“We will do everything the Lord has commanded. We will obey,” vowed the Israelites after Moses read the Book of the Covenant to them (Exod. 24:7). They were sincere and believed what they were saying. Yet God knew they would not obey.
Even though God knew the Israelites would not keep their vows, God kept true to His. God still wanted to bless the Israelites. He did not abandon them but wrote His commands on special stone tablets to give to Moses so Moses could teach the people.
Many years later as Jesus and the disciples ate the Last Supper, He said, ‘“The truth is, one of you will betray me.’ ‘No!’ Peter insisted. ‘Not even if I have to die with you! I will never deny you!’ And all the other disciples vowed the same” (Matt. 26:21,35). They were sincere and believed what they were saying. Yet Jesus knew they would abandon Him.
That same night “Peter declared, ‘Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will’” (Matt. 26:33). Peter was sincere and believed what he was saying. Yet Jesus knew Peter would deny even knowing Him.
Even though Jesus knew the disciples would not keep their vows, Jesus kept true to His. Jesus still shared the Last Supper with His friends. He still asked them to go to the garden with Him as He wrestled with, and prayed through, the issue of His rapidly approaching crucifixion—the horrific sacrifice that would provide forgiveness for sin and salvation for all who repented and put their trust in Him.
Yes, our Lord is faithful to us even though He knows we will not always be faithful to Him. Our Lord loves us even though He knows we will not always love Him as we should. Our Lord will never fail us even though He knows we will fail Him. It is not a question of “if” we will fail, but “how” we respond after we have failed.
How did the Israelites respond to God’s commands in the Book of the Covenant? They did not obey nor did they turn away from their disobedience. As punishment, they wandered in the desert for forty years and never received God’s promise of living in the earthly home He had chosen for them. They traded obedience for aimless wandering in a scorched and hostile land, where they would not experience the blessing God wanted for them.
Unlike the Israelites, the disciples turned from their fearfulness and became wholehearted followers of Jesus Christ. They put their failures behind them and moved forward with God. Did they totally forget their disloyalty to Jesus? It is not likely. Think of how much it must have grieved Matthew to write regarding Jesus’ arrest, “At that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Matt. 26:56). Matthew was one of those disciples.
Peter’s public acknowledgment of his failure came more quickly. As he waited in the courtyard to see the outcome of Jesus’ trial, “Peter said, ‘I swear by God, I don’t know the man.’ And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went away, crying bitterly” (Matt. 26:74-75).
But the disciples did not let these failures become their focal point. Their failures were a springboard to lives spent telling Jesus’ story and His power to forgive and restore. And their deepening relationship with their Savior, through the Holy Spirit, gave them the courage to die a martyr’s death rather than stop telling Jesus’ story. Through their lives, and through their deaths, these men helped change the world forever.
Is there something that you carry close to your heart that you are ashamed of and grieved by? Don’t let it become your focal point. As with the disciples, Jesus already knew about our specific sin when He prayed in the garden and when He died for that sin. He has not been caught off guard by our sins and will make us clean before God when we turn away from those sins and sincerely seek His forgiveness. Those confessed sins may haunt us at times, but they do not trouble God, for He has chosen to not remember them. With God, we can move past our failures.
© 2010 Arlina Yates