Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

January 17, 2010


Broken people should not be thrown away like broken toys


      People whose lives have been shattered should not be discarded like broken toys or furniture. Brokenness can become a springboard to usefulness and even sometimes to greatness. Broken people can be restored.

          Take, for example, the biblical giant named Moses. When he was 40 Moses killed an Egyptian for abusing a Hebrew. Thinking no one had witnessed the killing, Moses hid the dead man’s body. But someone had seen Moses kill the man. His crime was exposed. Moses became a wanted man and, filled with fear and guilt, he fled to another town.

          Now a murderer and a fugitive Moses’ life was shattered. He was a broken man without a job or resources. In today’s society such a person would be hard pressed to find employment. Few people would help him recover. We would say his life was over, that his brokenness was his own doing.

          But as the Bible tells us, that was not the end of the story for Moses. Someone gave him a chance and he got up out of the ash heap of defeat to become a leader of his people.

          This is why the Bible is such a great book. It gives hope to broken people. From Genesis to Revelation there are stories of people whose lives were shattered. But God does not give up on them. If the Bible shows us anything, it shows us that God helps broken people to start over.   

          We might not have chosen some of the people God picked for service. Take Isaac for example. Have you ever wondered why God identifies himself to Moses as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Why Isaac? What did he do in order to deserve God’s favor? Evidently he did very little. And was he not a failure as a father? Check it out.

          When Isaac was born he made Sarah and Abraham laugh. So what? When his wife Rebecca could have no children, he prayed for her to conceive and God answered his prayer. He reopened the wells his father Abraham had dug. He became wealthy. Isaac built an altar at Beersheba and worshiped God there. That sums up the positives of Isaac’s life.

          Much more can be said about the negative side of Isaac’s life. As the twin boys grew up Isaac loved Esau more than he loved Jacob. He said nothing as Rebecca made Jacob her favorite son. As the head of his family, he could have insisted that his affection, and that of Rebecca, be equally divided between their two sons. So he actually assisted the intense rivalry between Esau and Jacob to grow into hatred.

Isaac was a coward and a liar in the same way his father Abraham had been. Like father, like son. Out of fear for his life he passed off Rebecca as his sister. This behavior did not distinguish Isaac as a role model.  

After Isaac became blind in his old age, he allowed Jacob and Rebecca to trick him into giving Esau’s blessing to his deceitful brother Jacob. It is difficult to feel sorry for the old man when Esau weeps out loud, having found out that his cunning brother had cheated him out of his father’s blessing. No doubt Isaac was weeping as well. What a sad scene: two men broken by deceit and suffering the consequences of their foolish behavior.

The phrase “sibling rivalry” originated in Bible stories. Brothers have always struggled with each other. Cain and Abel were the first. Then come Esau and Jacob, and later Joseph and his brothers. Esau and Jacob started fighting before they were born! 

Esau proved himself to be very foolish by selling his birthright for a bowl of camp stew. Jacob proved worthy of his name (Jacob means “heel-grabber”) by “grabbing” his brother’s birthright instead of graciously sharing supper with his hungry brother.

These, then, are the people God chose to make the world aware of his love. A motley bunch they were – every family dysfunctional – yet God refused to give up on them. God saw in them what they could become – people useful for good work. He kept working with Jacob until the conniver had a new name (Israel) and a new character. Esau outgrows his intense desire to kill Jacob.

How can we explain the way God favors certain people? The answer is that God does what he wants to do. He does not check with us nor does he owe us an explanation. He is God. The Apostle Paul offers a good answer. Paul says God does not choose people who are wise and strong. Instead he chooses the weak and foolish to do his work.  

The unsettling thing about Isaac, Esau, and Jacob is that we are very much like them today. We too are conniving, selfish, and self-seeking. Our families are also dysfunctional. But God is willing to help us, as he helped Moses, to overcome our brokenness and live useful lives. Thank goodness for a God who does not throw broken people away but gives them hope and a chance to recover. We all need to be more like God.  + + +