Truly, O God of Israel, our Savior, you work in strange and mysterious ways. Isaiah 45:15
There's an old story of a man praying for rescue as he sits on the top of a house being swept away in a flood. First, a log floats by that would have carried him to safety, but he ignores it. He's waiting for God to rescue him. A rowboat with people comes by and offers him help, but he refuses, telling them he's waiting for God to rescue him. Then a helicopter throws him a life preserver, but he refuses again, saying he's waiting for God to rescue him.
As he continues to pray, he becomes exasperated and starts questioning why God hasn't answered. A voice from heaven booms out that his prayers have been answered and asks why he hasn't taken the rescue opportunities that have been given.
Can you relate to this scene? Have your expectations of who God is or how He's going to work or what life is supposed to look like ever prevented you from receiving God's best for your life and walking in His blessing?
When God sent Jesus into the world to reveal who the Father was and provide salvation for all who would believe in Him and turn to Him, that's exactly what happened. Jesus didn't come as people expected their Messiah, their deliverer, to show up. Oppressed by a cruel Roman government, the people of Israel were looking for a warrior king, a mighty presence that would bring down Rome, destroy their oppressors and set up a new government in its place, one in which Israel would be on top. They were looking for someone to come in with great power and lead them in revolt, directing a military coup.
But what did God do? He sent His Son to be born in a stable, not a palace, to be seen and worshipped first by the shepherds, the outcasts of society, the poorest of the poor. Jesus grew up in an ordinary town as the son of a carpenter, no distinction, no wealth, no prominence. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:2, "He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him."
His earthly father, Joseph, probably died when Jesus was only a teenager, so he and his siblings had to work hard to provide an income for themselves and their mother. Then, Jesus had a short earthly ministry where he told people to do things they'd never heard before, like love your enemy, do good to those who hurt you and despitefully use you, share what you have with those in need. Then, He was falsely accused of sedition against Rome, sentenced to death and executed on a cross as a common criminal. Not exactly the stuff of dreams when you're thinking of a Superman, a Mighty Hero.
But that's God, who says His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts are greater than our thoughts. He sent Himself, in the form of His Son, to be a Suffering Servant to His people to rescue them from their sins. People were looking for a different kind of rescue, and many missed God's deliverance. To this day, people often miss God's offer of deliverance, God's offer of salvation.
See, God knows it's not a government or circumstances that is man's worst enemy. It's not cancer or any other illness. It's not the person who's done you wrong or the environment and family you grew up in. He knows our enemy is really Satan and his power to control our lives and bring us death through our sin nature. Regardless of what comes into our lives, it's our response to it -- when it's a sinful response -- that destroys our lives and the lives of others while we're here on earth and, without a Messiah, a deliverer, it will separate us from a holy God for eternity and doom us to hell.
God's deliverance didn't come by military might, but by God Himself serving His creation by being willing to suffer with us, be tempted by sin as we are and yet not sin, bear the pain, hurt and scars of sin and a sinful world as we do. But God doesn't leave it there. After Christ's death on the cross, He resurrects Him from the dead by His sovereign power and gives Him all authority in heaven and in earth, authority over sin, life, death, heaven and hell -- over all things. The suffering and serving of Christ produced life, power, and overcoming, for Him and us. The only thing required of us to receive those things is to see our salvation in Jesus, the Suffering Servant, and give Him our lives so He can carry out His eternal rescue operation for us each moment of each day.
What about you? Are you like the man on the rooftop begging for deliverance but then not seeing it when God sends it? Are you refusing to see God's offer of salvation through Jesus because you want Him to work in your life according to your expectations and desires, maybe altering your circumstances but not changing your heart? Maybe it's time to be still, hear God speak into the silence and let Him reveal Himself to you as you've least expected. That's often where you'll meet Him.
Lyn Thompson, Pastoral Care