When God created the heavens and the earth, this globe we call Earth was “without form and void” (Genesis 1:2). It was chaotic and covered in darkness (1:2). But the Holy Spirit hovered over the water, a divine promise of good things to come (1:2). Suddenly God said, “Let there be light!” (1:3) A bright and shining light appeared in that moment (1:3). Grace.
Fast forward about 2000 years. After the flood, men built a city in the land of Shinar (Genesis 11:2). They created a tower to “make a name” for themselves (11:4). But God judged them by confusing their language (11:7). So they named the place Babel, “confusion” (11:9). Spiritual darkness then covered the land. But people couldn’t see the Holy Spirit hovering.
Out of this chaos came Abraham. God called him from Ur of the Chaldeans (Babylonians) and promised to bless him (Genesis 11:28, 31, 12:1-3). Ur itself may have been the former Babel, eventually to become Babylon. Shinar and Babel are connected with Nimrod, a descendant of Ham (10:10). Abraham came from Shem (12:10). Still, the descendants of all three sons of Noah may have converged on the plains of Shinar. Peleg, an ancestor of Abraham, means “division” and it refers to God’s judgment at the tower of Babel (10:25).
Abraham is considered the father of our faith (Romans 4:11-16). Yet he was an idolater in Ur before he received God’s call (Joshua 24:2-3). For generations, it seemed like nothing good had come from the darkness and chaos of Babel after God’s righteous judgment. The call of Abraham was both light and grace.
Fast forward 700 years. Israel had surrounded Jericho in Canaan. The people were afraid (Joshua 2:9-11, 24). But a prostitute named Rahab courageously hid two spies (2:1-6). She then asked them to spare her and her family from death (2:13). Rahab lived in spiritual darkness, both individually and corporately, yet she cast her lot with God (2:11-12).
Out of the chaotic darkness of Canaan, ripe for God’s judgment, stepped a woman of faith – Rahab (Hebrews 11:31). God honored her faith by sparing her and her family, as well as giving her a Jewish husband and inheritance in the Promised Land (Joshua 6:22-25). He also made Rahab an ancestor of both King David and Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). Grace.
Fast forward 800 years. The heathen King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was conquering the known world. He swallowed up Assyria, Israel, Egypt, and other lands. Suddenly, four young men of faith entered Babylon. First, Daniel identified and interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:25-45). Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow to his statue (3:12-18). Nebuchadnezzar threw three bound men into a fiery furnace but saw four free men walking around, the fourth “like the Son of God” (3:19-25). Finally, the king was forced to eat grass like a beast for seven years (4:31-33). After his sanity returned, Nebuchadnezzar declared, “I … praise and extol and honor the king of heaven” (4:37). Out of the chaotic darkness of heathen Babylon, ripe for God’s judgment, stepped a man with faith in the living God. Grace.
Fast forward 500 years. The Jews had lost their nationhood status, subdued by a godless Rome that crucified criminals, hanged troublemakers, and made slaves of children if the parents couldn’t pay taxes to Caesar. Herod Antipas, governor of Judea, was an incestuous murderer who considered himself “king of the Jews.” The people also walked in spiritual darkness, first mired in sin and then led astray by unbelieving priests and scribes. But they couldn’t see the Holy Spirit hovering. They didn’t know that light was ready to shatter the darkness.
Out of this chaos stepped a man. But he wasn’t any ordinary man. Jesus Christ was the Son of God, born in Bethlehem to a carpenter and his virgin wife. He came to save people from sin by dying on a cross. Truly Jesus was “a root out of dry ground” (Isaiah 53:2). Grace.
After Jesus’ ascension the apostles opposed the Sanhedrin, made up of Pharisees and Sadducees. They didn’t think anything good could come from them after the stoning of Stephen. They certainly expected nothing good from Saul, a Pharisee who zealously arrested and imprisoned Christians (Acts 8:3, 9:1-2). But the apostles didn’t know the Holy Spirit was hovering.
Suddenly, light shone on the desert road to Damascus (Acts 9:3). Jesus asked, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (9:4) Blind and trembling, the “chosen vessel” went to Damascus and was baptized (9:6, 15, 18). The murderer that the church had feared was now Paul, a bold preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ (9:20-23). Grace.
Matthew and Zaccheus were tax collectors. Mary Magdalene was possessed. Cornelius was a Roman centurion. St. Augustine was a thief. Martin Luther was a monk. John Wesley was a “brand plucked from the fire” (Zechariah 3:2). Sergeant York was an alcoholic. Dennis Jernigan and Donnie McClurkin were homosexuals. They all experienced God’s saving grace.
Is God finished? No. He is still in the business of saving men like Abraham, Nebuchadnezzar, Matthew, Cornelius, and Paul – and women like Rahab and Mary. God still calls people “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Maybe we work with them or pass them on the street. Maybe we read about them in magazines, newspapers, and online. The actor, politician, atheist, homosexual, murderer, prostitute, or thief we condemn today might be a bold preacher of the gospel tomorrow. Who knows who will be the next recipient of God’s grace?
Grace, grace, God’s grace
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within
Grace, grace, God’s grace
Grace that is greater than all my sin (YouTube)