"But God, being rich in mercy,
because of the great love with which He loved us,"
Yesterday I heard a sermon on Ephesians 2:1-10 and when we got to the verse above and I saw the words "But God" and what followed I got so excited that it was all I could do to sit there. I realized that "But God" is a theme that has run through my life. I looked up a few verses that have some form of the words in them and it seems that it is often during the darkest times that these words appear as a beacon of hope.
Here are a few of the "But God's" I found:
In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve ate forbidden fruit, entering all men into a state of sin and spiritual deadness. But they were the first to taste the darkness of rebellion and the shame that wells up in our hearts when we choose sin. They made inadequate clothes to cover their shame. So they hid from God when He came near. In verse 9 we find our words, "But the Lord called to man and said to him, "Where are you?"" Adam and Eve feared being found out. They didn't realize God wasn't just coming to confront them, He was coming to open the door of repentance. He was coming to cover their shame through clothes of animal skins, pointing to the blood sacrifice that would ultimately cover their sin, remove their shame, raise them to life, and make a way to the center of His heart.
In Genesis 7 we find the account of the flood. The world had become so sinful that every thought of man was filled with violence and God judged through a flood, saving only Noah, his family, and the animals He steered to the ark Noah built. It was a sad, terrifying time as the rain fell, the waters killed, and the boat rocked in the violent storm. But we come to Genesis 8:1, "But God remembered Noah and all the beasts, and all the livestock, that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided." And a new a covenant given covered by a bow.
The story of Abraham was riddled with "buts." He and barren Sarah lived in a culture that worshiped fertility gods, making life so miserable for them. But God called them out. But God promised them a child. But when Abe lied twice, placing his wife in the hands of men who would have taken her as their own, God intervened. They even tried to insert their own "buts" into God's plan -- one of them being Sarah's servant having a child for them, but God stepped into the mess and gives them the child He promised. But God in that act showed Himself to be the true God of life.
Then came the deceiver Jacob who ran away from his dishonest father-in-law with his wives, children, and livestock. Laban wasn't a nice man so God intervened. Genesis 31:24 says, "But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night and said to him, "Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad."" Jacob was a deceiver, but God redeemed Jacob from his deceiving ways.
Then Joseph was thrown into a pit by his brothers who then fished him and sold him into slavery. His life, at times was bleak and life took some unfair turns. But God sovereignly worked to preserve life and to change Josephs heart. Listen to the words he spoke to the brothers who betrayed him, "So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and Lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt." But God preserved His people through the dejected brother.
When Israel no longer had favor with the Egyptians they were forced into brutal slavery. But God heard their cries and through a series of challenges given to Pharaoh through Moses, they were miraculously freed and in defeating their idols God showed Himself to be the one true living God.
Then later in Ezra 9:9 we see, "For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us His steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem."
In a more personal realm the psalmists said in Psalm 73:26, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." This teaches us to look for the buts in our own lives.
In the midst of idol worship and going after detestable things we have God's "but" delivered through Ezekiel in Ezekiel 37:23, "They shall not defile themselves any more with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I (God) will save them from the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God."
The book of Daniel we have a bunch more "buts." Wise men couldn't interpret dreams, but God enabled Daniel to. His friends were thrown into a fiery furnace, but God was there and delivered them smoke free. Daniel was cast into a den of lions, but God shut their mouths and Daniel lived.
Moving forward to the darkest hours ever known to man, the son of God was slain and the promised Messiah was laid in a borrowed grave, but God raised Him on the third day, defeating sin and death.
And in our never ending struggle with sin we have Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God, is eternal life in Christ Jesus" and Romans 9:16, "So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
I love the "buts." My own life is full of the "buts!"
I am a sinner, but God gave me His righteousness.
I was spiritually dead, but God gave me life.
I lived in the passions of the flesh carrying out its desires, but God intervened and now I am controlled by His spiritual, and compelled by godly passions to do His will.
I was alienated from God, but God reconciled me to Himself through Jesus.
I was a child of wrath, but God adopted me and I am now a child of the King.
I was sentenced to die, but God abolished my spiritual death and brought life and immortality to me through Jesus.
I never fit in, but God chose me and made me acceptable and placed me in His family. .
I was wounded, but God healed me.
I was insignificant, but God made me an ambassador of His great kingdom.
I was inadequate, but God gifted me to serve.
I was fearful, but God filled me with courage.
I was in bondage to sin, but God showed me the way out.
I was stubborn, but God disciplined me in love and softened my heart.
I have been unfaithful at times, but God has remained faithful and showered me with His grace.
I could go on and on. I don't deserve the buts, but they were God's loving interventions to draw me to the center of His will. I could say a whole lot more about each one of the "buts" as they are a chapter in my story...a story God is penning with His own hand.
I am so thankful for the "buts." They are there ever doing His continuous redemptive work in me, ever drawing me home to His heart.