3 Biblical Do-Overs and What They Reveal about Our Transformational Journey

3 Biblical Do-Overs and What They Reveal about Our Transformational Journey

As a wife and mom, there’ve been numerous instances when I’ve wished I could go back in time and do or say things differently. I’ve experienced similar sorrows related to ministry and career endeavors as well. Sometimes, my regrets came after proceeding in a way I falsely assumed was best. Most often, however, my remorse came from responding from my emotional, rather than Spirit-led, self. While sadly, I can’t undo the damage of my unfiltered actions, grace assures me that I can learn to behave differently in the future.

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “God is the God of second chances.” We see examples of this comforting truth throughout Scripture. These historical accounts provide encouragement for those of us longing to break free from toxic guilt and live more fully anchored in grace.

Here are three biblical examples of divinely orchestrated do-overs, and what they reveal regarding God’s heart for our transformation journeys. 

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burning bush

1. Moses, the Angry and Fearful Fugitive Turned Powerful Prophet

Deuteronomy 34:10-12 may be one of the most inspiring sections of Scripture, especially considering what occurred prior.

“Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt — to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”

Reading this, I’m reminded of the day Moses probably assumed he’d sabotaged his calling. His story begins with obvious evidence of divine intervention. Born during a dark and terrifying season of ancient Egypt’s history, Moses should’ve been tossed into the Nile River along with the countless other Hebrew boys killed during this time. Instead, the water meant for his death became the avenue of his rescue. Unable to hide her son at home any longer, his mother nestled him in a basket and placed it in the Nile. Soon after, the daughter of the very man responsible for national infanticide saw Moses, pulled him from the water, and ultimately raised him as an Egyptian prince.

At some point, his God-given passion to liberate his people arose, albeit at the wrong time and in the wrong way. In Exodus 2, we read:

“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. … When the Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well” (Ex. 2:11-12, 15).

Moses remained in Midian, where he found a wife, had a son, and shepherded his father-in-law’s flocks for forty years. Long enough that he likely assumed he’d lost his opportunity to help his people. According to human logic, he’d forfeited his calling through his homicidal act.

Four decades later, however, God appeared to him in a burning bush and offered him a miraculous do-over. Once He’d captured Moses’s attention, the Lord said that He’d heard the cries of His people and how they’d suffered at the hands of the Egyptians. Officially commissioning Moses, the Lord said, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).

In other words, God called Moses back to the land of his failure and to the very place from which he’d fled in fear (and likely regret). In this, the Lord made it clear – Moses’ desire to free his people wasn’t wrong. God Himself had planted that spark deep within Moses’ soul. However, he needed to recognize that success would come not through his wisdom or strength, but through the mighty hand of God.

The same holds true for us. God often plants dreams within our hearts years, perhaps even decades, before He launches them. The period between when He first ignites a holy desire and when He calls us to action can feel long, painful, and confusing. But Moses’s story reveals the importance of waiting on God and trusting in His timing. He knows the perfect moment to execute His plans. Rest assured, He will let us know when it's time for us to move. Until then, may we focus on remaining faithful in whatever God places in front of us today.

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a microphone on stage

2. Peter, the Christ-Denier Then Proclaimer

Countless people over the years since Jesus’ death have gained comfort from His encounter with Peter after His resurrection. To paraphrase, the man who had occupied a place within the Lord’s inner circle and who had consistently received His tender and sacrificial love denied Christ on His darkest night, mere hours before His crucifixion (Luke 22:54-62). After He’d risen, the Lord didn’t chastise Peter for this. Instead, He reiterated and clarified the disciple’s call, urging him to care for the emerging Church (John 21).

Anyone who has ever abandoned a loved one in their time of need can probably imagine the depth of anguish Peter felt after forsaking his beloved Teacher. We can also probably recognize the gratitude and healing he experienced upon learning, in such a tender way, that Jesus still wanted him on His team.

The way Christ reinstated him reveals a depth of grace we all need. But the Lord’s mercy expends beyond that morning where He replaced Peter’s feelings of failure with purpose. Later, God also allowed Peter to share the gospel, thus honoring the Lord, to the very leaders responsible for Christ’s death. In other words, the men who’d evoked the fear motivating Peter’s denial.

Acts 4 reveals the circumstances surrounding this powerful do-over. After healing a man who’d been lame from birth, Peter notices the astonishment of the growing crowd, and uses the opportunity to explain to them how to receive eternal life. This greatly disturbed the religious leaders, and they brought Peter and John before the Jewish council. Verse six states, “Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family.”

Again, these were the same men who condemned Jesus to death.  In John 18:12-13, we read, “Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.” It was here, while outside the door of the high priest’s courtyard, that Peter denied knowing Christ.

Only this time, in Acts 4, he spoke with the boldness of the Holy Spirit, stating to this corrupt yet powerful court, “Know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you today” (Acts 4:10, emphasis added).

Can you imagine the healing and confidence Peter experienced in that moment? This must’ve eradicated any guilt and shame that remained after his post-resurrection conversation with Christ. The Lord had allowed him to stand firm in the very place from which he had previously fled.

This demonstrates our Father’s heart to see us live without regret. Our mess-ups grieve Him, only not because He’s disappointed. He’s saddened by how our sin and mistakes affect us. He responds not by condemning us but rather moving toward us to restore the damage we inflict on our souls. At times, He does this by allowing us to experience success in the very scenarios in which we previously failed.

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man praying in church

3. Abraham, the Patriarch Who Failed His Second Chance

Our next biblical do-over brings comfort for those who continually fall into the same trap. Actually, this represents us all in some way because we all have certain behaviors that require a lifetime of the Holy Spirit’s influence to change. For some, this might be their propensity toward anger, for others a constant pull toward a type of lust, and still others the tendency to join in office gossip when around certain individuals. None of us will reach complete maturity in this present life. But that doesn’t mean God won’t use us, in our imperfect state, for good.

Consider Abraham, the man often referred to as the Father of the Jewish nation. He is often trumpeted as someone possessing extreme faith. In many ways, this is true. When God first called him out of Ur to embark on an unknown journey, Abraham obeyed, seemingly without question or hesitation.

But then, one thousand miles later, a famine hits and fear drives him and his clan to the drought-protected land of Egypt. There, afraid for his life, he lies and says that his wife is his sister. This results in the Pharaoh taking her into his harem, and the Lord rescues her through a plague inflicted upon the ruler’s entire household.

One might think God’s intervention and the pain experienced by Egyptians and, presumably, his betrayed and abandoned wife, had taught him an unforgettable lesson. Yet, eight chapters later, he does the exact same thing upon reaching the Negev. Genesis 20:2 states, “And there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, ‘She is my sister.’ Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.”

But again, God rescued her. He came to Abimelek in a dream and told him “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman” (v. 3). However, because the king hadn’t touched her, God spared his life.

Actually, He did more than that. He referred to Abraham as a prophet and said, “He will pray for you and you will live.” Notice, what the Lord didn’t say. He didn’t respond to Abraham with exasperation, stating, “Did you not learn from what happened in Egypt?” Instead, He affirmed Abraham’s call and used him to show mercy to the very man Abraham had wronged.

Carol McCracken and I discuss this more fully in a Faith Over Fear podcast episode titled When You Fear You’ve Blown Your Calling, surmising various reasons why God might’ve done this. While Scripture doesn’t explain God’s reasoning, this passage clearly reveals His steadfast love. The Lord who knew every mistake we’d make prior to calling us to Himself responds to our failure, even when repeated, with grace. That doesn’t excuse or justify sinful behavior, but it does replace the shame that might keep us from God with a courage to draw near – especially in our failure.

I’m so grateful our Savior sees us at our worst yet always leads us to His best. As Psalm 103:14 proclaims, “For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” In other words, He remains aware of our humanity. I’m equally thankful, however, that He doesn’t leave us in our current state. With every divinely-orchestrated do-over, He calls us to greater healing, growth, maturity, and impact. The next time we’ve responded to someone or something in ways we wish we hadn’t, may we confidently turn to God, listen for His transformative guidance, and gain strength in His embrace.

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Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who co-hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast and, along with a team of 6, the Your Daily Bible Verse podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and taught at writers conferences across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.

She’s passionate about helping people experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE and make sure to connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and GodTube.