Can God Use Our Mistakes?
I have made my share of mistakes in this life. It takes only a moment’s reflection to yield a number of painful memories of events that, given the opportunity, I would go back in time and change. Or would I? Making mistakes is likely the hallmark characteristic of being human, and while I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like without them, I can say with confidence that the lessons I learned from my mistakes have served me far better than if I had never made the mistakes at all. Given my propensity to error, I have adopted the following mentality: a mistake is only truly a mistake if there is nothing whatsoever to be learned. If, however, there is any lesson to be learned, then a mistake is really a learning experience in disguise. Of course, these mistakes are not without certain consequence, but we will discuss this later. While secular wisdom may add its amen to my sentiments, there is a still deeper, Divine truth from which I draw the greatest of encouragements—the truth of which will form the basis of this article and the answer to its title.
Yes! A resounding yes! God can use our mistakes for His glory and for our good, and this brings me such great comfort. Allow me to only briefly share two of my favorite passages of Scripture on the matter, both of which discuss the tremendous failures of a man who, in spite of his faults, is called “a man after God’s own heart” (I Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). This man is King David.
The first example is found in 2 Samuel 11. Walking upon the roof of his house, David happened to notice a woman bathing on her roof. David inquired as to this woman’s identity and learned her name was Bathsheba, the wife of one of David’s mighty men of war, Uriah. In short, David commits adultery with the woman causing her to become pregnant with his child. David cleverly calls Uriah home from war to be with his own wife in the hope that Uriah will think that the child was his own. Being an honorable soldier of good character, Uriah refuses to be with his wife while other men of war were out at battle. Having failed his first attempt at covering his sin, David sends Uriah back to the battle carrying his own death sentence—a letter to King David’s captain Joab directing him to place Uriah in the heat of the battle where the enemy would kill him. David’s plan was successful, and he took Bathsheba as his wife to cover up his sin, or so he thought. Soon after, David was confronted by Nathan the prophet who exposed David’s sin. David repented of his great trespass, but the child of Bathsheba ultimately became sick and died as a consequence (II Samuel 12:14). Is there any good that could come out of this horrible situation? Indeed, yes! David and Bathsheba would go on to have several more children together, two of which were named Solomon and Nathan. Remember these names; we shall return to them presently.
Our second example is found in I Chronicles 21 and II Samuel 24, passages which both contain the record of a time when, provoked of Satan and motivated by pride, King David exacts a census of his kingdom in such a way as to violate the law of God. The scene that follows is nothing short of terrifying as an angel, hovering between heaven and earth with a drawn sword in outstretched hand causes a wave of death to sweep over the entire nation. This seemingly minute error cost the lives of seventy thousand men (the approximate capacity of a football stadium). It is at this time David is directed by a prophet from God to a particular hill whereon was the threshingfloor of a man named Ornan. David purchases the hill and thereon builds an altar for sacrifice causing the angel to sheath his sword thus bringing a halt to the judgment. Could any good whatsoever come out of this situation? Absolutely, for this place where the wrath of God was stayed as a result of sacrifice would become the building place for the house of the Lord that David so longed to build! Following the event, David said, “This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel” (I Chronicles 22:1). This ground would serve as the very location of the house of God, the glorious temple whereupon sacrifice and offerings would occur as God’s way for the nation of Israel to approach Him.
Are these two separate, unrelated accounts, or are these events in some way connected? I assure you they are connected. David was told he could not personally build the house of God because there was so much blood on his hands from days of war (I Chronicles 28:3). Therefore, David’s son, Solomon, would build the house of God instead (2 Samuel 7:13, I Chronicles 28:6). Solomon, you will remember, was the son of Bathsheba, who became David’s wife after his sin of adultery. This Solomon would be the one to go on and build the house of God: the location where David sacrificed at the threshingfloor of Ornan in order to stay the sword of the angel’s hand. David’s sin of adultery with Bathsheba and that of numbering the people were offensive to God resulting in death in both cases. However, the sin with Bathsheba ultimately resulted in the birth of Solomon, and the sin of numbering the people ultimately led to the discovery of the location of the house of God to be built by Solomon, the son of David.
In closing, we must peel back yet another layer, so to speak, and this is of utmost importance. We previously discussed both Solomon and his brother Nathan, sons of Bathsheba. Solomon’s lineage from David is detailed in Matthew chapter 1 ultimately culminating in the birth of one Joseph. Nathan’s lineage from David is detailed in Luke chapter 3 ultimately culminating in the birth of one Mary. Do you recognize these names, Joseph and Mary? In these two New Testament passages, the paternal and maternal line of the Lord Jesus Christ is given (though the Lord Jesus was not born of the seed of Joseph but immaculately conceived by the Holy Ghost Luke 1:35). Incredible thought! The Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ would be born from the seed of David and Bathsheba whose marriage was the result of David’s sin! While God did not provoke the sin and in no way condoned the sin, God was still able to bring about a marvelous result as He, in infinite and incomprehensible wisdom, is always able to work His own perfect will amidst the often failing free will of man. And the greatest mistake in all of history resulted when Jesus, the Messiah, came to earth and was condemned to death by the ones He came to save. “Had the princes of this world understood Who Jesus really was, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (I Corinthians 2:8). Once again, the will of man was free to make the greatest of mistakes, yet out of it, the perfect will of God was yet accomplished providing sacrifice for sin and salvation to as many as will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.
We fail, we sin, we make mistakes—awful mistakes even. These mistakes often have consequences. But do not make the greater mistake of believing that our failures are bigger than God. The believer in Christ is promised “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Sin cannot be condoned and must be confessed to God as such, but we may take comfort knowing that in the Lord Jesus Christ, every sin can be forgiven, and no mistake is so great that God cannot bring something wonderful out of it still for his glory and for our good!