DOODLING JESUS

Somewhere in Africa our minibus rattles along the interminably long, hot, dusty, potholed road. It’s been a long day and I am sleepy. A sudden braking and crunching of gears and I awake… Rousing myself, I see a large crowd blocking the road, waving sticks. The driver leans on his horn and edges slowly through the crowd who, very reluctantly, part.

To my amazement, in the centre of the mêlée, stands a naked lady. She is trying to protect her modesty, and, at the same time, avoid the worst of the sticks with which she is being struck.
I feel as if I have slept and awoken in a parallel universe. I have no idea what is happening. Our driver is nonplussed and accelerates out of the crowd, continuing on our journey wordlessly.
Disturbed, I ask him “what was happening? What was that all about?”
“She has been a very foolish woman” he solemnly replies. – Verdict and end of conversation!

My mind wanders to a different time and place but, maybe, a similar lady. Caught “in the act of adultery” she is dragged before Jesus. Leaving aside the question of where the man was, (last time I checked, statistically, it took two to commit adultery), Jesus is told that the law of the day required a death sentence – What did he think?
Though they did not know it, he is the only one qualified to punish her, since he’s the only guiltless one present. However, he calmly declares “Let the stoning commence – providing the first person to throw a stone is guiltless”
He then bends down, seemingly without a care in the world, and doodles in the street dust. The doodling continues for some time until the crowd, so recently roaring for a stoning, slowly slink away.
“Is there no one left to punish you? – neither am I your punisher… go … and sin no more”
This lady had looked for love in destructive places and the law had tried and failed to steer her from the outside. She now experienced love of a different quality. This love freed her from guilt and freed her to choose. The love of Jesus steers from the inside.

The writers of the New Testament didn’t encourage us to go and sin! – “I am writing this so you won’t sin”… but, on the other hand, they were keen for us to know what would happen if, and when, we messed up.
• “You have an advocate” – One who speaks -up on our behalf – Jesus
• “You have a propitiation” – A giant Bible word which simply means that God’s right wrath against sin has been taken away, through Jesus’ work on the cross – there is no punishment.
“By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy!” You are a work in progress – but while others, and sometimes you yourself, may condemn, Jesus can still doodle!

The bones of this teaching is found in John 8 v 1 – 11, 1 John 2 v 1-2 and Hebrews 10 v 14

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OUTRAGEOUS ”FORGETTERY”

Once he had put behind him his God respecting father, he was able to embark on a disastrous, debauched, reign of his own.

He began by celebrating religious diversity. Leaving behind the God of his Fathers, he promoted any and all kinds of cult – the more perverted the better.
Baal, or “The Master”, a storm god, and his consort Asherah were favourites – and depraved in the extreme. Asherah , – a female mother deity – was worshipped with ritual prostitution, famous for phallic “Asherah poles”. Sex as worship soon became very popular and he led his nation into an enthusiastic celebration of immorality.

In the temple, built for the one true Creator God, he placed altars for stars and planets, angels and demons. As bad became worse he introduced a cult to honour Moloch, involving the horrific ritual sacrifice of children to the fire.

He replaced his cabinet with witches, mediums and spiritualists resulting in civic chaos; a corrupt government filled the capital with innocent blood.

Perhaps, at some point, his conscience was pricked but he learned that, with constant practice, he could ignore it and that, eventually, it even seemed to go away.
Those challenging him were silenced. One brave prophet gave him two words… One was a simple picture of a builders plumb line; “what isn’t built straight, God will flatten”. The other, “like a dirty bowl, I will clear you out, and turn you upside down”.

When the end came it was dramatic. Brought down by a foreign power, Manasseh was led around with a hook through his nose, like a prize bull. Having been ritually humiliated, he was then exiled and imprisoned in what is now Iraq.

Hooray!! The prophet killing, child murdering, despotic, satanic, God rejecting, sex addicted tyrant was history! … Except, before we all cheer, he wasn’t!

This atrocious, obnoxious man turned to an amazingly gracious God. In some “god forsaken” dungeon he prays and finds he is not, after all, God forsaken. He vomits up the deep truths about himself – and God forgives him. Whilst I might have given him a million years solitary confinement, and then the same on probation, God even restores him to his throne!
Grace is truly outrageous!

God loves to respond to “gut prayers” and he alone sees what is going on in our hearts. Genuine repentance irresistibly releases God’s mercy. This was not a token gesture kind of “sorry”, but a genuine remorse. – “I wish I’d never done this, I wish I could undo it, I am ashamed before God and want to renounce it all” kind of praying.

The reinstated King then removes all the idols and altars, rebuilds the neglected capital city and its defences and reinstates the worship of Creator God.

This king, Manasseh, illustrates a wonderful Bible phrase – “their sins … I will remember no more” This is “grace” – a totally undeserved “forgettery” in which go all our demerits. No atrocious sinner is beyond the grasp of an amazingly gracious God.

Perhaps our temptation is to identify ourselves too much with our past sins, and mistakes, when the truth is that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us”

Paul once wrote to a people trapped by their past and reminded them “this is what you were”. The Christian can grasp hold of a whole new identity – “I was this but now …”
• “You have been washed” – the work of Jesus totally cleanses you from sin and shame
• “You are sanctified” – the Holy Spirit has set you apart and gifted you with a new identity
• You’ve been justified – The Father himself has declared His verdict “not guilty”.

This is outrageous – and wonderful.

(The bones of this story are in the Bible – 2 Kings 21 and 2 Chronicles 33 v 10ff. Other useful verses, for the curious, are Psalm 103 v 10-12, Heb 10v17, 1 John 1 v 9 and 1 Corinthians 6 v 9-11)

SHOCKING LOVE

She’d never settled, though she had been married once, and had children with her husband. Those who knew her, and liked her, said she was discontented. Those who liked her less spoke of her being wild and flighty. Those who disliked her said much worse!
Perhaps inevitably, her eyes wandered. She took a steady lover and later left her husband. A tragic cycle developed as she loved, lost and moved on … A couple of children later, and with no one to support her, she found that certain men were willing to pay for her attentions.
When it finally all fell apart she felt deserted and damaged. Dishevelled and penniless, the decision had been made for her – she would sell herself into domestic slavery.

The Market Place.

I can picture her there, in the market place. Humiliating though it all is, shameful though it may be, there is plenty of interest in this lady! She may no longer be in the first flush of youth, but she remains beautiful, so the bidding rises sharply.
“9, 10, 11 pieces of silver”
“12” – and the lower bidders drop out.
“13… 14 … 14 and a half” – the half a sure sign of dwindling resources!
“15” says “H’”…
Another bidder, out of cash and on his way home from the market, adds, “And a bushel of barley”
In desperation “H” shouts “15… and a bushel and a half!”

The gavel falls. Gomer, for that is her name, is now the property of Hosea.

The Scullery.

After the silent trudge to her new owner’s house, she sits, head bowed. He stands, clears his voice, and outlines his household rules…
“1. There will be no unfaithfulness – no prostitution, no sleeping around, no sex – purity”. – That’s not a line Gomer has heard for a good few years!
“2. You are going to live here for a long time, – and I will wait for you to love me”.

WHAT!?!? – This is not “the ideal Christian family”! – It is amazing, shocking, tragic and wonderful!
Here is a man, Hosea, who wants pure, faithful love; but can do nothing to ensure it. He wants intimacy not just sex. But you can’t make someone love you. You can’t force faithfulness. His is an extreme vulnerability.
The final twists in the plot, like a tale of the unexpected, are that Hosea is already Gomers’ husband, a believer, who claims he’s done the whole thing “because God told me to!”

You can find the gist of this drama in the book of Hosea. Shockingly God tell this man to “go marry an adulterous woman, and get children … for the whole country has become nothing but a whore, by abandoning God”. Later, after being abandoned, he is instructed to go and find her again…

The Great Grace Drama

History’s greatest drama is God’s fixed and determined desire for an intimate relationship with us.
Playing the part of God in a living drama may well have appealed to Hosea at the audition. It sounds good, until you realise that God compares himself to a deserted husband of an adulterous wife!

If we re-live the story, playing the part of Gomer, we discover a story of grace like no other. Created to be in intimate friendship with God, who has pledged himself to us, we have disgraced ourselves, repeatedly. Uncomplimentary as it is, the story portrays us as unfaithful, prostituting ourselves with other, lesser loves.
Many things in this world make bids for our affections, offering fun, power, satisfaction, comfort and security; and to our shame, we fall for them.

The outrageous “Grace news” is that while we were still “adulterous” Jesus entered the market place to buy us out of slavery and to win our devotion. Christ’s own love was demonstrated by his bidding his own life blood – He used the exact word, “ransom”, the price paid to free a slave, to describe his mission. (Mark 10 v 25)

Accepting his love, he re-clothes and re-homes us and asks us to live in friendship with him. What undeserved love!
There is, in this story and within God’s love, a fierce vulnerability. Determined to love us, under no illusions as to who and what we are, He cannot make us love him, yet longs for closeness with us.
God has never desired sterile religious adherence. He has, shockingly and wonderfully, purposed to overlook our former disloyalty, and deeply longs now for us to “abide with him”. Receive his love, and respond to him with new affection.