Why is God so determined to make us a reproach of men?
One day, at three o’clock in the morning, the Lord woke me up to spend some time with him. In the middle of the fellowship, he gave me a strange instruction. He asked me to replace my settees in our main living-room downstairs with the ones in the den upstairs. What was odd about this was that the settees in the den were literally in tatters. Surely, it was inappropriate to put them in the living room where we entertained guests.
Nevertheless, I was excited by the instruction. I felt it could only mean one thing: the Lord was planning to replace the old furniture with new ones. The settees in question were twenty-three years old. We could have replaced them long before then, except that the Lord had taken over our finances and buying new settees did not seem to be one of his priorities. But now, it seemed, the time had finally come. We were in for a treat. I wondered what kind of replacement he would come up with. One thing was certain; they would be fabulous.
I quickly obeyed. I did not wait until there was someone else awake to help me. All night long, I carried the old settees downstairs and arranged them in the living room. I then put the relatively new ones upstairs in the den. It was not easy, but I managed to do it all by myself. Later on, I explained the situation to my wife. “The Lord has decided to get us new furniture,” I declared exuberantly. “In readiness, he has asked that we move the old ones downstairs.”
I expected all this to be accomplished in a matter of days. But days rolled into weeks; and weeks rolled into months, and nothing happened. The Lord seemed to have forgotten about the question of our furniture. I became confused. Did I get it wrong? Was he not the one who told me to bring the old furniture downstairs? What exactly is the meaning of this? What is he trying to bring out in all this?
The old settees were a major eyesore in our living room. I started dreading people coming to visit us. What would they think? The settees were torn all over. In many places, the underlying foam was clearly visible. So I stopped inviting people home. If they came uninvited, I would go into some elaborate explanation about the furniture, laying the blame squarely at the doorstep of the Holy Spirit. “I’m sorry about the condition of this place, but the Holy Spirit told me to put this twenty-three year old furniture bang in the living room.”
Many looked at me pitifully; convinced I was a victim of some bizarre deception. But the Lord did not make things any easier. He wanted to know why I found it necessary to tell everyone it was he who told me to put the torn furniture in the living-room. Then he told me I should stop doing so. I had assumed that the whole point of the exercise was to get me new settees. But now I detected a different disturbing motive. God was determined to humiliate me.
A Reproach and a Proverb
After a few embarrassing months, I found it necessary to remind the Lord that I actually had not asked for new settees. He was the one who brought the matter up. Since he was clearly no longer interested, could I please put the old ones back in their original hiding place upstairs? The answer was an emphatic “No.”
Why does God act like this? Why is he so determined to make us a reproach of men?
Therein lies a kingdom dynamic we don’t seem to understand and find difficult to accept. When God loves us, he gives us a hard time. He himself says: “I continually discipline and punish everyone I love” (Revelation 3:19). God’s love is not sentimental. He secures our welfare through ways that are often unpalatable to us. He takes delight in frustrating our expectations of grandeur. He is determined to thwart our own purposes in life. Nevertheless, Jesus insists: “Blessed is he who is not offended by the way I do things” (Matthew 11:6).
Twenty-three years of living with the same furniture, and seven months of having torn furniture displayed for all to see in my living room, the Lord finally instructed me to go to a precise shop where he showed me a new set of settees that were simply beautiful. Moreover, he provided me with the money to buy it.