When a family member or friend is in crisis with an addiction issue a frequently used tool is the intervention. A group gathers to meet with that person with the sole purpose bringing awareness and, hopefully, provoking a willingness to seek help. Addiction is a stubborn thing and often the person confronted with the reality that others can plainly see refuses to accept help, seeing their efforts not as loving, but as harassment. Sometimes the shock of seeing a loving, united group of family, friends, pastors, and professionals causes the addict to pause, to think, and to take a new direction.
In the letter to the Ephesians, we read about God’s intervention. “But God” is the turning point in the passage to which I refer. The grim reality is that we are “dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,” (Ephesians 2:1-2, NKJV)
Self-deceived, duped by evil, we are spiritually dead. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-6, NKJV) Not everybody responds to His loving challenge with faith. Many, when confronted with the truth about their spiritual condition plunge even deeper into their disobedience, angrily lashing out at those ‘religious’ nuts who would suggest that there is a problem.
In Joshua’s story, the second chapter is a “But God” moment. Israel is preparing for an invasion, a war to possess the Promised Land. Joshua sends 2 spies across the Jordan River to look over the defenses of Jericho, the first city they will encounter. God reveals His mercy and grace in that account when those men meet a prostitute named Rahab.
They stay in her home, she hides them from city officials, and she makes a deal to survive. She takes a risk, stepping out in faith, to take hold of an as yet unseen future. Why? The Spirit has awakened her to the reality of the truth about Israel’s God. As she talks to the spies, she tells them “I know that the LORD has given this land to you . . . the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” (Joshua 2:9-11, NIV) She meets grace with faith.
The story continues with a deal being struck. Rahab is told if she will keep her mouth shut, gather her family into her house when the battle breaks out, and hang a scarlet cord in her window, her family would be kept from destruction. “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So she sent them away and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.” (Joshua 2:21, NIV) Again, we see that she acts in faith.
That scarlet cord brings to mind the blood applied in faith to the doorposts of the homes in Egypt to spare the visit of the Death Angel, the origins of Passover. And, it reaches forward to the Cross where Christ’s blood was shed. His sacrifice, received by faith, replaces judgment with acceptance.
Rahab disappears from the Old Testament story, but reappears in the genealogy of Jesus! She was saved, apparently became a part of Israel, and married a Jewish man. She was the great, great grandmother of King David and one of Jesus’ ancestors. Not bad for a former prostitute in a pagan city, is it? What a “But God…” story. The writer of Hebrews includes her in the “Hall of Faith.” “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” (Hebrews 11:30-31, NIV)
God is still doing interventions! He still interrupts our sad stories of sin and failure. Just when we conclude that we or someone we know is beyond hope, God steps up. “Not so quick! Now, it’s my turn!” In my pastoral ministry so many people have come looking for hope, but focused on their own failure. “Jerry, just look at my life. I’m ….” It is my joy to be able to point them to the One who says, “BUT,” and changes the conversation. With God there is no one who is too far gone, beyond hope, past the reach of the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ. Yes, there is a necessary faith that must respond to Him, but God still does new hearts and new starts- bringing about amazing transformations.
Are you feeling like life has overwhelmed you? Is hope dimmed, or failure darkening your day? The word from the Word is the same passage I quoted earlier but this time from a modern paraphrase. Hear it, believe Him, and find life.
“But God,” “immense in mercy and with an incredible love, embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!” (Ephesians 2:4-8, The Message)
Thank Him, today, for His grace.
Thank Him for second chances,
for His offer to take the very things you think have disqualified you from His service and to use them to shape and mold you into a person who will become useful in His plans and purposes.
(Celtic worship does this song beautifully!)
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light my strength my song
This Cornerstone this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love what depths of peace
When fears are stilled when strivings cease
My Comforter my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
No guilt in life no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand
Keith Getty | Stuart Townend © 2001 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055