Unexpected grace

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Cross at sunset

Most of those who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not purified themselves. But King Hezekiah prayed for them, and they were allowed to eat the Passover meal anyway, even though this was contrary to the requirements of the law. — II Chronicles 30

It was definitely a bucket list item for me: Salmon fishing in Alaska.

Pictures of massive fish and ear-to-ear smiles lured me into booking one of the beautiful aqua colored river fishing charters.

On a gorgeous, sunny and cool morning we readied our boat and pushed off.

As we drifted down the river, anchoring here and there, I quickly concluded we should have simply booked a rubber raft float trip like the ones we were seeing drift by.

Sensitive to my disappointment, my sweetheart graciously called numerous ocean fishing charters to book a second fishing trip that did not disappoint.

Here come all these people from the northern tribes of Israel to Jerusalem to participate in the Passover celebration.

King Hezekiah had passionately invited them.

However, there was a huge problem. They hadn’t, for whatever reason, followed all the rules to get ready to participate in this celebration.

Even after Hezekiah pushed the celebration back for an entire month, they still weren’t ready.

Hezekiah fell to his knees and prayed to God on their behalf.

“Please pardon them Lord,” he prayed.

And the Lord listened, healed the people and allowed them to be a part even though they were poor performers.

Grace at its best.

What a reminder of God’s amazing grace in the midst of a law driven environment.

We have this weird love/hate relationship with rules, don’t we?

We love rules to point out the shortcomings of others, to demonstrate how good we are and to make a walk with God less faith dependent.

We hate rules because they cramp our style, point out our shortcomings and leave us beat up with no hope to be found.

Thankfully, Jesus’ invitation isn’t, “Come to a bunch of rules with your weary soul!”

No. His invitation is, “Come to ME with your weary soul!”

There and there alone, we find rest.

It’s a rest we don’t deserve and certainly haven’t earned.

Grace.

Big king or little king?

And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled. For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.” — Ezra 8

There’s something about body surfing river rapids that pushes one seriously beyond familiar comfort zones.

Walking a trail next to a river? Sure. The sights and sounds are amazing and invigorating. No hesitation.

Begin to scoot off a rock into whitewater with only the powerful current to greet you once you cross that point of no return? Well, that’s a different conversation and a different story to tell — “It was a beautiful hike” or “Dude, that was awesome!!” That water launched me like a cannon, flipped me around in the bubbles and finally spit me out on a rocky sandbar 100 yards downstream!”

Ezra found himself considering which story he was going to tell.

Granted, the challenge before him wasn’t to body surf in the Ahava Canal or not.

His conundrum was to either ask for protection from the king or to go it alone on the four-month journey to Jerusalem laden with tons of gold and silver.

His decision was far riskier.

He was caught in that crisis of faith where one decides if they truly believe what they say they believe about God.

“God protects those who worship him,” he boldly told the king.

After deciding against asking the king for protection, he started the journey armed only with his faith, prayer and humility.

He had a great story to tell!

We tend to like to hedge our bets, don’t we? Diversify investments. Establish numerous whole​sale accounts.

The folksy word picture is, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

Seriously, one dropped basket and there’s no eggs that day!

However, this typically sound thinking fails us miserably in relationships, particularly our relationship with God.

The God of the Bible makes an absolutely exclusive claim to our faith, worship and obedience.

Every day of our lives we’re deciding whether or not we’re going to trust him.

Every trial is a test.

Every Biblical command challenges our claim to rule our own lives.

So, it’s your call, big King or little king?

Tom Wiles is senior minister of Fall Creek Christian Church in Pendleton. He can be reached at 765-778-3166.

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