There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
He had travelled as far as his unpracticed freedom could take him and lay down on the sidewalk to die. In the late spring swelter, he wouldn't wait long. Nellie, one of our office staff, came in from lunch and announced to cubeland, "Hey ya'll, there's a parrot on the sidewalk!" In my typically supportive way, I responded, "Nellie, there is absolutely not a parrot on the sidewalk. What have you been doing at lunch?" But in a moment, Nellie appeared in my office, her hands cupping a tiny puff of bright green and yellow feathers with a ruby red beak. He was vanishingly small, and helpless, and we thought he couldn't fly. And he actually isn't a parrot, but an African lovebird, certainly an escapee from one of the apartments near our office.
My longsuffering wife answered, "? sure" to my texted photo and emotionally charged inquiry, "Can we keep him?" So now he lives by the window in our den where he can see outside and screech at the other birds. We've adopted him. And we gave him a name, two actually. His official name is Justin Peeper, but in the family he's known as Li'l Peep. He's been rescued, and adopted, and given a new identity.
You see, there are really two kinds of stories of rescue, aren't there? There are the titanic-sinking, earthquake-shaking, tornado-blast rescues that so often fill the headlines. These events call forth gracious acts of courage from bystanders and people of faith. Rescuers are quick to respond, and we are encouraged by the accounts of hope brought to hapless victims of circumstance or anonymous violence.
The other stories of rescue, though, are the ones that fill the pages of Scripture and the pews of Christian churches. These are the shiny-forbidden- fruit, rooftop-bathing-beauty, "I-don't-know-Him" stories. These are the tales of folks like me—and you—I bet; folks who took flight on their own, headed for the hot, certain death brought by the sinful rush into perceived freedom.
Twice in the book of Proverbs, Solomon tells us, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death" (Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 16:25). Curious to ponder is that his own father exemplified those very words. And so do all of us. Somehow, tempted by "the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life,” we fly headlong into some dreamed-about better place or deserved fulfillment, only to lie exhausted and panting, waiting to die. It is from ourselves that the Lord Jesus offers rescue. He went to the cross, and suffered and died, so that bird-brained, self-destructive, rebellious sinners might become adopted members of God's own family.
John, the Son of Thunder, knew of this rescue. He reminds us what has happened to us in Christ.
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure." (1 John 3: 1-3)
I wish I could report that Li'l Peep is a tame, grateful, loving pet that rides around on my shoulder while I talk like a pirate. But that would be the "devotional" ending, not the reality. My adopted son really is more like me than I care to admit. He tries to bite me, hops away from any attempt at caress, and would be off like a rocket given half-a-chance.
But somehow, I really like that little bright green guy, with all of his silliness, and fluff and ridiculous bravado. He reminds me of a most amazing truth.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5: 6-11)
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!