Often in Scripture, God teaches us deep spiritual lessons about His kingdom by comparing them to the natural world, sometimes even to the mundane things around us.
When Jesus wanted to teach about His kingdom, He talked about lost money, lost sheep, farming, fishing, things that the common person could relate to. Even the Old Testament has such examples of God using common things to teach and extend His kingdom. An example of this is found in Exodus 4:2, where God uses the rod in Moses’ hand to show His power and be a confirmation of who He was.
Some time ago I experienced such a thing and I want to encourage others by what God revealed to me, saying, “What is that in your hand?”
I know little about sheep and fishing, but art and metal are part of my daily experience. As a metal artist I love spending time in junkyards and metal surplus companies looking for cheap scrap metal. I seem to have a peculiar penchant for buying old metal boxes for no other reason that the challenge of restoring them.
One day while at my favorite junkyard I saw a treasure – an old metal toolbox, rusted, twisted and badly dented. I could not resist. I pulled it off a pile of junk, paid a couple of dollars for it, and took my treasure home. Now, I did not really need another toolbox, especially one originally designed to hold a specific power tool. But it found a home on the floor of my small workshop where it sat for some time doing nothing.
One day I had no other jobs pressing, so I decided to do something with my treasure. I picked it up and began to clean away years of dirt, rust and grease. I used other things like wood blocks to get rid of the dents and twists it had sustained. Next I straightened out the crooked hinge and oiled it. Then I sanded the whole thing inside and out.
I finished the project by painting the whole box in green enamel paint. I admired the finished product for a while, then, wondering what use I could possibly have for it, I shoved it under my bed. There it sat, all cleaned up, but empty and unused.
What is in Your Hand?
Every fall, I begin to search for unique and inexpensive stocking stuffers for my wife, two kids, and dog. This is one of my favorite Christmas traditions. All through the fall I collect things and hide them under the bed. This particular fall, as I was finding places under the bed to put the growing stash of treasures, I remembered my metal box. Perfect! – I’ll use my treasure box for all my treasures!
One day after a fruitful day of finding those perfect gifts to bless my family, I came across my “burning bush.” I was sitting on the floor beside my bed and pulled out my treasure box. As I put the gifts into the box, I noticed that it was starting to look like a treasure chest, and then it happened.
Very clearly I heard God say in my spirit, “You are that treasure chest.” It took a moment or two for the full impact of that simple phrase to register. God began a step-by-step process of revealing how my spiritual journey paralleled that old box in a language I could understand. What was a natural down-to-earth process of redeeming junk and turning it into art suddenly took on a clear deep spiritual aspect that I had never seen. (What is in your hand?)
What motivates me to turn scrap metal into art? What motivates God to redeem “scrap” people and turn them into His treasures?
For my part, the fact that it’s a cheap way to make art is definitely a factor, but I believe something deeper motivates me. The satisfaction of creating something useful from what has been written off and tossed aside as garbage appeals to me on a very deep level. Every time I turn garbage into art, I’m saying, if this scrap can be redeemed by me, how much more my life and others (even if regarded as written off or trash by others) can be redeemed by my heavenly Father!
God’s motivation is seen in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave”. God is love, agape love, giving love. It is His nature not just to love us from out there somewhere, but to get His hands dirty by redeeming us. The New Bible Dictionary defines “redemption” as “deliverance from some evil by payment of a price”.
The word commonly used in the New Testament is the Greek word “lytron” which means “a ransom, release on payment of a ransom”. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.” The Father’s love motivated the Son to come to earth as a man and redeem us by paying for our sins with His sinless blood.
In Luke 15, the prodigal son’s father actively waited and looked for his son in order to redeem him and restore him. The father got dirty and it cost him to restore the prodigal son. Jesus was marked for eternity by entering our world, our scrap yard, and redeeming us.
When I am in the scrap yard, I am looking for something to buy, to redeem. Scrap yards are dirty, full of sharp rusted metal, and the process often leaves me with cuts, scars and dirty hands. When I found the old twisted toolbox on top of a pile of garbage, it was like too many of us – used, abused, and thrown away on the scrap heap. If left alone, it would eventually be gathered up and cast into the fire, the furnace of our local steel mill.
I realized what God was saying to me. Many of us have been used, abused by life, people and circumstances, and in many ways written off and tossed onto the scrap pile of life, destined for the scrap furnace (Romans 3:23). Jesus scoured the scrap yard until He found me, bent down and picked me up, getting His hands dirty and paid the redemption price with His life, His blood.
When I found my treasure box, I rejoiced over my find, because I saw hope and potential. I looked past what it was, and saw what could be. Likewise, God saw me, and spoke Jeremiah 29:11 over me:
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”