Today’s reading is a beautiful illustration of what we learned Sunday. Let me summarize some thoughts first.
There are two types of people—optimists and pessimists. Almost every pessimist tries to improve their image by saying they are a realist, but this begs the question: As an optimist, am I not grounded in reality? Sure, some optimists may have “pie in the sky” ideas, but we usually call them idealists. No, there are two types of people and you are either an optimist or a realist.
The thing about optimists is they project a future condition based on the statistical probability, whether calculated or visceral. They take the same information available to a pessimist but they organize the details into a picture of wholeness. Both perspectives are based on facts of circumstance. The real rub between optimists and pessimists is the perceived control or resigned fatalism regarding your circumstance.
It would be entertaining to see an optimist wrestle with Joshua 2:10-11:
For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you:
So what about Rahab? Was she an optimist? Remember an optimist takes fragmented possibilities and composes a glowing result. The best an optimist in Jericho could do would be to hope Israel went away! Based on this verse there was a slim to none chance for anything positive. Rahab was not calculating the odds. She completely knew the odds—certain destruction! When you read her monologue regarding her observation of Israel’s God, there wasn’t optimism or pessimism. There was hope! Look at the end of Joshua 2:11 and following:
The Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house…and deliver our lives from death.
Do you see what hope does? It isn’t based on the circumstances. Hope throws its arms around the character of God. All Rahab knew is a God whose love for His people caused him to part oceans and vanquish enemies, with a love so powerful, maybe she could implore through humility to receive that same love. When the rest of her people saw God as vindictive, she saw Him as valiant. When they saw His conquest, she saw His compassion.
Hope is not optimism. It is not a hand-wringing worry either. True hope rests in the identity of God. Healthy hope comprehends the faithfulness of God and his unwavering consistency. Statistical probabilities are unnecessary. God’s sovereignty increases the “odds” to definite according to His plan.
Forget being an optimist. “Hope in God” (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5)!
Turn almost any knickknack or toy upside down and you probably will read a sticker which says, “Made in China.” Most people sneer when it says, “Made in China.” Why? There are certain standards of quality we expect from something “Made in China” and for the most part, they do not represent excellence in craftmanship.
Many people want to turn humanity upside down and sneer at the provincial belief “Made by God.”
“If there is a God, then why is there so much pain and suffering,” they ask. One person wrestled with this question and logically responded with two options.
- Either, God was absolutely powerful but does not care about your pain and suffering,
- Or, God cares about your pain and suffering but is not powerful enough to do anything about it.
Neither of those options agrees with Scripture.
Even in man’s fallen state, the excellence of God’s craftsmanship still resounds praise for His masterful design. The brokenness is not God’s failure but man’s. Represented in Adam, humanity failed to honor God and attempted to steal His glory. The temptation was clear in the beginning, “Ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5)! This is man’s natural pursuit.
How does God remind man of His inferiority? “For dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return” (Genesis 3:19). Mankind pathologically runs against this reality.
He tries to defy his limitations.
He tries to erect memorials to his greatness.
He tries to offset age and amass power in order to unfurl his banner, “Invictus!”
However, we are running on the sands of time as grain by grain they swiftly pass through the neck of the hourglass to our inevitable fate. The one who cried, “Invictus,” dissolves into obscurity.
Our only hope is to be reborn. We must crucify the body of this death and put on the new man which is created in righteousness and true holiness. Once we recognize we are but dust and repent of our sinful rebellion against God, then we can receive the gift of life.
Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
If you are saved by grace, then you are God’s workmanship. You are His masterpiece. The question is this: When others see your life, do you give them the right opinion of God? When others know you are not only made by God but are currently being remade into the image of Christ, do they sneer because you blatantly fail to reflect the glory of God? Or do they see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven?
An eight-inch pipe would be her casket unless something brilliant and heroic reached her in time. It was March 26, 1986, in Midland, Texas. Jessica McClure was playing in her aunt’s backyard while her mother answered a phone call. She experienced a mother’s worst fear when she returned to the yard to find her eighteen-month-old daughter missing. Jessica had fallen twenty-two feet down a well casing. Singing “Winnie the Pooh” to herself, little Jessica could not comprehend her threatening circumstances. She needed a rescue. For the next fifty-eight hours, emergency responders, local oil-drillers, and even a roofer who was born without collarbones defied a couple dozen feet of rock and complicated drilling conditions in order to rescue the helpless child.
As I read through the first two chapters of Romans, I recognize our human condition is as hopeless as an 18 month-old child in an eight-inch well casing. However, we did not haphazardly fall into this predicament. Being fully complicit in our actions, we became victims of our own willful ignorance. “That which may be known of God is manifest in them…so they are without excuse. They did not like to retain God in their knowledge…[but] knowing the judgment of God…not only do…but have pleasure” in their uncleanness, vile affections, and reprobate minds. Even the most morally upright of mankind is “inexcusable” for though they teach what should not be done they still do “the same things.” We are our own accusers for our consciences bear witness of the law written in our hearts which God shall one day “judge the secrets of men.” Only “doers of the law shall be justified.”
We desperately need a rescue. We don’t deserve to be rescued because of our rebellious hearts, yet Jesus Christ accomplished the greatest rescue in history. He did not defy bedrock. Rather he defied death. His holiness meant death had no grip on Him. Through His resurrection and power, we now have a way of “obedience to the faith” through the righteousness of Christ. If we were only rescued from our plight yet left to live our own way, the rescue would be incomplete. Death would be like the house cat playing with a mouse. The rescue would prolong the inevitable!
The gospel of Christ has the power of complete salvation “to every one that believeth…for therein is the righteousness of God revealed.” The gospel is the message of hope for it tells us we can receive the righteousness of Christ which equals the fulfillment of the law. Through the holiness of Christ, the stranglehold of death slips away.
“The just shall live by faith!”