Valuation

If you take the time to read the Bible as a book you will find it’s not some sort of rule manual but a book of art. It has great literature and high stakes drama. It opens people’s lives to the public viewing. It demonstrates humanity at its best and it’s worse. It shows how human value others for better or worse. And it reveals the heart of God the Creator and the importance He places on every human being regardless of their outward appearance and actions. God told Ezekiel: “… all souls are mine …” A few years ago a child into into a very narrow and deep well. Strangers to the child went to great lengths and expense to rescue the child. If anyone, if just one child who has no economic value is that valuable, then shouldn’t everyone be just as valuable. If it’s true for just one person then it is true for everyone.

The apostle Paul told the church in Ephesus that “God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ ( by grace you have been saved)…” God just never seems to run out of mercy. And this is a repeated theme throughout the Bible; God is a God of mercy. That is what sets this God apart from all other gods.

Consider the Creation. When God was planning out what He was going to create, it was no accident that humans were created with free will. God the Creator no doubt ‘ran the numbers’ and realized that giving us free will could very well put a fly in the ointment of His flawless creation. He went ahead and created us anyway and felt like it was worth it. Sometimes we spend too much time paying attention to the negative things in our life and not saying “yes” to our value as God sees us. We are not worthless to Him no matter what we’ve done. And if we say “yes” to our own value as set by God, agreeing with God that we are worthwhile, then we have to say “yes” to the value of others around us.

Seeing ourselves as valuable and worthwhile to God is not a ‘head’ game. It is a matter of the heart’s conviction. Jesus often instructed his disciples in human values. Here is how Matthew records it: “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘Idiot’ shall be guilty before the Supreme Court; and whoever says, you ‘fool or moron’ shall be guilty enough to go to the fires of hell.” We as a society have become so loose in our conversation and what Jesus says is almost meaningless. But what He is bringing out is the contemptible attitude in our hearts toward other people. James, who didn’t become a Christ follower until after the death of his half-brother, makes this observation: “… with our tongues we bless our Lord and father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God …”

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“I will … meet you there.”

And Jesus says to them, “All of you will fall away, because it stands written, I will smite the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered. But after I have been raised I will go before you into Galilee.”

But Peter said to Him, “Even if all will fall away, certainly not I.”

And Jesus says to him, “Truly, I am saying to you, that, as for you, today, on this night, before a rooster crows twice, three times you will deny me.”

And Peter kept on saying with more vehemence and iteration, “If it should be necessary for me to die with you, I will positively not deny you.”

Moreover, in like manner also all kept on saying. [Mark 14:27-31 Wuest Translation]

‘all of you will desert me’— Jesus knows things and He knows our hearts. He tells them ahead of time in plain language that cannot be misconstrued, that they, every last one of them will abandon Him before the night is done. Jesus wants them to know that He knows them better than they know themselves; they will fail. But He is not rejecting them. Nor will he reject them later.

‘I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.’ In the following hours those words may have seemed far-fetched in the disciples minds. This morning as I thought through this whole passage, I was struck by the enormity of Jesus’ words. We often fail our LORD and can be very troubled by the failure. But there is reason for hope. There is reason for knowing that He is a God of mercy and inhuman patience. Here is reason to ask forgiveness, maybe for the thousandth time. He is waiting for us.

‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ Jesus is doing what He is doing based not on our actions or best intentions but on His Father’s purpose. Otherwise there would be not saving grace. We would have no mercy before a just God. The disciples will scatter because they are offended that their hopes are being destroyed. They will stumble. They will lose confidence. Those are the facts that Jesus is putting on the table for them and because His word is indisputable, they will become evidence to the truth about human condition. They are becoming offended at the manner with which Jesus is attempting to bring in His kingdom. Their offense in Him, as were the religious leaders, causes them to not acknowledge His authority. They did not want to be caught up in issues with the Roman government that could easily kill them for their association with Jesus.

I can be most certainly like Peter, at least for some period of time, defending myself against Jesus accusatory [my feeling after I sin] words. I regularly desert Jesus. The temptation becomes powerful, so powerful that it overwhelms my defenses that are at a low point anyway. But Jesus is not accusatory here; He is not reproaching them. He is telling them of better things to come. Yes, there is going to be an immediate time [within a few short hours] of indescribable betrayal, gloom and bitterness in their souls. But wait! Here is the good news! ‘I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.’ By week end, you will experience the hope of the resurrection. No matter how far we feel we have moved away from God, He is always ready and willing to meet us. Take those guilty feelings to the One who knows you best.

God’s Strange Work

But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the LORD was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. [Genesis 19:16 NASB]

God’s work is sometimes strange to me. God can annihilate wickedness and yet at the same time exhibit grace to resistant humans. God can, as we see in this account, reach the end of His patience and bring righteous judgment and at the same time show mercy because of a man’s intercessory prayer. Sodom is destroyed but Lot with his wife and two daughters are delivered from destruction because of Abraham’s plea.

Lot is described as a righteous man but his spiritual health was in a weakened state due to some bad choices. He was living as a leading citizen in a city that openly defied the laws of God. He was mocked by people and by his own family. His ‘testimony’ for God was invalidated by his life. I suspect that Lot knew in his heart of hearts that he needed a change. He had been lingering around sin for too long. The Holy Spirit warns us that ” … we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” [Hebrews 2:1 ESV] Lot failed to pay close attention.

As with any salvation provided by God, it is He who takes the steps for deliverance. Lot hesitates to leave. God grabs the hands of Lot and his family and pulls them away by force because He is always merciful even when we are ignorant and resistant to His reformation. God was merciful and did not leave Lot to perish because he was lingering, not wanting to leave his worldly possessions that he acquired over the years. Lot was not saved because of his merits or forethought or awareness of the stench of sin that surrounded him. He was saved only by the mercy of God, as we all are. Our salvation can only be acknowledged in light of God’s mercy, not our own good works.