Devotion for the Week...
My mother-in-law has a saying I've never heard anyone else use. The first time I heard her say it, I didn't even know what it meant! Referring to someone who had possibly made a mistake, she said, "I wonder if she wishes her cake dough." She explained it as, 'I wonder if she wishes she could undo that thing', or, 'if she wishes she could unbake that cake.'
There are more than a few biblical stories about people who wished their cake dough. People who are unfamiliar with the Bible may think everyone in it is perfect, and they are all people who will make us feel inadequate because their actions line up so nicely with what God wants. The Bible, after all, is meant to teach us how to live - "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16,17). Sometimes, though, the best way to teach someone is to show them what NOT to do.
So, the Bible shares stories about people who really messed up in their work, like Joshua. He was told to go into the land of Canaan and destroy the people who inhabited the land. He was not to make treaties with the people because if they were allowed to remain in the land they would eventually turn the Israelites away from God and entice them to follow false gods. When the people of Gibeon heard about how the Israelites were destroying entire cities, they decided to try tricking the Isrealite leaders. "They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us" (Joshua 9:4-6). The Isrealites were taken in by the deception and "did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath" (vv. 14, 15). Three days later they learned that the people of Gibeon were actually their neighbors, and among those they were not supposed to make treaties with. But by that time it was too late.
The Bible also shares stories of those who messed up in their personal lives. There is the story of David and Bathsheba. She took a bath on her roof, where she was seen by the king and he decided he had to have her, never mind that she was a married woman. When she became pregnant, David tried to arrange matters so it would look like the child belonged to her husband (who was away at war) and when that didn't work, he arranged for the husband to be killed and David married her as soon as the time of mourning for her husband was finished (2 Samuel 11). The prophet Nathan confronted David, who immediately repented, saying, "I have sinned against the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:13). But by that time, again, it was too late and the far-reaching consequences of his actions remained.
Neither Joshua nor David could go back and undo what they had done. They could not unbake the cake. We are not in their same situations, but their stories have been recorded to help us avoid their mistakes, "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us" (1 Corinthians 10:11).
From Joshua, we learn the importance of checking in with God before making important decisions, and of not being deceived by appearances. Though we may not be at war with anyone, there are always times when we are tempted to follow our own understanding of a situation and not 'inquire of the Lord' to see if we've got it right. But taking the time to pray and seek God's view will often save us from mistakes that could be costly.
From David, we learn not to "despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes" (2 Samuel 12:9). The temptations to sin are many and varied. We should be critical of our own actions, willing to take a hard look at what we plan to do and why. Had David done that when he was first tempted to send for Bathsheba, he could have avoided the whole mess. If we are willing to be diligent in this way, looking critically at our decisions as we make them, we can keep ourselves from things that are evil in God's eyes, and from the consequences that would come from those actions.
We all know the sickening feeling of a mistake made, don't we? But like a cake that has been baked, we can't go back and change things
back to the way they were before we made the mistake. How much better, then, to learn from the mistakes of others and avoid making them for ourselves!