HOW DOES GOD REMAKE US?
by Rev. Dan White
The most famous statue in the world resides in Florence, Italy. It is the magnificent David carved by Michelangelo. He poured three years of his life and skill from 1501 to 1504 into the massive seventeen foot sculpture depicting David in his youth from the Bible story of David and Goliath. It shows David contemplating with tense muscles and on the alert in the coming confrontation between him and the giant.
Government officials in Florence sponsored the work and in 1464, they commissioned Italian artist, Donatello to create a sculpture of David. The mammoth block of marble was quarried from one of the mines in Tuscany in northern Italy. It was both costly and labor intensive to move it to Florence.
Donatello died and the marble sat out in the elements untouched and forgotten for twenty-five years. Itís hard to believe that such a large chunk of rock could be forgotten and overlooked, but it was. During an inventory, the city officials found the huge piece of marble and were saddened at its condition. The rain, wind, and the change of seasons eroded the marble down to a smaller size. Too much city money was invested in the project. The city leaders took action.
They hired twenty-six year old Michelangelo to carve the statue. The result from his skill and vision of what the stone could become is one of the most striking and beautiful pieces of art in history.
After the statue was complete and placed in the town plaza, Michelangelo said ,ĒI saw David in the marble and carved until I set him free.Ē
Dear friends, this is almost exactly what the Lord does with us. He has a vision of who He wants us to be, what He wants us to look like, and how He wants to live in relationship with the Father. We are like that huge chunk of marble thatís been sitting out in the elements of the world weathering away from the effects of sin pounding against us. The pure image of Christ is tarnished and eroded. Then, the Master goes to work on us with his hammer and chisel. He works on us to set us free - free from sinís dreadful sway, free from the cruelty and meanness of others who damage our self-hood, and free to live and worship Him.
Just as Michelangelo prevailed over the stone and turned it into the worldís most famous and admired sculpture, so God Almighty prevails over us, carving us, and forming us until we are like He wants us to be. Godís prevailing power is the story of Ruth and Naomi. It is our story.
The Lord took everyone and everything away from Naomi and Ruth. Their husbands died, they were homeless, hungry, jobless, and helpless. This is part of the sculpting process of Godís chiseling us into the vision of the image He has for each of us. We are cut back to the essentials of total dependence on the Lord in our helpless estate. Michelangelo said, ďThe more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows.Ē Can we not say that too about the great work of God in our lives? As we decrease and the waste is cut away, we grow in the stature of the Lord, and He sees the image He has intended for us - created in the image of God through Christ - being formed in us.
Having everything and everyone taken from us is a great act of love. Michelangelo was not hurting the marbleís value. The marble was wasting away in the elements. The great artist increased the marbleís value. I doubt the statue will ever be for sale. It is priceless.
The Lordís painful work in us creates value in us. In fact, we are of such great value to the Lord, that He sent his only beloved Son to die for our sins that we might live and have the waste in us chipped away so that we can be free through Christís impeccable work in us carving us into the image He sees in the marble.
We, like the marble, were bought with a great price - the death of Christ on the cross, and our dear Lord is not going to allow us to sit out in the weather and waste away. He completely re-works us similar to the way Michelangelo reworked the giant rock into the figure of David. God sees in us the figure of Christ and carves away the waste until we come forth like He envisioned.
God did not allow Ruth and Naomi to waste away either. His grace and mercy worked in their losses and now worked in their remodeling. Look how God remade Ruth and Naomi and see if you see God remaking you in a similar way.
Broken-down Ruth was remade into a person of beauty. First, everything she had and everyone she loved was taken away from her in Godís chiseling process. If you have ever been chipped away by the chisel and hammer of God, there is no way you can know what is happening to your life. No way.
Someone passing by Michelangelo chiseling away at that mass of marble would not have a clue what he was creating. Neither do we when God is cutting off the waste from our character and person-hood. It is painful to endure. But just as Michelangelo knew in his mind the vision he had for the stone, so God knows in his mind what his vision for our person-hood is.
The wonderful truth about all of this is that we are let in on the Masterís plan too. For example, He tells us in His word, that He is transforming us by His design and not by the design of the world. God has the blueprint. He has the vision for us. He knows what He is doing to us and for us. It is all for His glory. And when He finishes with us, we can approve of His work on us and in us (Romans 12:2). It is much like the citizens and leaders of Florence gathering for the big dedication of Michelangeloís David. They nodded their heads and patting the sculptor on the back in approval of the great masterpiece carved by the master.
Now, Godís work on us is a lifetime work. He is like a maintenance man that has to constantly fix things. He is constantly working on us. Even the magnificent statue of David has to be maintained over the years to repair and fix it . Officials are even considering how to minimize the damage from the jarring it receives from people walking up to view it.
But one day, we will be totally complete - just the way God wants us to be. Godís maintenance shop will be closed. That day will be when we arrive in heaven, and we will approve of the work God did in us through Christ to make us fit for display in the heavenly kingdom. In a sense, I can envision myself going to our Lord and saying, ďYou did a good work on me and in me. You broke me and made me beautiful. Thank you for your marvelous work on me.Ē This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes! (Matthew 21:42).
Ruth and Naomi didnít have a clue what God was up too in remaking them. How could they? How can we? We donít know what the finished product will look like. But, God does.
So for us like Ruth and Naomi, we trust, believe, and rest in the assurance that we are like that piece of marble in the Masterís hands.
Donít give up. Donít despair. Donít doubt the handiwork of God working in you. Donít let bitterness and anger toward God destroy you when God hammers you with his chisel.
Our walk is by faith. And know for sure that God is working a great work in you to make you into the image He has for you and for me. God is making us what we are which God planned in advance. This is something we cannot do anymore than that piece of lifeless marble could carve itself. That marble had no choice but to conform to the creative mind of Michelangelo. Through faith, we conform to what Godís design and purposes are for us (Ephesians 2:9-10).
How else did God remake Naomi and Ruth? What more does He do in remaking you and me?
The Lord takes nothing and remakes it into something. What do I mean by nothing? I mean that God grinds us down to nothingness. Isnít that what He did to Jonah in the belly of the great fish? Jonah realized that he was not so great when he had a revival in that fishís belly! Isnít that what he did to Saul in the New Testament? Saul had a chest full of medals from achievements, pedigree, and accolades showered upon him by his peers. He thought he was really something! Then, God made him into nothing from the something he envisioned himself as. God blinded him on the Damascus Road. He had to be led by the hand. Someone had to place food in his hand to eat. The once proud, arrogant Pharisee was brought to his knees.
You say, ďPreacher, thatís cruel to say a blind person is nothing.Ē That is not what I am saying. I am saying that when a sighted person loses sight, he is nothing. For example, I went blind in my left eye. I went from seeing in that eye to seeing nothing until Dr. Esther Bowie repaired it. Now, I can see again.
I think of Fannie Crosby, the hymn writer who was blinded as a child by a quack doctor. For years, she felt like nothing. She became bitter, mean, moaned, and complained of her blindness. Then, God restored her sight. Iím not talking here about physical sight but spiritual sight. God took her nothingness and made something in her. She blesses us today with her wonderful hymns of Godís comfort and grace.
Consider Ruth and Naomi. God made them into nothing. He took away everyone and every thing from them. Yet all of the time, His plan, purpose, and vision of what they would become was ever before Him. Out of nothing, He created them into something. God doesnít remake us into junk. Thatís what the world does. The worldís design makes people into junk. Just look around you. Listen to the news, and you will see that this is true. On the other hand, God takes junk and redeems it! He takes our brokenness and remakes something beautiful and wonderful for His pleasure and glory.
Itís the Lordís creative power at work. Look at the universe. God created it out of nothing. What did He hang the stars, moon, and sun on? He hung them on nothing because there was nothing out there. He said, ďStay put, and they did!Ē Moreover, He was pleased, very pleased with what He created.
Thatís us. God is creating us - remaking us something out of nothing. When He finishes His creation in us, He will be pleased, very pleased with the finished product. And you know, we will be pleased with how He remakes us too.
For Naomi and Ruth, God remade them. He gave them status when before they had been beggars. He gave the two homeless women a home. He gave them the prestige that came from Boazís position in the community of Bethlehem. This is Godís grace remaking us.
He makes you into a person of status and standing when He makes you a citizen of His kingdom. He remakes our corruptible bodies into incorruptible bodies fit for eternity in heaven. When He finishes with us, we have prestige knowing that the finest Craftsman has remade us.
People brag about graduating from prestigious universities. They boast of their automobiles made by the finest luxury automakers. We parade around in prestigious name brand labels. All of this prestige might help us gain status on earth, but God is not impressed with any of our man made achievements. The Lord loves our broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). He is pleased with our faith (Hebrews 11:6). And, our obedience in trusting Him always is better than a offerings made from our work (1 Samuel 15:22).
God gives status that no human institution or person can give. He bestowed status to Ruth and Naomi in his remaking process. That is the status He bestows in His remake of you and me, too. Praise the Lord! Amen and amen!
In Godís remaking of us, he takes the lemon and turns it into lemonade. He remakes the bitter into sweet. Thatís what He did in His remake of Naomi.
When Naomi arrived back in Bethlehem, she told her friends not to call her pleasant, but to call her bitter. All she had was the clothes on her back and her faithful, loving daughter-in-law, Ruth.
She was broke, broken, and destitute by the mighty, loving hand of God. I know, I know, we usually donít think of Godís hand making us broke, broken, and destitute. But, He is in absolute control and brings the wilderness into our oasis, brokenness into our pleasant places, and tragedy into our happiness. Naomi lost everything and everyone. No husband, no sons, no home, no food, no job. And, she never complained or whined to the Lord about bringing these horrific losses into her life. Amazing!
As we have found in this Book of Ruth, and in many of our own spiritual journeys, God makes the night fall upon us. Remember, the sweetest songs are often in the night. The whippoorwill sings at night. The God of the day is also God of the night, and we raise our voices to Him in the night (Job 35:10). Listen to this great testimony from the psalmist, ďThough you (O God) probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sinĒ (Psalm17:3 NIV).
The long night fell upon Naomi and she waited in hope and in patience for the dawn to break. God brought the dawn. He made the bitter into sweet. Jesus assures us, ďYou will grieve, but your grief will turn to joyĒ (John 16:20 NIV).
Speak to the rock gushing bitter water in Jesusí name and the water turns sweet (Exodus 15:23-25).
What sweet joy He brings after the bitter trials! For Naomi, it was Ruthís steadfast love for her, Ruthís marriage to Boaz, and the birth of her grandson from the union of Ruth and Boaz. God turned her grief and sorrow into sweet joy. The night of bitterness and brokenness was soon forgotten - transformed by the remaking power of Almighty God!
The joy was evident in the women surrounding Naomi. They named her grandson Obed. Obed means ďworshipper, or servant.Ē Obed, a servant-worshipper of God Most High. The joy of the birth of Naomiís grandchild brought praise and glory to God from the women in the little Bethlehem village.
This is what God is doing in His remake of us. When the night turns to day, when the bitterness is made sweet, and when the grief is remade into joy, God is praised. Like the men gathered around Michelangelo to praise him for his awe inspiring work, so we gather around with the church and praise God for His glorious work in and on us. We exist for the pleasure and purpose of God to remake us and remold us as He sees fit. What a wonderful production He produces out of us for His glory and for our blessings!
Endure with patience Godís hammer and chisel. Even though you may not know what He is making out of the stone, know this. He is making you to reflect His glory. The statue of David will always reflect the genius, talent, and perseverance of Michelangelo. In similar fashion, we will always reflect the creative power and genius of God. His patient perseverance in remaking us when at times we may be a little stubborn, and His artistic talent to make godliness out of human clay.
Finally in the story of Ruth, we see how God remakes our broken pieces into a vessel of honor. Pieces of Ruth and Naomi were strewed all over Moab after their heart rending losses. Their hearts broken. Their lives crushed. Their dreams shattered. They were bruised, battered, and beaten.
But, the Lord gathered up all of their pieces and lovingly put them into His recycling factory. Out of the waste, He made them into vessels of honor.
I am amazed at how people can remake junk into something neat and useful. As you know, I donít like to use my hands. I donít hardly know which end of a hammer to hold. A screw driver is something to punch a hole in a can for me.
My friend, George Edwards, has the gift to create beautiful carvings out of a block of wood. I think he gets this from his dad. Every Christmas, George places a decorative display of lights by his front door. It was made by his dad. His dad took some old beer cans, some lights, and made a backdrop. When George told me that it was in part made from old beer cans, I was quite taken aback in pleasant surprise.
Isnít this what the Lord did with Ruth and Naomi too? Look at these women. Helpless, homeless, weak and frail. God remade them into astonishing vessels of grace and influence. Listen to the blessing that the elders at the city gate gave to Boaz when he announced his intent to marry Ruth. The blessing is prophetic.
Then the elders and all those at the gate said, "We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to JudahĒ (Ruth 4:11-12 NIV).
The Lordís power in remaking us includes remaking our broken pieces into a vessel of His honor. He is the General awarding us the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and the Medal of Honor. He is the Committee of One electing us into His hall of fame. He is the Panel deciding to bestow upon us the honor of outstanding.
The honors God bestows on you and me when He finishes remaking us, quite frankly, makes the world angry at God. In Revelation 11:18, Godís word says, ďThe nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great-- and for destroying those who destroy the earthĒ (NIV).
Those who shaped themselves reward themselves with all kinds of honor. But, God trumps their accolades by giving out His own accolades and honors. They are angry because they can no more control who God awards than the American public can control the Roman Catholic Cardinals decision to select a new Pope.
God chose to make vessels of honor out of Ruth and Naomi. He chooses to make you into a vessel of honor too for your obedience, humility, faith, godly work, and reverence for Him while you are in His workshop undergoing the hammer and chisel.
When we go through these times of trouble, tribulation, hardship, and loss, we beg God, ďO God, take this cross away. Donít you love me? Why are you doing this to me?Ē
But, it is an act of His great mercy, grace, and love toward us that He makes us leave Edom and travel the lonely, dusty road from Edom back to Bethlehem for restoration and reconstruction.
It was in Bethlehem where Obed was born. It was in Bethlehem where our blessed Savior was born in a barn after the Lord forced Mary and Joseph through the decree of Augustus to return to their home town.
O Friends, Edom is a terrible place of loss. It is the people of God in the wilderness. It is Jonah in the belly of the great fish. It is the dazzling light that blinded Paul, and most of all, it is the cross where Jesus lost all for our salvation.
And so, we travel to Bethlehem. Godís workshop. There, He remakes us. And when He finishes, we emerge more beautiful that Michelangeloís statue of David, more graceful than a ballet dancer, and more powerful than the greatest earthly ruler. We reign with Christ!
I close with this powerful word from Michelangelo. ďThe sculptor's hand can only break the spell to free the figures slumbering in the stone.Ē The loving, skilled hand of the Master Sculptor frees our self-hood slumbering in sorrow and pity; pride and arrogance, and remakes us into His joy-filled and humble servants reflecting His glory, power, and skill forever and ever.
we come rough-hewn to thee;
at last, through wood and nails,
thou mad'st us whole and free.
In this thy world remake us, planned
to truer beauty of thine hand.
William Walsham How (1823-1897)
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