Have you ever felt that as hard as you tried, you just ended up failing? Have you ever felt like giving up? Have you ever felt super frustrated with yourself or had super low self-esteem and thought of yourself as the WORST?
Tonight, we continued our series "HIGHLIGHT REEL", by looking at how the people of Israel were experts at failing! They failed constantly! In fact, sometimes when I read the Bible, I get kind of frustrated! It’s kind of like watching a movie like INFINITY WAR and wishing that things would end up differently….that Star Lord would just keep it together for 5 minutes! That’s often how I feel when reading about the people of Israel, because it seems that they constantly made the same bad choices over and over again!
The last time we got together, we had a bit of a movie night--- watching the classic ANIMATED movie- The Prince of Egypt. That movie depicts God's epic rescue of the Israelites from slavery, culminating in a wall of fire falling from heaven to block the Egyptian army from attacking them, and then God telling Moses to smash his staff into the sea, parting the water and creating a path for the Israelites to escape to safety. It was an amazing moment! I would like to think that if I had gone through that experience and seen God working incredible miracles with my own eyes, that nothing would stop me from trusting and following him in the future…but that wasn’t the case for the people of Israel!
After walking through the Red Sea, the people spontaneously sang this amazing worship song to God (the first worship song recorded in the Bible)—where they celebrated the fact that God had rescued them, that God loved them, that he had promised to take care of them and give them a future full of hope! But then the failing started! Here are just a few of Israel's MANY fails...
FAIL #1: They had run out of food and wished that God had killed them in Egypt and that following God was pointless. (Exodus 16:3)
FAIL #2: They had run out of water and doubted that God could take care of them. (Exodus 17:3)
FAIL #3: They thought that Moses (and God) had abandoned them, so they made a golden calf and worshipped it as one of the gods that rescued them from Egypt. (Exodus 32:4)
FAIL #4: They were right on the edge of the land that God had promised them, but were too scared to enter the land. They accused God of being a horrible leader who didn't know what he was doing, and when Moses and Aaron tried to talk sense into them, they tried to kill them! They then talked about choosing a new leader and returning to Egypt. (Number 14:1-4, 10)
FAIL #5: They rejected God as their leader and asked to have a king like other nations. (1 Samuel 8)
MULTIPLE FAILS #6: All through the Book of Judges, the people of Israel went through what’s known as the SIN CYCLE. They loved and followed God for a little while, but then would start to adopt the values of the cultures around them, would ignore how God wanted them to live and go their own way (including worshiping false gods and doing evil). When they experienced hardship and difficulty because they had walked away from God, God sent messengers (Judges) to tell the people to get back on track and to ask God to forgive them….and they did….until they started ignoring how God wanted them to live and go their own way again. This cycle is repeated 7 times!
All through the Old Testament, the people of Israel are known for their FAILS. They’re known for rejecting God and going their own way over and over again! They’re known for doubting that God would take care of them over and over again! It just drives me crazy! But I think all of these FAILS are in the Bible for a couple of really important reasons.
Every single one of us! All of us have sinned (where we’ve made choices to reject what God wants for our lives and go our own way). It’s not easy to do the right thing. It’s not easy to live our lives the way God designed them to be lived when we’re surrounded by loads of temptation and where everyone else lives however they want!
2) GOD’S LOVE & GRACE SURPASSES OUR FAILURE
Psalm 103:8-10 (Message) says, “God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he's rich in love. He doesn't endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn't treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs”.
This kind of amazes me, but God never gave up on the people of Israel. He never said, “Ok, that was the last straw--- I’m leaving you bozos to do life without me! I’m totally fed up with you! You guys are FAILURES!” All through Israel’s story, God constantly offers them second chances! He constantly begs them to repent (to say sorry for their sins and try to make better choices)! God displays an incredible amount of love and patience! The people of Israel didn’t deserve it at all! I mean, maybe one or two chances…but after hundreds of years of FAILS, they didn’t really deserve God’s love and forgiveness anymore….but God kept offering it to them over and over again!
God had mercy on them! Mercy means being offered forgiveness when you deserve punishment. God showed them AMAZING GRACE- the dictionary describes grace as “the free and unmerited favor of God”. We can’t earn it!
Here’s the deal. We all fail. We fail all the time! Some of us have failed today! We’ve all sinned! We’ve all rejected God and have decided to go our own way….and none of us deserves God’s mercy and grace! And yet he KEEPS extending it to us because he loves us like crazy. Because he wants us to be tight with him. Because he wants the very best for us. And he’s willing to put up with all of our crap and forgive us a BILLION TIMES because he just loves us so much!
That blows me away! No matter what we’ve said or done! No matter how many times we’ve failed, God doesn’t look at us (at me) like we’re garbage! He doesn’t walk away from us or treat us like we deserve, but he CONSTANTLY offers us a second, third, fourth, ONE BILLIONTH chance!
That is amazing! How can we not live for him when we’ve experienced a love like that! And that’s why, even though it frustrates me a ton, I’m glad the history of God with the people of Israel is recorded for us because it proves the LOVE, the KINDNESS, the PATIENCE, the MERCY, the GRACE of God!
When you fail….when you fall flat on your face...when you feel that God couldn’t possibly love you or forgive you, we’re reminded that HE WILL NEVER STOP LOVING OR FORGIVING US….that his love is RECKLESS! It’s MIND-BOGGLING! When you’ve failed, when you’ve sinned, God wants you to go to him- to ask him to forgive you even though you don’t deserve it and to accept his love, his mercy, and his AMAZING grace!