“When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their ancestors, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant. And when many disasters and calamities come on them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.” So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites. Deuteronomy 31:20–22
Have you ever read the Old Testament stories of the Israelites and thought, Goodness, just get it together! Stop forgetting all that God has done for you!
The issue surfaces as I realize my scoffing at the Israelites comes from placing myself in the role of God in the story. I couldn’t be the Israelites. They are so forgetful and God is so obviously in control, powerful and worthy of praise. Analyzing the characters, I think, How could they not believe and trust? Then, I close my Bible, flip through some social media apps on my phone, and wonder why God hasn’t felt near.
Where’s my banquet feast God? Because I’m growing tired of all this manna.
I am the Israelites.
I am not God. I am the one in need of a Savior, of a hero. Opening God’s word it becomes apparent, the hero role is already taken. Jesus is the hero of the story, of this world, of our lives. And thank goodness, because we need that role to be filled by someone greater than ourselves.
Take, for instance, the parable of the prodigal son. Where do you find yourself in this narrative? To which character in the story do you most relate?
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him…
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:11-32
For me, I don’t identify with the forgiving father in this story. Nor do I best connect with the younger, runaway son. No, the character I most accurately identify with is the indignant, older brother, shocked at the father’s love for someone who squandered what they were given. Where’s the older brother’s party? Where’s his fattened calf? Translated, Lord I’ve so often done the right things, where’s my reward? The frustration of the older brother sadly makes sense to me as my own righteous arrogance manifests internally. I’m not the hero. I’m the selfish and sinful secondary character who is radically changed—by the hero.
Christ’s death and resurrection beautifully reminds us of our rightful (and necessary) place in God’s narrative.
The character list in the death and resurrection story are many: scoffers, torturers, neglectful officials, friends who abandoned, misunderstanding doubters, grieving mothers, deserving death-row criminals, and hordes of onlookers just trying to make sense of it all. But there is clearly one main character, one hero: Jesus.
Who are you in the story?
God allows us to play meaningful, creative, and life-changing roles in the story. Our individual character descriptions are as varying and unique as the God we serve. But we can never forget the role reserved for the story’s one true protagonist and hero—Jesus. Only as Jesus has His proper place in the story (and we have ours), will the story and our lives be complete.
Where do you find yourself in God’s story? Are you placing yourself in the leading role? Are you doubting you are allowed to even be a part of the story?
As Resurrection People, may we always be content to find life and purpose in being members of the supporting cast.
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