When I think of bad guys, scenes from the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde come to mind. A museum close to our home, Historic Auto Attractions, has the bullet-ridden car from the scene in the movie that portrays the final gun battle between the pair and the police.
I recognize that no life lessons could possibly come from a pair who robbed banks and killed people, unless one points to their disastrous ending as a warning to avoid a life of crime, but even that seems like a stretch.
When it comes to the bad guys of the Bible, however, we know God had a purpose in revealing their stories to us. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in the former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” In other words, we can learn valuable lessons from these depraved dudes!
Since you still may be hesitant to admit one can possibly learn anything from such misfits, I have provided a sampling below of five such characters below along with what their defiant examples teach us about walking with the Lord.
1. King Saul – After examining King Saul’s impossible circumstances in 1 Samuel 13, we might feel inclined to empathasize with him as he waited for the arrival of Samuel. I think we all can relate to times when God made us wait and wait. But is there anything we can learn from his disobedience?
Yes, his excuses provide clues as to where his thinking went awry and his poor reasoning helps us formulate a winning strategy we can use while waiting in the midst of impossible circumstances.
2. Esau – This guy sold his most prized possession for a measly bowl of soup. What was he thinking? We would never make such a foolish trade, would we?
It’s Esau’s shortsighted perspective that sheds light on our walk with the Lord. His fateful decision came as the result of valuing fleeting temporal satisfaction over lasting realities. It’s an eternal outlook on life that can keep us from copying his foolish decision.
3. Absalom – This young man must have been extraordinarily handsome for the Bible to make such a big deal of his striking appearance. Unfortunately, Absalom’s anger left him hanging in the end, so to speak.
How do we deal with the type of bitterness that destroyed this once admired son of King David? The answer is found in applying the Gospel to our lives as we never forget the vastness of God’s forgiveness of our sins against him versus the relatively minor sins committed against us in this life (see Matt. 18: 21-35).
4. Ahithophel – “Ahith a who?’ you might be asking at this point. While his name may sound foreign to us, his example warns us of the dangers of an impulse we all feel at one time or another.
Ahithophel, a onetime close confidant and advisor to King David, eagerly joined Absalom’s rebellion against the king out of revenge. From his example, we see that when spiteful hate fills our hearts, we eventually imitate the words and actions of the one(s) we detest. Ahithophel exemplifies this danger; he became just like the one he detested.
5. Joab – Joab is the most celebrated military general in the Old Testament. Yet, he possessed a slight character flaw: he was a cold-blooded killer. Okay, you are right; it was much more serious than a blemish in his personality.
I sincerely doubt anyone reading this is likely to stick a sword into someone’s belly like Joab did, but we all feel the frustration of dealing with someone who gets in the way of something we passionately desire. Joab’s coveted prize was that of leading the armies of Israel.
The behavior of Joab exemplifies the warning of James 4:1-4. We do not have to kill someone to follow his errant path; we can inflict considerable harm on those around us with just our tongue (see Prov. 12:18),
We can learn much about our walk with the Lord from the villains of God’s Word.
The question is this: are you willing to travel down some of the back roads of Scripture and dive into the lives of some of its most shady and nefarious characters?
In Shipwrecked! I share the experiences of all these bad guys and more as I look at which each character teaches us about our walk with the Lord.