Read: Hebrews 11:31-32; Luke 23:39-43
Last autumn, the Honey Crisp tree yielded very few apples. From What I read on the Internet; these trees produce a light crop every other year. That is why we have been looking forward to a bountiful harvest this year, and the Lord allowed our expectations to be realized.
This week, my husband and I decided it was time to pick the apples; so, armed with a five-gallon bucket, we went for it. We planned to set some aside for eating and bag the remainder of the good fruit for freezing. Apple pie or crisp on a cold day. Yum. The rule that I go by when I freeze any fruit or vegetables is that nothing goes in the freezer that isn't good enough to be eaten or cooked into something tasty. Simply stated, we choose only the nicest to store and use later. We eliminated some of the apples because they had sustained large bite marks. Big chunks had been bitten out of them. Perhaps by squirrels or birds? Not fit for the freezer; therefore, they were relegated to the garbage bucket. Others were eliminated because they simply fell from the tree prior to being mature enough to have been developed. There's no sweetness in that kind of fruit. Into the garbage bucket it went. Still others were dried up and shriveled, and they were also eliminated. There was no reason to keep any of that produce.
Sadly, sometimes people believe that God has a garbage bucket for those who don't have anything to offer Him. Perhaps it is due to poor choices that have left them eaten away by guilt and shame. Perhaps it is because they are closer to the end of their lives than the beginnings having run from Him, and they now believe that it is too late for them. Whatever the reason, many believe that God would never choose to love them; so, into His garbage bucket they believe they will go. Is that what the scriptures say? Who has God chosen to love, and what does he have to do to gain God's favor? How good does she have to be in order to be set apart for God?? There are many places in the Bible we could dig into, but let's start in Hebrews 11:31-32 where the Lord highlights a variety of men and one woman for their faith. We will pick out four of these faithful ones. Are there any of God's faithful chosen ones whose lives had been greatly marred by guilt or shame in these two short verses? The answer is a resounding yes.
Rahab the prostitute, she is commended because of her faith. She put her hope in what she knew about the Living God. Therefore, she hid the spies who had come to survey the land. The Bible never sugar coats Rahab's past. We don't know, nor do we need to know all the details of this woman's sin. What we do know is that God changed her, even giving her a place in the lineage of Jesus, Matthew 1:5. The shame and guilt of her life was taken away by the God in Whom she put her trust. Many people looking at the outside of Rahab's life would have considered her to be unworthy of being set apart by the Holy One. However, praise the Lord that He does not evaluate the way man does; instead He looks upon the heart, 1 Samuel 16:7.
Gideon, he is commended as a faithful one. If we didn't have God's assessment of Gideon, we probably wouldn't think him worthy of commendation. After all, Judges 6:1-40 pictures him doubting God's call and seeking God's reassurance on more than one occasion concerning God's mission for his life. He didn't believe the first or the second time God graciously reassured him. He was also fearful. Yet, he took his questions and apprehensions to the Lord.
Samson, he was a judge who came against the enemies of God. Yet, his life was riddled with poor choices concerning women, and these choices eventually caused him great misery, 1 Samuel 16:1-31. Again, if we didn't have God's assessment, would we choose this man who frequently wanted what God said was forbidden? Yet, Samson like all of those mentioned in these few verses, though flawed, did eventually turn back toward his God.
David, the scriptures call him a man after God's heart, 1 Samuel 13:14. Again, if we didn't have God's assessment would we categorize him like that? Yes, his life had times of great faith, but David lusted, murdered and tried to cover his sin. Yet, in spite of these activities and other flaws, David eventually did turn back to the Lord and experience the joy of sin and guilt that was washed away by His Savior, 2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 32:1-2.
Rahab, Gideon, Samson and David are reminders of the truth that God chooses and uses people that we wouldn't commend. Their flaws are obvious which gives me great hope. They are display cases of God's grace. People might look at any of their imperfections and not deem them worthy of God's choosing. Yet, isn't that the point?
Romans 5:8 reminds us that God has chosen to set His love upon us even though we are all undeserving sinners. Romans 3:23 states emphatically that we all come short of God's perfection. None of us, not merely the ones we have highlighted from Hebrews 11, deserves to be chosen and set apart by God. Yet, out of His love, He has chosen to do so, John 3:16. All of the people we have considered so far experienced both times of failure and times of faithfulness toward God. But, what about the man whose entire life has been lived apart from God? What about the woman who has lived in rebellion all of her life? When is it too late? Thankfully, the scriptures give us a beautiful example of God's grace, received by one and spurned by another.
Two men hung on crosses with Jesus. At the beginning, we watch as both of them, along with many others, mocked the Savior, Matthew 27:39-44. Then something changed. One criminal became a new man right before our eyes. He went from one who mocked to One who acknowledged his guilt. Instead of revealing Jesus, he understood that this One had done no wrong. He comprehended that Jesus was King and that He had a kingdom, and he asked for admission into this kingdom, Luke 23:39-43. Upon his death, it became too late for one while the other was with Jesus in Paradise. Neither of these two crucified criminals would have a chance to work on earth for the Savior, but one like those mentioned in Hebrews 11:31-32 put his trust in all he knew about the Lord. Jesus response to this one? “Today, you will be with me in paradise”. Luke 23:43.
Praise the Lord. He makes lives new, 2 Corinthians 5:17. He brings sweetness out of barrenness. The one who comes to Him, He will not cast out, John 6:37.