On The Shelf

imageOn that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.
And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus.
And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him. Esther 6:1-3

‘OTS’ – pronounced Oh-zuts as in “Oats”, acronym for ‘On The Shelf’. OTS Syndrome [definition]: a condition whereby one’s life is defined more by observation than by participation; life is put on hold like the cat who by an unseen force somehow mysteriously perched herself  on top of the living room window curtain rod, you are mostly invisible while observing life passing beneath you. (Source – Somebody’s Corny Urban Dictionary).

It is said that there is no tougher place to be then when the Lord puts your life “on the shelf”. What or why would God do that to anyone? Is there is purpose? If so, what is the purpose? In reality, there is purpose in living life mostly from an observation tower. Let’s take a look at some people whose lives were once “on the shelf” who God miraculously transfused with fresh hope and purpose.

A Man Named Mordecai

For some things, especially things concerning spiritual matters, timing is critically important. It definitely was for the Jewish populace living during the time of King Ahasuerus as recorded in the Book of Esther. Most are familiar with this often quoted line in the book: “And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” The man speaking those words was named Mordecai. And he was speaking to his adopted daughter-cousin Hadassah (Esther):

And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter. Esther 2:7  

As the story unfolds, Esther is chosen Queen and takes up residence in the king’s palace. Mordecai faithfully sits at the king’s gate day after day as a palace porter, sitting on the shelf (so to speak). During the course of his duties, he uncovers a plot to assassinate the king. He sends Esther communication about the scheme, then nothing. No recognition, no award, no bonus pay, no promotion was given to him. Mordecai experienced firsthand what it felt like living on the shelf. Life and people moved on. But, he waited. God had a plan for Mordecai and knew exactly when to move him to the next phase.

And the Lord did. The king had a bad night’s sleep and to help pass the time he asked that events recorded in the chronicles concerning his kingdom be read to him. Something catches his attention. It is about a man named Mordecai who usurped a plot to take the king’s life. “Was anything done for him?” Nothing. Mordecai’s life on the shelf had just come to an end.

King Ahasuerus rewarded the good deeds of the man who saved his life and generously made up for lost time:

And all the acts of his power and of his might, and the declaration of the greatness of Mordecai, whereunto the king advanced him, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia? For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed. Esther 10:2-3

God Calls Another Life Off The Shelf

Real kings keep their promises. David made a promise once to King Saul that he would preserve his lineage and not destroy his entire family:

Swear now therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house.
And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold. 1 Samuel 24:21-22

King David’s life on the shelf while running from Saul was now a distant memory. Life was good. He was now the “big man on campus”, he even got a name for himself (2 Samuel 8:13). Amazing how success, even for those chosen by the Savior, have a predisposition to forget the One who is behind any and all good that happens in life.

As time so oftentimes proves (substantiated by our fallen nature) promises of good made to a defeated foe faded into the shadows of his memory, maybe power washed by too many wars, women, wealth and weariness. But, the Lord remembered and brought it to his attention many years later:

And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet. 2 Samuel 9:3

Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lodebar. Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant! 2 Samuel 9:5-6

There are not many accounts of people in the Bible as heartwarming and touching as that of Mephibosheth. Being the lame son of Jonathan, he lived most of his life in obscurity and heartache not knowing that an unfulfilled promise from God rested right above his head. His day finally arrived. God saw it was time for Mephibosheth to come down off the shelf:

And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually. 2 Samuel 9:7

From that day onward, Mephiboshet’s life was never the same. He became a new man with newfound hope and purpose in life. God is especially touched by the broken, crippled, lame and bruised – on the outside and on the inside (Ps 86:15, 145:8, Is 53:5, Mat 15:32, Mark 6:34, & Heb 4:15).

The Shelf Life Produces Something Amazing

Some things in life are made better by being motionless, by just doing nothing. The process is called curing. Meats, fruits, vegetables, cheeses (and some other mysterious elixirs made from rye, barley and malt) are transformed into exquisite creations by simply left sitting undisturbed on a shelf. Such is the case with the one thing that saves us:

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Romans 8:24-25

Hope is what saves. Not love, not faith, but hope. Hope for what? Hope that God’s word is truth and will come to pass, hope that Jesus Christ is real, alive, is the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings, and that he is coming back again for his people. And if we don’t live to see it, he will raise us from the dead to make the appointment (Romans 8:11, I Corinthians 15:52). That is a hope worth holding on to.

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Romans 5:10  

The interesting thing about hope, unlike faith and love, it is not a spiritual fruit or spiritual gift. The Lord does not drop dollops of hope into our lives. Hope does not come easy.

Like precious earthly metals, stones and gems, hope does not occupy shallow ground, its origins reside deep within the soul. Hope is forged by enduring the pressure and heat of God’s handiwork upon our hearts. How and why? To form something rare, beautiful, exquisite, and valuable for His glory (Malachi 3:17). Hope is essentially the byproduct of God’s mercy and grace at work in our lives.

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: Romans 5:3-4

We with patience wait for it. Our soul is preserved by the nuclear bond between patience and hope. Jesus had something to say on this subject:

In your patience possess ye your souls. (KJV)
In the sphere of your steadfastness, constancy, and endurance you shall win for yourselves your lives. (Wuest) Luke 21:19

Your soul is acquired, secured, or purchased through patience – sometimes while enduring life while sitting on the shelf.

Is My Shelf Life About To Expire?

Is life looking like a dead end? Do you feel that your “shelf life” is about to expire? Who is to say that there is not yet an unfulfilled promise from the Lord resting over your head? How will we ever find out if we don’t patiently wait for it?

The Lord could be preparing you to come down from your disaster and enter into His destiny. The shelf has prepared you for this moment in time. And when you do come down, you will know for sure that “The Lord, He is God!”.

Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalms 100:3