Have you ever wandered into a sticky situation and couldn’t get out? Maybe you ignored wise advice and found yourself trapped in a painful set of circumstances, or perhaps you ignored what you knew to be right and paid the price.
I know I have.
And when I find myself in a mess of my own making, I am reluctant to ask God for help. It’s my mess, and I’ll deal with it, I think. It’s my fault and I deserve the consequences. My guilt prevents me from inviting God into the situation and allowing Him to redeem it.
Thankfully, God’s mercy is greater than my mistakes, and He delights in restoring broken hearts and dreams.
In 2 Kings 3, we read a story often lost in the pages of the Bible. A story of 3 kings, bad choices, and God’s gracious redemption anyways. I might have overlooked this amazing story if it hadn’t been for my pastor and a sermon that opened my eyes to God’s lavish grace!
A Forgotten Story
King Jehoshaphat, of Judah, was a righteous king who did what was right in the eyes of God, but when King Joram, the wicked king of Israel, came and asked for help in conquering an enemy, He agreed. It was foolish to align himself with an ungodly king, but it wasn’t his only mistake.
The decision was made to attack the enemy by crossing the Desert of Edom; the enemy would not be expecting an attack from the desert. Though it may have seemed like a wise choice, neither king consulted the Lord before the journey began.
The two kings, along with the king of Edom, set out for a march that lasted seven days when they ran out of water. “Has the Lord called us three kings together only to hand us over to Moab?” cried King Joram, forgetting that he never called upon the Lord for guidance in the first place.
Before we judge too harshly, it’s worth noting that too often, we fall prey to the same behavior. We choose friends poorly, hastily jump into ventures without asking the right questions, and then blame God when all falls apart!
The kings were stuck in the desert; death was a good probability and a result of their own choices – no one else was to blame. Jehoshaphat finally came to his senses and inquired if there was a prophet nearby, and Elisha was summoned.
Elisha was unhappy with the kings, but out of respect for King Jehoshaphat, he agreed to inquire of the Lord. First, he called in the harpist, and as the music played, Elisha relayed God’s instructions.
“Make this valley full of ditches. For this is what the Lord says; you will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle, and your other animals will drink.” (NIV)
I can imagine these instructions did not sit well. Build ditches in a desert?! Whatever for?!
But to their credit, the Israelites obeyed and the next morning, the ditches overflowed with water! When the enemy, looking from across the valley, saw the water, they assumed it was blood and that the Israelites had slaughtered each other. They came expecting an easy win and were themselves destroyed.
The beauty of this story is its clear demonstration of God’s gracious mercy to men who did not deserve it! Without God’s intervention, their foolish choices could have ended much differently. If God was willing to intercede for them, He is willing to intercede for you.
But in order for that to happen, we must be willing to do as the Israelites did:
INVITE GOD INTO THE MESS
God already knows we are going to make mistakes; it is we who are continually surprised by our own stupidity. When we err, we need to stop, pause what we are doing, and ask the Lord to come and sort out the mess we made. We don’t ask because we deserve it; we ask because we know He is merciful and kind.
We must acknowledge our foolishness and repent of our disobedience. 1 John 1:9 assures us that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins.” No sin is beyond God’s redemption, but we must make the first move and confess our failings.
WORSHIP GOD IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR MESS
Elisha didn’t invite the harpist to play on a whim; it was important for creating a disposition conducive to receiving the Word of God. Our situation may weigh heavily on our minds, but when we worship, we shift the focus off of ‘poor me’ and unto the Almighty God.
Paul and Silas exemplified this when thrown in prison for casting out a demon in a slave girl. While in prison, they prayed and sang songs of worship with no idea of how their situation would unfold. (Acts 16).
Praise and worship may not change our circumstances, but it most definitely changes our hearts and aligns our attitudes with God’s will.
SURRENDER AND OBEY
If foolishness and disobedience were our undoing, then surrender and obedience are the way back into the will of God. Whatever stage of mess we are in, it is NEVER too late to surrender to God’s way and follow Him. God may test us with commands that are difficult or seemingly foolish; digging ditches in the desert may have seemed wasteful and silly to the Israelites, but obedience and trust are vital if we want God to work in our lives.
Maybe He’s asking you to forgive that someone. Maybe He’s calling you to quit your job. Maybe He’s calling you to step out in faith. Whatever it is, don’t hesitate to do it!
God is longing to redeem our circumstances. He is the author of reconciliation and redemption – this is who He is and what He does! But it is our active participation and our willingness to obey that allows us to be a part of the process.
There is no mess too big for the hand of God. Even when we are the instruments of our own destruction, it is by His grace and kindness that He allows us a chance to walk a new path and tell a new story. We may never be fully able to restore what was lost, but we can rest assured that what lies ahead is good.