So I read Judges today. Yep, all of Judges. What a strange book. It's like the people of Israel need a flashing neon sign at all times telling them that God is with them because the second after His appointed leaders die, all hell breaks loose, and the Israelites start "doing evil in the sight of the Lord" like it's their job. By far, the most important thing I learned from this most interesting book is God's love of using messed up people to accomplish His will. If you don't know the background to Judges, then let me lay it out for you.
Israel has successfully entered the promised land, and Joshua, the leader who took over after Moses croaks, decides it's high time to kick the proverbial bucket as well; leaving Israel without a true leader. No worries though, as long as they continue to worship God they'll be fine. Not a problem right? And this is where we start seeing how incredibly thick we as humans are. Idol worship ensues, as does mixing with other non-Jewish cultures after "unsuccessfully" (they didn't even try) driving them out like they were suppose to. The story goes downhill from there, fast, so God (because He is just and hates evil) allows the surrounding countries to defeat and oppress them. Then God, in His compassion, hears the cries of His oppressed people and raises up from among them a hero (Judge) who will lead them in battle and keep their enemies in fear. The Judge frees Israel, and they rejoice in God until their hero dies. Then BAM, like they hit a fricken spiritual brick wall they immediately slide back into idolatry and immorality. God allows them to be conquered again, and again saves them from their anguish by using a Judge. Their reverence for Yahweh again lasts only as long as the life of their war leader, and the process starts over again and again and again and again (etc.).
My fascination with the stupidity of the people is only eclipsed by my astonishment of the personalities God chose to raise up as leaders. Gideon was a wimpy polygamist who needed so much reassurance (miraculous signs) from God that he was going to be victorious that it practically wiped out any level of faith the man may have had. Also at the end of his life he set up several idols to other Gods much to his discredit. Perhaps the best known Judge, Samson, did just about nothing righteous. He slept with prostitutes, was married to a woman who tried to kill him three times before succeeding, and the one "Godly" act he did was done in disobedience. The time when the Holy Spirit was upon him, and he killed 1000 Philistines, he did so by grabbing the jaw-bone of a dead donkey, which explicitly went against God's commandment to the Jews to not touch dead things. God chose to empower this guy as he was in the process of disobeying Him. He payed for it though. His eyes were gouged out, and he was turned into Philistine party entertainment. With his final prayer, he asked God to give him the strength to bring the structure down. Whether or not taking out 3000 Philistines while you kill yourself (as Samson did) can be considered a righteous act is up for grabs.
One doesn't have to just read Judges to find this trend. David (the man after God's own heart) was a bloodthirsty, adulterous, unstable, murderer; Jonah (one of the first missionaries) was a vengeful legalist; Abraham (the Knight of Faith) tried to sell his wife for his life twice; all the disciples were cowards and morons; Paul was a persecutor of the saints; Jeremiah was a whiner; Moses was a stuttering murderer; in fact, most of the people who have more than a brief mention in the Bible have major flaws. And yet, God uses them. Over and over he delights in taking what is broken and turning it into a shining light for the glory of His name. Over and over he uses incredibly flawed people to accomplish His heavenly aims. He consistently brings Himself glory in His incredible redeeming nature. Ultimately sending His son to perish on a cross, crushing Him with the sin of those He has chosen to forgive.
So I ask you, what are your darkest sins? The ones you nestle deep within you and pray nobody ever stumbles across. Think of your blackest and sickest moment. The moment when the sin you fight the hardest won its greatest victory against you and managed to drag you down into the most loathsome pit you've ever been in. The moment you can only think back on in shame, weakness, and overwhelming guilt. Visualizing it? That very moment, the one you are the most ashamed of, is the very moment Christ died for you. It was that very sin that He bore on the cross that day. In that instant it was your turn to hear the words of your Savior softly whisper, "The price of sin is death, and you had a price to pay. I payed it. You are forgiven." I pray today that you would believe that. That you would know the cross to be sufficient enough to cover your transgressions. That you would not hide from God out of shame and fear. Take heart, for there is no condemnation for you!
However, God is not satisfied with merely forgiving you. No, He wants so much more for you than just that. He wants to use your life in His ongoing saga of redemption and grace. Yeah, you may believe yourself to be a broken, miserable, sad excuse for a human being... just God's favorite kind.
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." - Paul