This is something I’ve been mulling over for some time, and felt like posting it tonight.
There are have been a few incidences recently that have reminded me of this idea. God is so much bigger than we can imagine. He doesn’t fit into our neat compartments. He is like Aslan, we can’t keep God in our wallet or beckon like a genie at our whim.
The story that comes to mind first is the water from a rock in the Old Testament. The Hebrews were wandering in the desert, complaining and rising up against Moses because they were so thirsty. So what does God do? What would we do? What would I do? I shout down from the heavens, “you ingrates! I brought you out of Egypt! I rescued you from the hand of Pharaoh! I parted the Red Sea for you! You’ve been slaves for 400 years and you’re free now! Isn’t that enough? Can’t you endure a little pain and inconvenience? Don’t you think I’ll save you from death by dehydration, I’ve saved you from a thousand deaths already.” But that’s not what God did. He commanded Moses to strike a rock and suddenly water came pouring out, enough water for all the people and all their animals.
There are two aspects to this whole thing.
First, what I’ve been marveling about is God’s creativity. His imagination is so much greater than our feeble minds. I mean, if I were going to give a million people water, I would not have it come from a rock. That would have been the last thing I would have imagined. Water coming from rocks just doesn’t fit what we know. Obvious examples of this is all around us. Why would God make certain birds pink? And how in the world (I should say, universe) did He think of making penguins? Or the myriads of other wonderful, crazy animals? Or the sky. I would have made the sky some pale whitish color, so it wouldn’t distract our eyes from the other sights of the planet. No, God makes it a brilliant blue. Of course there are scientific reasons for the sky being blue, but I rather think that He first decided to make it blue, and then designed the system of science and colors and all that around His choice. Look at all the other examples in the Bible. Elijah flees to an isolated cave so the king won’t kill him. How does God keep him alive? He sends ravens to feed him. Ha! Ravens! Why ravens? Why not just make the food appear for him? Why not have some kindly person (who happens to have a good supply of food) stumble upon him? If I were writing a book, I would not have ravens come feed him. There are so many examples of God doing such unexpected things, it is really incredible.
On a more practical note, we can apply this to our lives. For instance, considering my current interests and passions, I’d like to find a position where I can teach economics. But God doesn’t do things neatly. He doesn’t use Hollywood plots. His stories have lots of twists and turns, you never know quite where things are going. So I’m just going to hold on and see where God wants me to be. Drinking water from a rock would be far more exciting than drinking from a stream. I’m not saying we should just trust God and our lives are going to be far better than we can imagine. Instead of getting one job teaching econ, I might get three! No, I don’t think so. For example, instead of being an econ tutor, I’m an office manager at an aerospace factory. Haha, there’s an interesting surprise, never would have expected it. But that’s because God isn’t like us. He doesn’t think like us. I can’t tell you how He thinks because I’m one of us. But I think He does things that we’ll eventually appreciate. We may not realize that the bitter water we are drinking is water from the rock of God’s grace.
Secondly, the other aspect of this is God’s character, for lack of a better word. We like things to be neat and tidy. We like things that go with our preconceived notions. Nice people go to heaven. Bad people go to hell. It is that easy. Haha, actually not. All through the Old Testament you can see God overthrowing our neat notions, and the apex of this is the incarnation of His Son as a carpenter’s son. Esau was the oldest. Jacob got the birthright. And not only that, God didn’t just speak from Heaven and announce His toppling of human traditions, He used the deceit and sin of Jacob to accomplish His plans. He rejected Saul and chose David the shepherd boy to be the king of Israel. He sent glorious Nebuchadnezzar to the meadows like a beast of the field. He didn’t invite King Herod to His Son’s birth, but the shepherds got an invitation from the angels. Christ called the tax collectors and sinners. A tidy Savior would have refused to speak to the woman at the well. But Jesus offered her Living Water. A predictable God would have struck Saul dead on the Road to Damascus, instead Saul was struck blind for three days and given eternal life.
It seems ironic: God gives grace when we want justice, but yet when He metes out justice, we call for mercy.
We don’t like thinking of the thousands of people the Israelites slaughtered when they entered the Holy Land. We don’t like thinking about Uzzah who was just trying to keep the Ark of the Covenant from touching the ground and was killed for his audacity. This kind of God scares us. We want a God who will rain down judgement and grace when we decide. But that’s not how it works, God makes the choice.
That is what confuses me, if Christianity is the opiate of masses, why are the masses afraid of God? If religion was invented by people to comfort themselves in the midset of a vast, silent, random, cruel, mysterious universe, why is the God they created so vast, mysterious, and seemingly cruel? Why is it that in the Bible, whenever anyone comes near to approaching the presence of God, they fall to pieces? Isaiah cried, “woe to me, for I am undone!” He could not stand whole before God. His being trembled before the Almighty God. Moses was allowed only to see the backside of God. The God of the Bible isn’t a gushy, smiley grandfather who never gets cross and lets you eat as many cookies as you’d like. No, the God of the Bible struck Nadab and Abihu dead because they offered “strange fire” on the alter.
You see, we are surprised when God doesn’t offer everyone a free pass to Heaven, but when He sacrifices His Son to satisfy His perfect and inflexible justice, we are surprised that He offers this extraordinary mercy to common sinners.
No matter how you look at it, we’re going to be surprised by God so we might as well appreciate the unpredictability of our God.