There are so many reasons why the Good News is such good news; but, for me, one near the top of the list is the relief of being able to tell the truth. It is so refreshing to be given permission to ‘call a spade a spade’, or to ‘tell it like it is’ rather than trying to put a spin on things to hide the truth.
I remember being puzzled as a child when I heard my teachers bending and twisting the stories of Old Testament characters in an attempt to make them into heroes who were blessed by God because of their faithfulness. One example I recall is the story of Abraham and Sarah. On two separate occasions, Abraham asked his wife to say that she was his sister. His reason for doing this was to protect himself from, in the first instance, the Pharaoh of Egypt and, in the second instance, Abimelech, the king of Gerar. His fear was that they would see his beautiful wife and would kill him in order to take her for their own. Instead, his lie kept him alive, but he basically handed his wife over to them on a silver platter. In each situation, she was taken as the wife of the ruler; and, in the case of Pharaoh, most likely in every sense of the word!
I recall my teacher attempting to explain all of this away by saying that, first of all, this was not a total lie, since Sarah was actually Abraham’s half-sister; and secondly, that this was actually a wise course of action, evidenced by the fact that God intervened to rescue Sarah and brought punishments upon the “wicked” rulers, while ultimately richly blessing Abraham as a direct result of those situations.
Another example of tale-reshaping which stands out in my mind is the story of King David, who took Bathsheba, a married woman, impregnated her and then had her husband killed. There was no way to justify David’s actions in this situation, so the spin was that it was David’s sincere repentance, after being confronted by the Prophet Nathan, which made him right with God once more. It was David’s sorrow for his sin which prompted God to call him a man after His own heart, and this is what we should strive to emulate if we sin so that we, too, can be right with God once more.
The facts are, that after Nathan exposed David’s sin and David, knowing the jig was up, simply admitted, “I have sinned against the Lord”, Nathan told him that, “The Lord has taken away your sin; you will not die. But since you have shown total contempt for the Lord by this affair, the son that is born to you must die.”
David’s sin had already been taken away. It was not the depth of David’s sincerity in repentance which prodded God to forgive him. David’s fasting and pleading, which followed the news that his sin had already been taken away, was done in the hopes that he could persuade God not to take the life of his son as a consequence of his behavior; sadly, to no avail.
It is a relief now for me to revisit the Old Testament stories and see them for what they are, the long trail of God’s great faithfulness in the face of the great unfaithfulness of these men and women; this trail which stretches from the beginning of creation to me.
What a comfort it is to understand that, because of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, God’s love for me is not in any way resting on my obedience or even the depth of the sincerity of my confession of sin. In other words, God’s faithfulness has always and only been dependent on his own faithfulness. He is faithful simply because that is what he is; not what we are. Because of his goodness and mercy, God’s provision for you and for me was made before time on this earth began. This was revealed to us when Jesus entered our time and space and, being fully human and fully God, lived the perfectly faithful life we never could and applied that record to us, and then went to the cross and paid the price for all of our unfaithfulness by dying the death which we deserved.
As a result of his life and death, I now have the freedom to be honest about my own life without the necessity of bending and twisting the details to justify my actions. I can, without fear, acknowledge my sinful behavior for what it is, and humbly and gratefully throw myself at the foot of the cross knowing that I am fully loved and accepted on the basis of God’s faithfulness and not my own.
And, finally, as the truth of what has been done for me works its way into the depths of my being, I can begin to acknowledge the absurdity of my inbred tendency to expect and even demand faithfulness from everyone around me. As a result of the minute by minute reminders from the Holy Spirit, who now lives within me, that I have not earned or deserved what has been given to me, I slowly begin to recognize my unreasonable expectations for what they are, and then desire to offer this same mercy to you, just as you are; recognizing that we are all the unfaithful ones who have been blessed beyond measure by the faithfulness of God.