In my read-straight-through-the Bible effort, I’m almost through the book of Judges. It is UGLY. “And the Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord”—on repeat. I asked God if I could skip Judges. Seriously. Of course, I knew the answer before I asked. Every word of the Bible is there for a reason.
(I did refuse to read Judges around Easter. That just wouldn’t do.)
Despite generations of Israelites doing whatever they saw fit to do, God still raised up imperfect people as judges who would take a stand for Him. Not judges like today’s adjudicators, but defenders who, for about 450 years, pushed back against oppression from other countries.
Here’s the kicker. Three Israelite judges (Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson) are mentioned in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11—but only one king (David).
Three judges! What does God want us to take away from that?
- God illuminates the ugly
- God uses the ugly
- God redeems the ugly
- God buries the ugly
God illuminates the ugly
Gideon was hiding from the Midianites, working in the dark—threshing wheat in the pit of a winepress—when the Angel of the Lord hailed Gideon with, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”
The greeting shone light on what Gideon would become. To start that journey, Gideon had to jettison the ugly in his life, which included tearing down his father’s altar to Baal and the Asherah pole beside it.
God never shies away from illuminating the ugly. His perfect light reaches into the darkest corners of our life, uncovering everything we wrap in shadows and shove into a corner.
Maybe the ugly is something we’ve done. Maybe it’s a spirit of unforgiveness. Regardless, it drags us down and keeps us from being all God intends for us to be. God’s light on our ugly is not meant to condemn us but to conform us to His will.
God uses the ugly
Jephthah was the black sheep of his tribe, the Gileadites. The son of a harlot, everyone despised him—until the Ammonites started harassing them. Then suddenly Jephthah’s bravery and past accomplishments in battle were needed and appreciated. Jephthah responded, not because his kinsmen begged him, but because God called him to a task on their behalf.
Somehow God can turn our most despised and broken things into something good for Him. I don’t know how, but He does it. All. The. Time.
God redeems the ugly
Samson hurt his parents’ hearts and God’s heart in countless ways. He made egregious mistakes throughout his life. The last one landed him in prison with his eyes gouged out. Yet God redeemed Samson’s life and faith in that prison cell. When Samson completely sold out to God, God honored him by empowering him to pull down the pillars in the temple of Dagon to crush the Philistines.
God never exempts us from ugly’s consequences. But He always offers a way through them and restoration in spite of them. Samson’s story shouts that God is the God of second chances. How precious that is to hear! What a contrast to “cancel culture”!
I felt canceled big time after my divorce. To many people, I was damaged goods. Scrap. Beyond God’s favor, expelled from His grace. As ugly as that chapter was in my life, as deep as that wound cut, as harsh as many Christians’ words were, it threw me at God’s feet. He continues to redeem that pain in countless ways.
God buries the ugly
When we try to bury the ugly in our life, it resurfaces at the most inconvenient times. But when we give our ugly to God, He buries it—and it stays buried.
Psalm 103:12 says God has removed all our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. That’s poetic Hebrew for an infinite distance away—removed so entirely that our sins can’t affect or condemn us anymore. Isaiah 43:25 says God so completely wipes away our sins that He doesn’t even remember them—not primarily for our sake, but for His sake—to show His grace and glory. Hallelujah!
As we approach Mothers Day, I cringe at its hearts-and-flowers stereotype. The COVID vaccination debate has caused family members to stop talking with each other. Deeper wounds and striving abound. Whatever the hurt, I pray everyone will reach across that divide … to look past the ugly and see the other person as God sees them: someone worthy of a second chance.
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