I doubt this is true, but it sure struck a note with me when I read it. The story goes that years ago a certain mental institution devised a test to determine if a patient was ready to be discharged from its care. The patient under consideration was put into a room with a mop and bucket, and was instructed to mop up the floor. If he turned off the faucet filling an overflowing sink before he started mopping, he was considered sane enough to return to the mainstream of life.
Over the last 50 years of ministry I’ve helped a lot of people mop up messes. Those who turned off the faucet first usually got their “rooms” cleaned up and livable again. But what’s really hard is not turning off the faucet (I’ve done that a thousand times). What’s hard is keeping the faucet turned off.
I’m a lot like the Israelites of old. They would forsake the Lord; the Lord would discipline them by raising up foreign oppressors; the people would end up crying out to God for deliverance; and God would raise up a deliverer. But quickly, they would go back to their old ways again (see Judges 17:6; 21:25) This pattern is repeated throughout the entire book of Judges.
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love” is the way the old hymn puts it (Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing). This pattern became a part of the very fabric of their being. Unfortunately, you know it and I know it all too well. Turn off the water, mop the floor. Pat yourself on the back for dealing with ____________ (you fill in the blank). Then one day you’re back at the sink with your hand on the faucet. cranking it open.
In Micah 4, the people have repeated the cycle so many times that God says, “Enough is enough.” The people don’t need another chance; they need healing. And this healing can come only when they recognize God is their only hope. So God allows the sink to overflow, no more turning off the faucet, and the flood washes the people away—all the way to Babylon.
…why are you screaming in terror?… Pain has gripped you like a woman in childbirth. Writhe and groan like a woman in labor, you people of Jerusalem, for now you must leave this city to live in the open country. You will soon be sent into exile in distant Babylon. – Micah 4:9-10c
Here in Babylon, in the mess and struggle, real repentance will be birthed in the hearts of God’s people. True repentance “isn’t doing something about our sin; it is admitting that we can’t do anything about our sin” (The Heart of Man Participant’s Guide, p. 76). And the Lord rescued them and redeemed them (see Micah 4:10d).
This is the gospel; this is grace: God loves me enough to drive me into the depths until I realize just how much I need Him. God does for me what I cannot do for myself. I am His beloved—and nothing can change that!
I’m tired of mopping. I think it’s time to quit running from Him and run into His open arms.