The story is in 1 Samuel 12. Israel did one of those “wrong response to pain” things and asked for a king just because Nahash the Ammonite was on a rampage.
This started a messy process which culminated in Samuel giving them a monster ear banging about how rotten their choice was. Then just to make a point of how angry he was at them, Samuel served up a huge dose of rain and thunder at the time of year when rain is “impossible.”
He made his point.
The people were badly shaken and they begged for mercy.
Interestingly, Samuel (and God) did nothing to undo the sin they had committed. There was not even a suggestion of un-crowning Saul and going back to the system of haphazard warrior/judges which they had been under for a few centuries. The die was cast and they had to live with the consequences of their choices for the rest of human history.
In this context of a repentant people but no removal of the enduring consequences of their choices, Samuel makes a simple, yet profound statement.
“You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.” I Samuel 12:20 NIV
This feels like a principle to me. Let’s paraphrase it this way. After a life-wrecking choice, we should focus on getting the inside priorities back in alignment, and let God salvage the outside mess.
Israel’s mess was gargantuan. However, God is bigger than that, and although their choice was horrifically wrong and unchangeable, He still managed to produce David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah, Jesus Christ and a number of lesser luminaries out of the gargantuan mess.
God has produced some rather astounding masterpieces over the years, working primarily in the junkyards of our lives. It is kind of a specialty with Him.
All He asks is that we make Him a priority. We are usually as incapable of repairing the inside damage as we are the outside mess. God has to play a major role in the internal reconstruction process. But there is a clear expectation on His part that we bring to the table some intentionality when it comes to putting Him first. He will work with whatever we bring.
My favorite scene in the divine/human “Let’s Make a Deal” game was at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration. The father said, “Lord, I believe. Help Thou mine unbelief.”
Christ said, “One half unit of flimsy faith in exchange for my evicting one mean demon. Alright. If that is all you have, I’ll deal.”
So the question is not so much what we bring to the table, as it is whether we are willing to trust Him to sort out the external mess, while we put our best, first efforts into pursuing relationship with Him.
At the end of the day, if we turn our heart toward Him, there can be life after sin. Even a good life after a big sin.
Copyright April 2011 by Arthur Burk