I have an old pocket watch I keep in my bedside table. It doesn’t work anymore, and the once shiny gold has long since rubbed off, so it’s kind of a dingy and scratched up silver/gray. It gradually gets buried under the other odds and ends that wind up in that drawer.
My 4-year-old discovered it the other day, and my 13-year-old asked if he could have it. For a moment I thought, “Sure, let the kid have it, even though he’ll almost certainly lose it or destroy it. After all, the thing is worthless. It’s no good for telling time, and it’s not handsome enough to be a piece of jewelry.”
But then my 16-year-old reminded me of where that pocket watch came from. “Dad, you have to keep that watch!” I opened its little latch and read the engraving inside – a beautiful note from my wife on the occasion of our 10th anniversary.
Of course I can’t part with this watch! Even though, for all practical purposes, it’s worthless. Even though it gets in my way when I’m sifting through that drawer for spare change or a cough drop or something. Even though I’ve had to find it and pack it up every time we’ve moved. Even though it’s kind of a hassle to keep it around, I wouldn’t dream of getting rid of it. Because it’s precious to me, priceless.
Well, I realize that God feels the same way about me. He feels the same way about all of us who are His. I see that in the way He dealt with His chosen people, the Israelites. As they wandered in the wilderness, they were nothing but a hassle for God, far worse than my pocket watch. They were a broken, scratched up watch that also jabbed you in the leg from inside your pocket. At one point, God told Moses he’d just about had it:
I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are. Leave me alone so I may destroy them and erase their name from under heaven. (Deuteronomy 9:13-14, NLT)
It’s sad and kind of funny at the same time that the LORD let Moses talk him into keeping these worthless people around:
I prayed to the LORD and said, ‘O Sovereign LORD, do not destroy them. They are your own people. They are your special possession, whom you redeemed from Egypt by your mighty power and your strong hand.’ (Deuteronomy 9:26, NLT)
The LORD did, of course, keep the people around. But not because it did Him any good, not because they were of any real value. Their only value was sentimental. He loved them. Despite their worthlessness and despite all the hassles and headaches they caused Him, He loved them.
I know I cause the LORD all kinds of hassles and headaches too. I know He doesn’t need me. I get in His way more than I help Him. And yet He keeps me around. Not only that; He blesses me beyond my wildest dreams, and better yet, He’s preparing a place for me to live with Him forever. Why? Because He loves me. Certainly not because I’m such a great guy.
That’s God’s grace. And it’s important that I don’t lose sight of that, just as it was important that the Israelites not lose sight of it. Just as they were about to enter the Promised Land, Moses reminded them:
You must recognize that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not—you are a stubborn people. (Deuteronomy 9:6, NLT)
Me too. I’m stubborn, but I’m precious to God. I’m a broken, faded, scratched up pocket watch. Worthless. Worthless but priceless.