Chapter 11

                                                ELEVEN – A Grace Relationship
 
     Throughout church history believers have spoken and written of God’s grace.  In its description musicians especially have used adjectives such as great, marvelous, wonderful, and amazing.  The human tongued is grossly ill equipped to satisfactorily communicate the truth and depth of this divine marvel.  Our association with the Lord rests upon His grace, Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved . . .” (Ephesians 2:8).  There is no question about it; born-again believers have a grace relationship with God.  In spite of our weakness and tendency to sin, God remains faithful, kind, and gracious because He loves us.
 
     In human relationships, such as a marriage, both partners bring to the union their strengths and weaknesses.  In a healthy partnership, each learns how to complement the other by maximizing the strengths and fortifying the weaknesses.  In relationships, each is expected to bring something to the union, which will make it stronger and more meaningful.  Therefore, when each partner does not equally contribute, the future prospect of endurance may be in jeopardy.
 
     We have learned our relationship to God through His Son, the Lord Jesus, is indeed one-sided.  When we came to Him for salvation, we had nothing to bring or offer because we were spiritually bankrupt.  After salvation, we still have nothing to contribute.  Our relationship to Him is completely sustained by only One, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The psalmist wrote, “. . . the Lord sustains the righteous” (Psalm 37:17).  Our future is solely dependent upon His kindness and grace.  Every moment in heaven will be ours only because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross made for each person.  For this reason His grace must be always emphasized—we are most blessed because we have a grace relationship with God.  The psalmist wrote, “. . . How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (Psalm 2:12b).  It is all of Him, and nothing of ourselves, “[Christ] is before all things and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:12).  God’s grace is never more plainly seen than when we are disobedient.  In this chapter we will take note of Samson’s life and also the experience of Israel at Kadesh-barnea, both marvelous examples of this truth.  Because of His matchless grace, He loves and protects us in spite of our willfulness and the weakness of our flesh (Romans 7:15 – 8:1).
 
     At the conclusion of the last chapter, some important questions were raised after having examined several godly examples of people why had first-hand knowledge of the Heavenly Father’s protection and provision.  In summary, the questions were asked:  does God offer His divine protection and provision only to His obedient children?  What about His presence—does He still abide with us even when we choose to disobey Him?
 
     Shortly these questions and others will be answered but, first, we need to review something Paul wrote about in Romans.  It appears a false, yet predominant, notion was running rampant through the early church.  These New Testament Christians believed the more they sinned the more magnificent and awesome God’s grace would appear to be.  Paul strongly opposed this idea with a firm “No!  Absolutely not!
 

For as through the one man’s (Adam) disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One (Jesus Christ) the many will be made righteous.  And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin so that grace might increase?  May it never be!  How shall we who died to sin still live in it?  Romans 5:19 – 6:2

 

     In this passage, Paul used a very strong term translated, “May it never be!” (6:2). More sin and disobedience does not cause God’s grace shine brighter or appear more magnanimous.  For the born-again believer, all disobedience is sin and leads to discontent, misery, confusion, and sorrow.  The Apostle Paul wanted his Christian readers to know and understand there is no benefit or lasting joy derived form disobedience.  We have learned when we sin we are still His children (top circle), however, when we are disobedient, we lose intimacy and become alienated or estranged from the Heavenly Father.  The Christian who chooses sin places himself under the leadership of our one-time master and eternal foe, the devil, a dangerous and foolish place to be.  There is only one way to reestablish our intimacy with the Lord and receive His forgiveness.  The solution is confession (1 John 1:9); that is, being in agreement with God about the sin and disobedience.
 
                                QUESTIONS OF INTEREST AND IMPORTANCE
 
     So then, when we sin, we lose intimacy with our Heavenly Father, but do we also forfeit His protection and provision?  Yes and no—let me explain.  In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul rebuked the congregation along with a member involved in immorality (5:1).  The apostle made sure his readers understood this behavior must never be tolerated among believers.  His advise:  the sinning brother should “be removed from your midst” (5:2).  The method and reason are plainly stated in 1 Corinthians 5:5—“. . . Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved. . .”
 
     This local church discipline, like all correction, was to be handled in a loving, sensitive, yet firm manner apart from anger and vengeance.  The sole purpose of this Corinthian church discipline was to send the erring brother a clear message while insuring spiritual health in the local body (5:6 – 8).
 
     We have learned willful disobedience has consequences to bear.  For instance, we put ourselves under the leadership of the enemy, and our lives begin to resemble the lives of unsaved persons.  We are still His children, but life is filled with confusion, sorrow, and results in retardation of spiritual maturity.  For their sinful brother’s sake, the believers were instructed to allow him a taste of what it is like to live outside the provisionary care of the Lord.  Under the umbrella of protection, there is safety; outside of His umbrella of protection and provision, there lurks danger (see Figure 10).  Did God forsake this erring child?  No, because Jesus Himself has promised, “’I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).  In 1 Samuel 12:22 we find this promise of God:  “For the Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.”  Paul wrote, “. . . God never abandons us . . “ (2 Corinthians 4:9 TLB).  This is the Lord’s unconditional promise to those who believe, and it is a promise uttered by One who fully understands what forsakeness involves.  As Jesus hung on the cross, paying the debt of our sin, He cried out to His Father, “’My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’” (Mark 15:34).  Because the Son became sin for us, the holy and sinless Father had to turn His back upon His dearly loved Son.  Jesus, who had forever enjoyed fellowship and intimacy with His Father, was forsaken at the cross.  His deep love for mankind held Him to the cross so the sacrifice might be completed.  Therefore, this promise is real and from One who understands our life circumstances.  He will never leave us, not for now, nor for eternity.
 
     Evidently this Corinthian brother got the message intended.  In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul encouraged the church members to show love and forgiveness to the formerly immoral brother.  The principle here is simple.  When a child of God persists in sin, he may indeed forfeit some of the Father’s provisionary care.  This is the Father’s loving and wise discipline, which is meant to motivate the sinning child to return to the intimacy, safety, and joy of obedience.
 
     Make sure of this:  even when we are sinful and disobedient, God does not forsake us; He never gives up on us.  He patiently and faithfully attends to us.  In spite of our sin, we are ever in His care and keeping—that is marvelous grace.  Does He give us back to Satan?  Never!  Our God is perfectly sovereign and Satan is never allowed to touch a child of God without the Lord’s consent.  An instance of this is found in the life of a godly man named Job.  Go9d and Satan had an interesting exchange concerning this servant (Job 1:9 – 12).  In this passage we learn even Satan recognizes the Father provides a hedge of protection around His own.  Characteristically Satan desired to destroy this man—our sovereign God said, “No!  I will only allow you to go so far and no further!”  Forever our God is in complete control.
 
     Earlier we spoke of this willful Corinthian Christian; let us look at some other biblical cases of believers who, although disobedient and rebellious, were yet graciously cared for by the Heavenly Father.
 
                                                              SAMSON
 
     One would be hard-pressed to find a person with such outstanding potential, yet so very willful, spiritually insensitive, and self-indulgent than Samson, one of the Old Testament Judges of Israel.  His story is recorded in Judges 13:21 – 16:30.  Samson was full of self and very often sought only to satisfy his own desires.  Two of his insatiable yearnings were sexual gratification and pride.  The Lord blessed Samson from his childhood and began a unique work and ministry in his life (Judges 13:24, 25).
 
     The very next verse explains while on his journeys, Samson “saw a [Philistine] woman.”  Judges 14 informs us he went home, told his parents of his desire for this woman, and ordered them, against their counsel, to “get her” for she looked good to him.
 
     Judges 14 also records how this man bare-handedly fought and killed a young lion.  Later, in a spirit of boast, Samson created a riddle based upon his encounter with the lion and then bet some Philistines they could not solve his riddle.  They were not smart enough to come up with the correct answer; however, they were cunning enough to understand Samson’s weakness:  women.  They approached his Philistine wife saying, “’Entice your husband, that he may tell us the riddle, lest we burn you and your father’s house with fire’” (Judges 14:15).  The next sentence informs us she began to cry and appeal to Samson’s emotions.  “’You only hate me, and you do not love me; you have propounded a riddle to the sons of my people and have not told it to me.’”  Day after day, she cried and  “pressed him . . . hard” until he finally caved and explained to her the riddle.  Once she knew the truth, she immediately told Samson’s secret to her people causing him to lose the wager.  Paying off his gambling debt, in a sense of rage, Samson single-handedly killed thirty Philistines and returned to his father’s house.  Consequently, his wife was taken from him and given to another.
 
     Judges 15 recounts sometime later Samson began to long for his wife and tried to see her.  Her father would not all9w it and instead offered Samson another daughter.  Samson was overcome with anger, which led him to another feat of strength.  He captured three hundred foxes, cruelly tide together their tails and set them on fire.  The mistreated animals ran throughout the Philistine wheat fields, destroying everything in their path.  In response, the Philistines made good on their earlier threat to burn the young woman’s family and property.  Samson vowed revenge and yet again brought havoc to the Philistines.  Sin always leads to hurt, sorrow, destruction, and abuse. 
 
     The cycle of anger and vengeance never seems to cease—in return, the Philistines went to Judah where Samson was staying.  The Judean men were gravely frightened and sent a delegation to take Samson prisoner, in order to surrender him hoping to appease the Philistines.  Samson agreed to their plan—they bound him with ropes and gave him to the enemy.  Samson broke the ropes, found a jawbone of a donkey, and crudely used it to incredibly slay one thousand Philistines.
 
     It should be noted Samson’s supernatural ability was of the Lord.  During his lifetime, the aggressive and brutal Philistines occupied and ruled Israel.  Samson’s exploits were used by the Lord to bring divine judgment upon this fierce and violent nation.
 
     Judges 16 continues Samson’s personal saga.  He next went to Gaza and there found a prostitute.  It was learned he was there and the Gazites surrounded the area lieing in wait so they might kill him.  At midnight, Samson decided he had enough of the woman and left town, escaping their trap with grand style.  He tore off the gates and even the posts, carrying them up a mountainside.  He flaunted his ability in their faces.
 
     The book of Judges next introduces its readers to Delilah, yet another Philistine seductress, who stirred Samson’s passion.  This familiar story is terribly sad.  The one whom he loved turned on him and eventually betrayed his secret of strength.  Samson’s actual enemy, the devil, used Delilah and Samson’s weakness to destroy this man and his spiritual potential.  This is the path sin always takes.  By the way, Samson was not the only one deceived by sin—so were the Philistines.
 
     Long after Samson’s arrest and affliction, the Philistine rulers wanted to amuse themselves and did so at Samson’s expense.   They brought him to a public arena for sport and entertainment, not realizing Samson’s hair had again began to grow.  Perhaps this growth indicates Samson was positively responding to God and His work.  This Old Testament judge’s secret of strength did not depend upon the length of his hair, but rather was directly related to his obedience and reliance on God.  Samson tainted his own strength because he was self-reliant and not dependent upon God, and therefore, never able to conquer and discipline his passions.  Because of God’s grace, He nevertheless protected and provided for His willful servant even though he was so often a man out of control and undisciplined.
 
     Samson was God’s child; there can be no doubt.  Samson’s life was plainly not all God designed it to be.  In the last few verses of Judges 16, we read of Samson’s tragic death.  However, even in death, God used him to judge the evil Philistine people.  The moment he died, Samson went to be with his Lord.  The author of Hebrews 11 included Samson in the great “Hall of Faith.”  Does the Heavenly Father extend His protection and provision to all His children?  You bet!  Are those divine resources available even to His erring children?  Yes.  Still, we must never forget He is faithfully at work within their lives to bring them to obedience and dependence upon Him.
 
                                           THE WANDERING CHILDREN OF ISRAEL
 
     With the Old Testament Hebrews, the Scriptures afford another wonderful example of God’s gracious provision and care for His children who sin.  After their release from years of bondage and slavery in Egypt and the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, this massive people found themselves at a crossroads.  Along with their godly leader Moses, they stood at the doorway of Canaan, the long-awaited Promised Land.
 
     Rather than exercising faith in God’s promises, the Hebrews reasoned they were unable to enter and subdue the land of plenty and its people.  Numbers 13 and 14 record the story.  From among them were chosen twelve men to clandestinely enter Canaan to spy out the land and its inhabitants.  The “committee’s” majority conclusion was overwhelming, yet very wrong.  The nameless ten operatives strongly felt going in to the land would be suicide.  The cities, they said, were too great and too well equipped.  The majority reasoned--We are no matches for these forces! However, Joshua and Caleb, the two remaining members of the covert operation were absolutely convinced God would enable their countrymen to conquer the land He had promised.  Unfortunately, the children of Israel sided with the majority’s report, choosing not to trust their God.  In Deuteronomy 9:23 Moses recorded the Lord’s assessment—“When the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you, the you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; you neither believed Him nor listened to His voice.”  More about the important spiritual discipline of listening to God’s voice will be discussed in the next chapter.
 
     By reason of their unbelief, Hebrews 4 relates God declared that ancient generation could never know His rest—they would not be allowed to enter the land of promise.  The Heavenly Father disciplined them, causing them to wander in the desert for nearly forty years.  The journey from Egypt to Canaan, which should have taken only days, now took four decades.
 
     Even though these people were willful and disobedient, God the Father nevertheless graciously provided and protected them; He supplied daily sustenance and support. Nehemiah 9:20 and 21 records, “Thou didst give Thy good Spirit to instruct them, Thy manna Thou didst not withhold from their mouth and Thou didst give them water for their thirst.  Indeed, forty years Thou didst provide for them n the wilderness and they were not in want; their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell.”
 
     Despite their unbelief and sin, the Father sustained His disobedient children.  These people chose to settle for desert manna and water when they could have dined upon the promise land’s milk and honey.  They exchanged a life of adventure and growth with God in His land of promise for a dry, hot, arid wasteland experience.  Because of their unbelief and disobedience they swapped the Lord’s rest and contentment for restlessness and wandering.  Make no mistake God is always willing to forgive His children their sin, but never forget sin always has consequences to deal with.  “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
 
     The events in our lives are never out of control because our gracious and kind God is fully capable of wisely governing our lives (Isaiah 9:6, 7).  Because of His gracious love, He even protects and provides for His children when they choose to disobey His Word.  This poor choice compromises our joy, blessing, spiritual potential, and progress.  The disobedient life results in lost opportunities for growth in grace, purpose, and direction as well as eternal rewards.  There is a price to pay when we choose disobedience.  The choice to trust and obey our gracious God will produce in our lives His wisdom and joy.
 

Copyright © 2010 by J. Michael Fox

Comments