Wednesday, August 8, 2001
If you grew up on a farm, there's probably a dog in your memories. For my farm girl, my wife, that dog was a Collie cattle dog named King. King was great at rounding up her Dad's cattle. All Dad would have to do was to whistle that certain whistle, and King would start circling and circling those cattle until he herded them in. But there was a problem. One day a chicken got out, and King killed that chicken - which gave that valuable dog the taste of blood. They tell me if you can't cure that in a dog, you can't afford to keep it. The dog either has to be killed or disciplined so he'll never forget. So Dad took that dead chicken and tied its legs around King's neck with some twine. Needless to say, the dog tried everything to shake that dead chicken, but as the day wore on, the bird he killed did not improve with age. By the end of the day, King's head and tail were hanging low. It's a painful way to learn the seriousness of what he had done...but not nearly as painful as the alternative.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Souvenirs of Sin."
If you have to carry some of the consequences of what you've done wrong, it can be powerful incentive not to do it again - which can save you from consequences that will be far worse. Now that's why God sometimes allows you and me to experience some unpleasant results of our sin. It's not that He hasn't forgiven us or that He doesn't love us. It's because He does.
God had great plans for Jacob - among other things, he would father the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. But all his life this stubborn, self-willed, survival-oriented man had been wrestling with God for the control of his life. And then came the final wrestling match. Our word for today from the Word of God, Genesis 32:24, "Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man."
Eventually, Jacob realizes who he's been wrestling with that night - and all these years. The Bible says, "Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, 'It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared...He was limping because of his hip" (Genesis 32:30-31). As far as we know, Jacob walked with a painful limp for the rest of his life. Was he right with God? Well, he asked for God's blessing that night, and God changed his name from Jacob, the cheat--to Israel, which means prince with God.
But even though it seems Jacob had made his peace with God, he was like that old Collie, King. In essence, he carried the dead chicken around with him the rest of his life to remind him of how much it hurts to be self-willed and stubborn and manipulative. It wasn't that my father-in-law didn't value that dog--he did value the dog. That's why he made him live with those consequences--the alternative was destruction.
And that may be why God has allowed you to continue to experience some of the scars and pain and consequences of your sin. If you have brought that sin to Jesus' cross in true repentance, God promises that He will "remember that sin no more" (Hebrews 8:12). You are forgiven...you are clean...your sin is forever covered by the blood that Jesus shed for it. But God doesn't ever want you to go back where you were. So maybe today there are still the memories, the regrets, some of the brokenness, the scars. God has left you with that aftermath so you will be protected by those consequences from ever doing that again. You won't forget how much it hurts and how much it costs.
It's another dimension of that same grace that forgave you and cleansed you. It's God's keeping grace...enough pain from the past to keep you from ever going back to what would destroy you. Sometimes God in His grace saves us from the consequences of our sin and sometimes He leaves the consequences there. Either way, it's His love.