The Living Word
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ Isaiah 46:9-10
The Word In Motion
“A priest, a Baptist minister, and a Pentecostal walk into a bar.” What’s next? What would you expect to hear after an opener like that? A joke, right? But what if the next thing I told you was that they had a cross-denominational revival and 50 people got saved? Now, if I told you to expect the unexpected, “national revival” is what you would think.
Having grown up with ten brothers, Joe was used to fits of jealousy and outbursts of rage. Being one of the youngest of the brood, he often was the recipient of the brunt of their frustrations. He was also the instigator of much of them. He was his father’s favorite. So when they threw him in a well, he figured one of them would eventually let him out. When they finally came for him, he was thoroughly frustrated himself. Dripping wet they hauled him up only to sell him to some passers-by. This wasn’t like before. A sense of dread came over him. The rest of his life was going to be a living hell. He expected he would serve one master after another for the rest of his miserable life with no chance of ever seeing his beloved father again.
An old shepherd was walking through the dessert. In his 80 years he had seen his share of strange things. Some distance away, at the foot of a mountain in the middle of a long shadow cast by a blistering hot sun was a little thorn bush. Nothing unusual so far. But this one was on fire. Still nothing all that awe-inspiring. What caught the shepherd’s eye at first was the light. He walked toward it, expecting it to be someone’s campfire. As he approached he saw that no one was around. He expected the fire to die down to a few glowing embers and eventually go out.
A seasoned warrior king, a conqueror of nations, a well-traveled man, had seen it all. He had servants from all over the world. His empire glistened with the greatest talents from anywhere in the entire world. He was advised by the wisest words of wisdom from the world’s greatest minds. At a party in his honor, as all of them were, a few rabble-rousers made him angry. No, furious. Did not these puny peasants know that he had the power to destroy them?! Even when confronted, these men refused to pay him homage. He was beyond angry, furious didn’t even do him justice. He couldn’t control himself. He had his workers heat the furnace, which had just days before melted the metal for his immense statue, to seven times hotter than it had been for that purpose. At a hundred yard he could feel the intensity of the heat. He had his royal guards take the men up the ramp to fueling side of the furnace to throw those vile villains into the flames. His own guards couldn’t even take the heat and perished on the way. The three bound men were momentarily on their own. Knowing that their fate lie in the depths of the melting pot, they jumped in. Despite losing his best men the king’s fierce anger was momentarily abated when the bound prisoners lept into the blazing inferno. He expected there to be shrieks of exquisite torment as their flesh melted off their bones.
The Bible is full of stories where something happens to someone and that someone expects something, but that something never materializes. Instead, something else entirely happens and that someone is required to adjust their expectations. And as they do, God begins to do some marvelous things.
Joseph served his master well. But still all did not go well. He landed in prison and was forgotten by “friends”. He could have given in to despair and just quit living altogether. But he wasn’t your average Joe. From the time he had his first dreams where his brothers and father bowed down to him, Joseph had some pretty high expectations of God. With no idea how God would pull it off, he served where he found himself whether in Potiphar’s house or in prison. He kept his high expectations of God and God lived up to those expectations. He ended up being the number two person in all of ancient Egypt! That was unexpected.
Moses noticed that the bush was not consumed. The time it took him to walk over to the bush should have seen the bush reduced to embers – at least. In the brilliance of the flames, the old man could still make out the smallest of branches and every leaf. The wonder of the burning bush drew him in. Cautiously, he approached. He didn’t want that kind of fire on him! And then it spoke! That was unexpected. Moses went on to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Along the way he learned to follow God’s instructions and developed a habit of adjusting his expectations. He had to. With each of the plagues he expected God to set his people free. By the time the Israelites got to the Red Sea Moses was beginning to get it. He raised his expectations to the level God could act, and entire army was annihilated and a nation saved.
That was unexpected.
Not believing his own eyes, Nebuchadnezzar saw not three prisoners but four, and none of them bound, none of them shrieking, none of them harmed in any way! Not only that, but the forth man was glowing so bright that the fire seemed pale in comparison. That was unexpected. Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah met the fourth man in the furnace. Immediately, they knew they had to adjust their expectations upward. Before going in they were confident in God’s ability to save. But what now? Obviously, it had to be great. That kind of saving doesn’t just happen every day does it? Nebuchadnezzar no longer demanded people worship him, he changed his tune and gave praise to God. The course of the nation changed.
That was unexpected.
The world would tell you, “Lower your expectations so you don’t get hurt.” Or “I can’t live up to your expectations, and you can’t live up to mine, so we just shouldn’t have any.” God, on the other hand, wants us to raise our expectations. He wants us to expect great things from Him. All too often our problems lie in the fact that we don’t have high enough expectations and we think God doesn’t want to – no, won’t - meet those expectations.
God wants us to have high enough expectations that He can meet them without compromising Himself in the process.
If He met your less-than-spectacular expectations (which may be high enough for you), what would that be saying about Him? Oh, ye of little faith. Go beyond the normal expectations – that which merely should be – and reach for more. Expect the unexpected!
Expect God to do what only He can. Oh, you’re circumstances are overwhelming? No, they should be overwhelmed! Your circumstances are merely a platform on which God can perform! That sounds dangerously close to HOPE!
Well, that was unexpected.