Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Do Motives Matter?

I have been a part of a men's Bible Study on Sunday evenings going through the Old Testament. I am seeing a pattern that I have always known was there, but it has been head knowledge only. For some reason this week, the lights came on, and it moved from my head to my heart. Here is what I have really internalized this week: When God wants to bless, He will bless regardless of our actions.

With a few exceptions, the leaders of the Old Testament were not good moral leaders. When we go through the scriptures together, it is not uncommon to hear someone say "now wait a minute. Let's go back. He did what?" We then go back and try to make sense of things, sometimes to no avail. I have always known about their flaws, but still had some kind of Billy Graham image in my mind.

When I see these flaws, and see the things they did, it is very easy to point fingers and think about what scoundrels some of these men were. And they were scoundrels. However, the same sin that causes the character flaws in these leaders is the same sin that runs rampant in my own life. These leaders are not any more spiritually depraved than I am. When I judge the Old Testament leaders, I am ultimately judging myself.

Even through their flaws, God continued to work through them. I read the book of Jonah this evening. For those unfamiliar, here's the short story. Jonah (and the rest of Israel) hates the Ninevites. God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach to the city so they will repent. Jonah wants God to destroy the city, so he gets on a boat and sails the opposite way. A storm comes that threatens the ship. Jonah tells the sailors to throw him overboard because he is the cause of the storm. They do. Jonah is swallowed by a big fish, and while inside the fish, he repents. The fish spits Jonah out on the shore of Nineveh. Jonah preaches, the city repents, and Jonah rejoices in the grace of God....um, not exactly.

Everything is true except for the last part. Jonah did preach and the city did repent. But Jonah is anything but happy. He is actually mad at God for sparing the city and wants God to take his life. Jonah did what God wanted, and although his heart wasn't in it, God's will was accomplished.

This of course raises the question do our motives really matter? In the context of Jonah, the answer is no. Jonah was (eventually) outwardly obedient, but his heart definitely was not. So why did God work through Jonah when he wanted no part? The only answer I can think of is that God wanted the city of Nineveh to repent, so it didn't matter that Jonah's heart was not in the right place.

It reminds me of a story one of my former pastors told one Sunday. Martha worked as cheker in a grocery store. She didn't have much money, and was barely making ends meet. She would always talk about how God provided for her needs. The store manager didn't understand this, and it annoyed him that she was always talking about how God provided. He decided to make a point. He waited for her to leave for the day, then went and bought a sack full of groceries. He took them to her house, put them on her porch, and left. Sure enough, the next day, she came in and began talking about how God had provided her groceries. The manager then told her that God didn't do it. He was the one who bought the groceries and put them on her porch. She replied "Oh no, you see, God did provide those groceries even if he used the devil to deliver them."

Thank God that He provides His grace to us, and has the patience to work through us and in us, even when our depraved hearts are far from Him. Thank God that our motives don't always matter. If they did we would be in a lot of trouble.

1 Comment:

  1. Lorna said...
    laughing at the story :)

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