, we find ourselves sorrowful as we see the "shouldn't be" circumstances. We see righteous people mocked and marginalized. We observe evil being spoken of as good and good spoken of as evil, Isaiah 5:20. I'm thankful that the Bible doesn't command us to pretend such actions aren't hurtful to those who are experiencing them even though God has told us that tribulations are to be expected and that those Who belonged to the world system would react this way, John 16:33; John 15:18-21. Jesus Himself dealt with the pain of being mocked and misunderstood. It surely should not have been that way when Almighty God Who had come to give His life to ransom us sinners, Matthew 20:28; Revelation 5:9 was the One being treated so badly. The One Who never sinned bore the taunts and cruelty of those He came to save, Isaiah 53:3-5.
In today's reading from Hebrews 11:35-38, we read about people who walked by faith; however, what they endured during their lives was very different than some of those we meet earlier in the chapter. It is in these earlier verses that we see faith being rewarded here on earth. That is how it seems to us that it should be. Righteous living rewarded. Don't we love it when we read about the faith heroes being delivered from death in miraculous ways, Daniel 3:13-30 (Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego); Daniel 6:1-24 (Daniel in lion’s den). There isn't anything wrong with rejoicing when God does wondrous miracles on behalf of His people. After all, even Sarah said that everyone would laugh with her because God had enabled her to have a child at the age of 90, Genesis 21:1-7. May He be praised for His wonders when circumstances are as it seems that they should be.
However, Hebrews 11:35-38 paints a very different picture of people who were just as faithful as the three Hebrew young men; Daniel; Sarah and Abraham. The author of Hebrews speaks of these faithful ones as the ones the world was not worthy of because of the way they were treated. We read their stories of ill treatment, mocking and deaths and cry out that it shouldn't have been that way. What they endured was done by those who opposed God. They did not receive the outcome here that honored their faithfulness. Only God knows all that He did through their lives and why the outcomes they received here on earth were so different than other heroes of the faith.
As Joni Erickson Tada says, "Sometimes God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves." If it were not for sin's entrance into the world, Genesis 3, we would not experience the "shouldn't be" circumstances. Thankfully, we're not stuck with the pain and inequity of the world because, we have the sure promised that it won't always be this way. Is this certain or merely a salve to put on the wounds the world often dishes out? Praise God! Jesus' death and resurrection provides the sure evidence that His mission to free the world from the penalty, power and presence of sin was successful!
No wonder Peter reminds us that we have been born again into a Living Hope and that we have a secure treasure kept safe for us in heaven, 1 Peter 1:3-5. No wishful thinking here. Jesus has a sure plan, and all the inequities His children have experienced will be turned upside down when He rules as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Revelation 19:11-16.
Our challenge is not to become stuck in all that we see that shouldn't be. Yes, we can acknowledge the pain and how it shouldn't be this way; however, we will be able to do Jesus' work when we also revel in the truth that Jesus will surely make all things new, Revelation 21:1-7. We have these parallel truths to share with a world of people Who haven't experienced the Creator/Redeemer's wisdom, power and love. He has seen what should have never happened to each of them, and He holds out the assurance that it won't always be this way; however, there is only one way to receive this Living Hope. That is Jesus, John 14:6; 1 Peter 4:12. If anyone does not receive the provision of cleansing and forgiveness that Jesus now holds out, there will be a different future ahead for him. An eternity without Jesus' love in the lake of fire, Revelation 20:11-15.
If anyone might read this, and you haven't yet chosen Jesus' loving provision, we pray that even today, you might do what Alveda King did. Be born again, John 3:3.