Keep Calm and Read a Psalm 80:1-3:
“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
You who lead Joseph like a flock;
You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth!
Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,
Stir up Your strength,
And come and save us!
Restore us, O God;
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved!”
“So he’s a bit of fixer-upper!” Don’t start singing. I’m going to lose my man card for this, but I’m going to use the movie Frozen as an illustration (Gasp!). You remember when all the trolls meet Anna for the “first time in forever” (No! Stop singing—I mean it!)? And they all go gung-ho about Anna marrying Kristoff and do what all good Disney cartoon characters do: start singing for no apparent reason. Now, I’ll admit—the song is funny and catchy (But don’t get it stuck in your head—especially as a guy. You may get weird looks). And there’s a line in there that I think is fascinating:
“We’re not sayin’ you can change him, ’cause people don’t really change. We’re only saying that love’s a force that’s powerful and strange.” Hmm—people don’t really change. Mrs. Troll may have a point there. Do people change? Her point is to instruct you young ladies not to marry someone who has a major flaw, expecting him to change—he won’t. People don’t change! So either dump him like a sack of potatoes or learn to “throw a little love at him and you’ll bring out his best” (just don’t throw it too hard—ouch). I don’t know if that actually works in real life, but it makes for a nice song. Yay, trolls. Okay, you can go home now.
Do people change? That’s the question of a lifetime. If you’re like me, you look around and see a bunch of people who need to get their act together. They’ve got major flaws—pride, talking too much, too shy, too fat, too ugly, whatever it may be. We see fixer-uppers all around us. Especially when taking selfies. Yep, point the camera back on yourself—you’re a fixer-upper as well. Yes, you can follow your heart with the singing princesses to your heart’s content, but Mrs. Troll brings up a great point—“Everyone’s a bit of a fixer-upper!”
Ya, I’ll say. The Bible calls it “desperately wicked” in Jeremiah. With zero hope for change! And again in Jeremiah 13:23, he says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.”
Wow. I feel hopeless. I’m a sinner who has no hope to change. I’m a huge fixer-upper. No matter how much love you throw my way, I won’t change for the better. Maybe I’ll be less irritable to you for a time. But my flaws will still be there. Mr. Asaph seems to be in a similar state when writing Psalm 80. The nation of Israel has faced a crisis that they deserved—a major catastrophe as a result of their sin. And Asaph gets down and begs for something to change. “Shine forth! Stir up Your strength! Come and save us!” he begs God, with tears rolling down his face.
Then, he makes a bold command: “Restore us, O God!” This word restore has the idea of turning back or returning. He’s saying, “Turn us back to You, God! We need to be changed!” He recognized that they couldn’t even turn back to God on their own. They needed Him to turn their hearts back to Him, to restore them, and to come and save them. Then, they’d be saved—they’d be changed. Changed from their sinful, helpless state into a saved, helpless state, finding in God the ability to do what they could never do on their own. Live godly.
Do you find yourself making promises to God that you can never keep? “I’ll never do it again—I’ll never look at that, say that, be that way”…but there you go again. And again. You can’t change. That’s just the way you are. You’re half-tempted to just give it all up. Good! Do that!
Say what? Yes, give it up—give up trying to do good by your own strength and fortitude. Admit you can’t and ask God to help you. Only in His Power can you live right. You are dead and depraved. But Christ’s power pulled Him out of the grave and conquered every sin in the world—and if you are His, He gives you of His Power. He can turn you to Himself again. He’s saved you. He can certainly save you from living in the sin He saved you from. Got all that?
Yes, Mrs. Troll. People don’t really change. God changes them.
-Matthew W., SC