Can I Get a Checkpoint? (1 Chronicles 13 and 15, 2 Samuel 19)

I HATE making decisions in a video game.  It’s a bit ironic, really.  I find myself compelled to play and enjoy games that have a meaty story full of dialogue trees and a variety of options, but I still can’t help but wonder what lies beyond on the road less traveled.  Sometimes it is as simple as choosing between which character you believe is telling the truth, and other times it is the difficult decision to proceed down one path knowing full well that it closes all other options down entirely.  Some games give you a warning, like Mass Effect 2.  As you approach the point of no return this game will politely ask you if you are SURE you want to enter the Omega relay, because there is no going back once you launch that mission.  But most others do not play nice and instead allow you to freely and blissfully march on ahead without the luxury of realizing the consequences you have blindly triggered in your future.

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If you are old and have “seen many moons” like I have, you may remember an old book series called “Choose Your Own Adventure”.  It was a personal favorite of mine because after reading a page of the story there would be a choice at the bottom of the page, giving you the option to turn to one page if you made one choice and an entirely different page if you chose another.  This splintering “butterfly effect” of your choices would go on and on until you reached the unique ending for your story based on the choices you made.  But… I have a confession.  I was a coward and ALWAYS hedged my bets.  I would keep my fingers on the original “choice” page and as I flipped forward to the next section I would quickly scan it to see if it ended in my demise or mission failure.  As soon as I felt things were going the wrong direction I would hurry and flip back like it was merely a bad dream, and I would continue to move on through the story as if I HADN’T just been cut in half by an airlock door.

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The same experience happened the first time I played Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic.  As I reached the endgame I found myself being forced to choose between the competing desires of my party members.  I made a choice that I thought was the correct one and then stood helplessly by as my party members turned on each other and began fighting until only a handful were left.  Mortified, I dove across the room and pressed the eject button on my disk tray to stop the carnage.  And then, just for good measure, I powered the system off and unplugged it from the wall.  I sat there for quite a while, shaken and disturbed at what had unfolded before I got the courage to reload the game and ensure that this horrific decision had not been fully saved onto the hard drive.

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It can be easy to try to play this exact same game in life.  We can read the Bible for guidance and pray without ceasing for the Lord’s will, but we are also confronted with distinct choices along our path that will ultimately shape not only our futures but the futures of countless others that we may not have even met yet.  With such high stakes riding on every decision we make, it is easy and even natural to pray that God makes the decision for us or at least gives us a “Checkpoint” so if we make the wrong decision we can try again.  And the answer to this question is both Yes and No.  Come with me to 1 Chronicles and we will discover the truth behind this conundrum…

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In 1 Chronicles 13 we find King David riding a high of victories and his kingship finally secured after years of life as a fugitive.  To show his appreciation for the Lord and all He had done for him David sought to bring the ark of the covenant, a physical symbol of the Lord’s presence amongst the people of Israel, to Jerusalem and place it in a position of prominence.  His heart’s desire was to bring glory to God and build a temple worthy of his Creator, but he did not follow the PROCESS that the Lord had designed to transport the ark from one place to another.  As we will see, this had dramatic and fatal repercussions…

 1 Chron. 13:9-10: And when they came to Chidon’s threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark; and he died there before God. 

The method for transport for the ark was to place two poles through the rings located in the four corners of the ark and for it to be carried by four priests.  David had the right motive, but made the wrong choice and brought the ark on cart manned by non-priests.  When a “stumbling block” came along the untrained man guiding the cart instinctively tried to protect the ark from falling and when he touched the Holy presence of God he was struck dead instantly, bringing the parade to a standstill.  A fatality tends to do that, don’t you know.  That’s a pretty heavy penalty for an act of disobedience.  But in 1 Chronicles 15 we find a repentant and still determined David bringing the ark to Jerusalem once again… and this time he does it the RIGHT way.  A huge celebration ensues, the ark is safely brought home, and this time NOBODY gets struck dead by God which is really the best possible outcome.  David was given a second chance by the Lord, but not without consequence.

This plays out once again in David’s life during his sin with Bathsheba.  He impregnated another man’s wife, has her husband murdered, and because of his sin the child that was born did not survive.  But the God of second chances once again confronted David, He accepted David’s repentance, and the next child born to David and Bathsheba happens to be Solomon, the wisest and wealthiest king who ever lived and the continuation for the lineage that would lead to the birth of Christ.  Go figure that it was THIS child, the child born out of a forbidden tryst,  that God chose to be the great-great-great grandfather to Jesus Himself.

Sin always has a consequence.  I am sure you have found this out without me telling you.  There are no “free checkpoints” in life to see what lies around the corner without committing yourself to the direction.  But we also serve a loving and forgiving God who knows we are but dust and knew from our beginning what choices we would make before the option even existed for us to make them.  He cannot bless your attempts to bring the ark to Him in disobedience.  And He will not bless the fruit of something that exists in a state of sin.  These sinful choices always end in a consequence that can never be undone.  But He will ABSOLUTELY turn his ear to a repentant heart and will give you another chance to make His vision for you a reality, just as He did with David.

You make have allowed the lies of the enemy to encroach on your heart and deceive you into believing you have walked too far off of His path for your life.  You may be struggling to move forward under the burden of guilt you carry for the unintended outcomes of the choices you have made and those who have been hurt by them.  But you don’t have to STAY there.  You CAN rise up as we see David doing in 2 Samuel after the death of his illegitimate child..

2 Sam 12:19-24 When David saw that his servants were whispering, David perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?”And they said, “He is dead.” So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate.  Then his servants said to him, “What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”  Then David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in to her and lay with her. So she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. Now the Lord loved him, and He sent word by the hand of Nathan the prophet: So he called his name Jedidiah,because of the Lord.

Whatever the choices you have made and no matter how horrific the consequences, the Lord STILL loves you and has a plan for you even in your current state of chaos.  Rise up, seek and receive His forgiveness, and go to Him in worship and gratitude because as long as you are still here He still has a plan for you.  God does not create redundancies.  He has a plan built from the beginning of time itself and it will unfold exactly as He has designed it to.  Your continued existance is PROOF POSITIVE that you still have a calling to fulfill and a Solomon to birth.

It would be nice to go back in time and make different decisions.  It would be wonderful to see into the future and know what the consequences will be before you make a choice.  It would be amazing to create a “save point” before making a critical life decision so you can go back and make a different choice if this one doesn’t pan out.  But the Lord has a better plan and even your mistakes, as painful as they may be for you and those who share the consequences with you, are part of your message and testimony to others about the greatness of the God you serve.  We can share and celebrate His forgiveness with others beacuse we needed it and used it ourselves.  We are both the fishers of men AND the fish, because He caught us with the same amazing, unconditional, and promiscous love that we now offer to others.  Your message of righteous living may convict those around you, but it is what He has saved you FROM that will make an unbelievers heart yearn to experience that same forgiveness and freedom that He has freely given us.

Share your broken checkpoint with someone today…

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