Mark Twain has a fabulous short story about a young woman raised as a boy since birth. Her name is Conrad and her father is a wealthy duke, who decided to keep her true gender a secret so that she could inherit his duchy when he died. The one thing she must never do is sit on the duke’s throne, which is forbidden to any woman. Otherwise, she will be killed. (Can you see where this is going?)
I won’t go into the details, but of course Conrad ends up sitting on the ducal throne and gets caught in a seemingly impossible situation. Her only options are to reveal that she’s a woman and be executed for sitting on the ducal throne, or keep that secret, admit instead that she fathered an illegitimate child, and be executed as an adulterer. So, she gets to pick: execution or execution. Touch choice.
And, that’s where the story ends.
As Mark Twain himself explains,
The remainder of this thrilling and eventful story will NOT be found in this or any other publication, either now or at any future time.
The truth is, I have got my hero (or heroine) into such a particular close place, that I do not see how I am ever going to get him (or her) out of it again—and therefore I will wash my hands of the whole business and leave that person to get out the best way that offers-or else stay there. I thought it was going to be easy enough to straighten out that little difficulty, but it looks different now.
So, the author has gotten stuck. And, thus the story ends.
I always feel the same way when I reach this part of the Gospel story. Surely it has to end here. God’s people have rebelled and rejected him, pursuing idolatry and immorality. They are dead. Despite God’s continued faithfulness to them through it all, they are still lost. Kings, prophets, priests, judges— nothing seems to help. Finally, God himself leaves. His glory departs from the temple, from the land, from his people.
If I’m the one writing this story, now I’m stuck. How in the world do you find a satisfying conclusion to all of this? Like Twain, I’d wash my hands of the whole business.
But, the story continues.
That statement all by itself is an expression of grace. The sheer fact that the story does not end here, but continues on into the future of God’s perfect plan, demonstrates the incomprehensible mercy, patience, and faithfulness of a God who will not allow us to mess up his amazing purposes for his people and his creation.
This Author knows exactly how his story is going to end. It’s rather hard to see at this point, but he still assures us that he’s in control and that he has not given up.
So, against all logic and all expectation, the story continues…because God promised that it would.