God uses flawed people to do His work!
One of the most well-known example of this is from the Book of Judges in the Old Testament. I give you: Sampson! If you look at the things Sampson was supposed to do and the life that he was supposed to lead, he basically did everything wrong. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING! He breaks his vow as a Nazarite, he hangs out with prostitutes, he compromises his faith and devotions with his relationship with Delilah… and yet, God still used him.
Now, in one sense, this if off-putting. It doesn’t seem fair. Why lead a good live as a Christian if God is going to use such flawed people as much as anybody? But, wait a minute… we are all sinners – all flawed people with sin in our lives – and thank God that He still wants to use us!
So, as we look at the Bible’s various characters – even “heroes” – remember that it’s not really about the people (Sampson, David, Paul, etc.) as much as it’s about God. God is the true Hero of the story!
Also, remember that God is concerned about those that suffer. His compassion comes through in many ways in the Old Testament. I say this because there’s a criticism out there regarding the “God of the Old Testament”. It says that He is a “God of anger”; and the New Testament God is a “God of love”. I believe that this assumption is completely false. A close reading of the Old Testament will show that God is actually a God of compassion throughout the Scriptures, and He is interested in those who suffer. For instance, as you read through the Old Testament law in Exodus and Leviticus, God speaks over and over again about showing compassion to those who are less fortunate in society – specifically three groups of people: foreigners, orphans, and widows. And, He holds us accountable in helping these people in various ways.
Another guideline to remember when reading the Old Testament is that Sin must be dealt with. God is a Holy God and does not take sin lightly. This isn’t because God is a prude or that He has nothing better to do.
Here’s the fact: God hates sin because sin hurts us.
You see, God is jealous for us to be close to Him, but also for us to lead fruitful and abundant lives. When we sin, we lose that fruitfulness or abundance that we otherwise would have, and God hates that because He made us in His image. He would much rather that we live lives that are full of every good thing that He intended for us. Therefore, when sin encroaches on our lives, God takes that very seriously. That’s why, throughout the Old Testament, we see God dealing over and over again with the sin of the Israelites since He desires holiness from them and for them since He is holy and life is best lived in holy communion with Him.
Something else very important to remember whenever you’re reading the Old Testament: God saves by faith. Even in the Old Testament, people were not saved by their works, they were saved by faith in a relationship with God. The Book of Hebrews makes this clear in chapter 11. There are three words that are repeated over and over again: “By faith, (name of Biblical character)”. So, we see such people as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and so on and so on being in relationship with God by their faith – NOT by their sacrifices or obedience to the law. Therefore, don’t get caught up in the “works measure” of the Old Testament, but instead understand the faith of the various characters that we read about.
Finally, remember that God was ALWAYS pointing us to Jesus. We seem to forget about this when we read the Old Testament, but Jesus is there in Scripture from start to finish. In Genesis chapter 3, when Adam and Eve sin and God puts a curse on the devil and men and women because of their sin, God was pointing to Jesus even in that moment. He said to Satan: “You will bruise his heel, but he will crush your head.” God was speaking of Jesus at this point. Also, in Psalm 22, we read about crucifixion – which wasn’t even invented at the time the Psalm was written – and how Jesus would suffer for us. Even when we read that the Israelites had to sacrifice a perfect, spotless lamb each year at the temple, we can see how it points to the sacrifice Jesus made for us once and for all.
There are two Old Testament characters of whom nothing bad is ever said: Daniel and Joseph, and as we look at each of their lives, they profoundly point forward to Jesus through the events that take place in their lives.
The more we understand that God was ALWAYS pointing us to Jesus, the easier it is to see the redemptive pattern that moves forward through the Old Testament, all the way to the cross of the New Testament.
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