The Bible contains many accounts of people like us. You would think that those written about in the Bible would be people with no faults who overcame every temptation and obstacle in their path. The truth is that from the third chapter of Genesis, where Eve and Adam fail to obey God’s command, to the book of Revelation, a large portion of the Word is about people, or groups of people, whose lives crashed and burned. Scripture is full of accounts that describe those who could not get along without help from God. These were real people like us, not fictional characters.
A Great List of Failures
Noah obeyed God and was saved from the waters of the flood, but then planted a vineyard and got so drunk that he lay exposed at the door of his tent.
Abraham offered his wife twice to two different kings to try to save his own skin.
Jacob conspired with his mother to steal his brother’s blessing.
After Jacob worked for seven years for the right to marry Rachel, his father-in-law Laban substituted Leah for her sister Rachel on the wedding night so that Jacob would be wed the oldest daughter first. He then made Jacob work another seven years to pay for his union with Rachel.
Reuben slept with Bilhah, one of his father’s wives.
Judah sold his brother Joseph into slavery and slept with his deceased son’s wife who was masquerading as a prostitute.
Moses murdered a man and hid him in the sand.
David lusted after Bathsheba, got her pregnant, had her husband killed, and then took her as his wife though he already had multiple wives.
Paul persecuted Christians and cheered on at the stoning death of Stephen.
Peter denied the Lord in the face of fear.
All the disciples forsook Jesus in His time of greatest need.
Then there was Samson and Job and Gideon to name a few of our best-known losers.
The Bible is replete with the woes and sins of men and women in their relationship to one another and to God.
Failure, a New Beginning
What speaks to us is that many of these misadventures don’t end in complete fiasco. Some individuals came to understand that the grace of God was greater than their sin and its resulting defeat.
An old hymn puts it this way:
“Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.”
Grace Through the Work of the Cross
God’s grace is the one thing that we can count on. Bigger than our weakness is Jesus Christ. He is the one who took all these characters and placed them at the foot of the cross to receive a new life and forgiveness for their personal sins. Was it because they were able somehow to redeem themselves by paying back the debt of their sin through their positive actions? No, they became winners because in the end they did not let their sin control their relationship with God. They overcame their own failures through receiving grace and forgiveness, allowing them to have an impact on their generations. They believed God. They trusted in His unfailing love for them.
Down but not Out
If you’ve been defeated remember God’s grace. He died for us when we were still sinners. He didn’t wait till we cleaned ourselves up. Many try to get sanctified before they get justified. The problem with a religious frame of reference is that we feel we must make ourselves presentable to God before He will accept us. We need first to accept Christ’s payment for all our sin and repent. Then allow Him to change us through the power of His shed blood. Just as He forgave and then used the men and women of the Bible for His purposes, He wants to use us to be reflections of His marvelous grace. Ephesians 2:4-7 says it well, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
The Bible then is different from other religious texts in that it recognizes and condemns sin, but gives mercy and a way out for the sinner. The sins that the people committed were indeed grave, but so are ours. God’s work of mercy continues in us. He doesn’t require perfection on our part, just dependence on Jesus’ work for us. The Bible then is not just a religious text that gives us a goal to shoot for, but a book that has answers for the real problems of real people in a real world.