Gospel Insights

by Michael Smith

 

Chapter Eighteen

THE GOD OF SURPRISES

 

God delights to surprise those who follow Jesus with unexpected help and blessings.  Jesus often surprised the first disciples; for example, when He stilled the storm on the sea, when He fed 5000 people with a few scraps of bread, when He turned water into wine in a moment of time, and above all, when He defeated death and rose to life, never to die again.  Surely the first man, Adam, was surprised when he awoke from a deep sleep to see his wife, Eve, for the first time; no doubt falling in love with her immediately!


The Surprise of the Century (Genesis 17:1-17)

Abraham was ninety-nine years of age and his wife, Sarah, ninety, when they realised they were to have a son, Isaac.  Many years previously, God had surprised Abraham by commanding him to leave Ur, the place of his birth and an idolatrous nation, and travel to a new home hundreds of miles away where He would make Abraham the father of a new and great nation.  Yet even knowing the very reason for their being in the place they were, Abraham and Sarah were still unprepared for God's revelation to them.  Believing they were past the age to produce children, God so surprised this couple when He told them they would have a son and that kings were to come from them, that they laughed, as we might do when someone makes what we think is a ridiculous statement or remark; having a child even with help is no laughing matter when a couple are very old, and Sarah up until then had been barren.

God loves to surprise us, however old we may be, and what a wonderful surprise it was when Isaac (whose name means 'one laughs') was born and Sarah came through the birth unharmed.  We may not all have physical children, but God wants every believer to have spiritual children; He wants us all to become as fruitful trees, as the Psalmist says, so that we flourish and bear fruit even into old age [1].  This demands a willingness on our part, and we can bear fruit by praying for others in their needs, or helping them in practical or financial ways if we can.  It does, of course, mean giving up some of our time when we might be doing something else, but we will see the results of the fruit borne in the life to come.


Peter in Prison (Acts 12:1-17)

Another example is the apostle Peter.  He must have been very surprised when an angel released him from prison the night before he was due to be executed by King Herod; as indeed was Rhoda and the group of Christians who, though they had been praying together all that night for Peter, couldn't actually believe their prayers had been answered when Peter knocked at the door!

So often God's ways are not our ways.  It wasn't yet time for Peter to lay down his life for the Kingdom.  God had much more work for him to do in spreading the Christian gospel, so an angel was sent from God's very presence to set Peter free from prison.  Over twenty years later Peter was martyred, but not until his work here on earth was completed.


Has God Surprised You Unexpectedly?

Perhaps He has surprised you by moving you to a new home or blessing you with a little one as He did with Abraham and Sarah, or by opening up an unexpected new job to you, or wonderfully leading you to your husband or wife-to-be, or miraculously restoring a broken relationship with a friend or a member of your family.  Maybe He has provided for a specific need at just the right time through someone you thought had no idea you were praying for help.  Perhaps He has given you a new ministry that is proving an encouragement and a blessing to many others or He has recently enabled you to share your faith with a colleague you never thought would listen to the gospel message.  Maybe God has answered many years of prayer for healing or deliverance, or a prodigal you had long given up on has suddenly returned to the Lord.  There is never a shortage of God's surprising blessings for which to praise and thank Him for!


The Greatest Surprise in All History (Luke 24:1-35)

When Jesus defeated the grave and death itself, everyone was taken completely by surprise; including His closest disciples.  Thomas, the two disciples leaving Jerusalem for Emmaus, plus several of the women, all struggled to believe that Jesus could be alive; despite the fact that He had told them several times during His ministry that He would rise again on the third day after His death.  Their hearts and minds were full of grief, sadness, shock, and deep despair, and they were frightened of the religious leaders, so, wondering what to do next, they hid themselves away behind locked doors.  The two disciples on the road to Emmaus said, "we had trusted...", but now all seemed lost.

They were looking in the wrong place.  Jesus wasn't in the tomb, but was fully alive and well, having defeated sin and death and all that is evil and wicked.  Having lived a sinless life, death had no hold over Jesus because death is the wages of sin [2].  He had outsmarted His greatest enemy, the devil, and the whole company of hell, and was now alive for ever.  Death was effectively sentenced to death!

Now it was possible for the sentence of death to be lifted from any person who accepted by faith what Jesus Christ had done on the cross.  From then on, all who believed on Jesus and put their trust in Him could receive the abundant and eternal life that can only be found in Him, together with a deep peace of mind and heart that no-one else can give [3].

God, in His perfect wisdom, had kept His plan of salvation a secret, or a "mystery", from the beginning of time until that Resurrection morning [4], but now the Old Testament scriptures that had looked forward to this mighty victory over death had been proved true, and those who lived before the cross who believed in God and were found righteous in His sight could at last receive the promise [5].  The angels in heaven rejoiced!

The good news for us is that the blessing of salvation is given freely to us today if we choose to open our hearts and lives to Jesus, and remain faithful to Him.  Death is not the end as some believe; for all the faithful there is an eternity in paradise with the Lord.

What a great God we have!  To Him be all the praise and glory.  Amen and Amen.

 

Footnotes

[1]  Psalm 92:12-14.  See also Jeremiah 17:7-8.          [2]  Romans 6:23.          [3]  1 John 5:11-12;  John 14:27.          [4]  Romans 16:25-27;  1 Corinthians 2:7-8.          [5]  Hebrews 11, especially vs39-40;  Romans 4:3,16-25.

 

 

 

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Michael Smith 2013