“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are My ways your ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9
From beginning to end, the Bible is full of stories demonstrating God’s ways and thoughts frequently vary from our own, and even conflict with them. Sometimes it’s hard to understand, but God simply doesn’t do things our way, for He is the Potter who forms and shapes the clay, not the other way round:
“Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.” Jeremiah 18:6
He is the Lord and Father of mankind who created the heavens and flung the stars into space, He sees the beginning from the end. So dare we think we can put our expectations or sense of entitlement before His divine will and knowledge? “For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has become His counsellor?”i
Therefore as we begin 2017, let us purpose in our hearts and minds to stay close to Him; to seek first His ways, His heart and His mind in order to know what pleases Him. Such purpose may bring us into conflict with our secular world, our church and even our families, but as Isaiah wrote, God’s ways are not man’s ways. We must grasp this very important point and seek first the kingdom of heaven and His definition of righteousness, not our own man made interpretations, because in the days ahead our very survival might depend on such, for:
“no eye has seen nor ear has heard, nor entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love (obey!) Him.” – 1 Corinthians 1:9
So let’s look at a few well-known examples of God breaking with convention. Abraham’s first born, Ishmael, was overlooked and rejected in favour of the younger Isaac, breaching societal rules in which the first born son inherited the bulk of his father’s estate. It was Isaac’s descendants who inherited the Promised Land, not Ishmael – the root of the Arab-Israeli conflict (sibling rivalry and jealousy)!
It was Moses whom God chose to lead the Israelites out of slavery, a man who couldn’t speak well and lacked confidence, a man who’d killed and fled to the desert for forty years, before being called back to face his past and rescue his people.
Gideon was a man with fear and insecurity, yet the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon and said, “the LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”ii Gideon went on to fight well.
David was the youngest of seven, despised by his older brothers much like Joseph, yet God chose him to become king of Israel against all their expectations. Joseph’s brothers likewise betrayed him terribly, yet he was the one whom God chose to become a significant character in Egypt’s history.
Bethlehem was regarded as an insignificant village yet God said; “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” – Micah 5:2
Today would we expect God to use a prostitute like Rahab to save two Israeli spies and alter the course of history, or to speak through a donkey, or use a large fish to put a man where God wanted him?
When Jesus walked along the shores of Galilee He didn’t chose men of ‘the cloth’ or men of standing in the community, but simple fishermen and a tax collector who was despised.
The Apostle Paul, before his Damascus road experience was a bad man by any standards, persecuting, killing and torturing believers in the Messiah. Yet entirely against people’s expectations, God chose Paul to be a leading light, travelling to Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and equipping the early church. Paul himself said he was a great sinner, but Jesus proved to be an even greater Saviour!
In 1 Samuel, we read how the very young Samuel was serving with Eli the priest. No doubt Eli had been a good spiritual father to little Samuel, who, as he grew up no doubt loved and respected Eli. Yet what did God instruct Samuel to say to Eli? “Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house from beginning to end. For I have told him I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows of, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them.” God chose a small child to be His messenger, not a wise man in the eyes of the people, with a difficult message.
Job endured hell at the hands of Satan, something God permitted, yet the eventual outcome was great blessing. Job’s wife was so angry she told her husband to ‘curse God and die’iii, which he refused! How might the story have ended if he’d followed his wife’s advice? God permitted great suffering and loss to teach Job – and his three not so helpful friends – some lessons for life.
Jesus himself frequently broke social protocols and conventions such as talking with the Samarian woman at the well, or touching lepers, or speaking with a woman deemed unclean, or forgiving the woman caught in adultery, publicly forgiving sins, contradicting and arguing with religious leaders, casting out thousands of demons, or making a whip, overturning tables and shouting at everyone as He cleared His Father’ house!
As Jesus death was unconventional for a ‘King,’ so was His beginning. Conceived out of wedlock, a sin worthy of death under Mosaic lawiv, to a young village girl who risked her life out of fearful obedience; the foretold Consolation of Israelv wasn’t born in a palace as the three wise men assumed, but in a dirty little stable in an insignificant place called Bethlehem. So we can see that God’s ways and thoughts are not like ours, hence we should not judge that we too would not be judged.
Now man has a habit of self-promotion, or being promoted and put on a pedestal – only to fall off at some stage! Pride is always waiting to sink a good ship. Yet God despises the proud and instead choses those the world would ordinarily overlook:
“For you see your calling brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. But God has chosen (instead) the foolish things of the world to put to shame (embarrass) the wise, and God has instead chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things (people & institutions of men) that are mighty (in their own eyes); and God has chosen the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh (man) should glory in His presence….let him who glories glory in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (our words in brackets)
So where does God’s unconventional track record take us today? Well, when things happen in the future that challenge our way of thinking, our societal norms, protocols or comfort zones, we must question if what we’re seeing is in fact a higher way of God outworking before us.’ Even if what we see is bad, we must still weigh it against the word of God and His prophetic warnings. For example, is God bringing judgment on the West for its iniquity by the mass migration of Middle Eastern people, known historically as Babylonians and Assyrians, with their fierce countenance and language we don’t understand?
“Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you. The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as an eagle flies, a nation whose language you do not understand, a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly or the young. They shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land until you are destroyed…” Deuteronomy 28:47-51
We know that at the end, the ‘man of lawlessness’ will be revealed, as Michael steps aside and hell is unleashed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work and the coming of this lawless one is according to the working of Satan. He will demonstrate power, signs, and lying wonders, and all unrighteous deception among those who are perishing because they did not receive the love of God’s truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason (rejecting truth), God will send them a strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.vi
God’s unconventional ways include sending strong delusions on those who do not believe the truth that they may sink deeper into their abyss of self-deception. Is this why parts of the church are embracing false theology and accepting practices which are an abomination to God? Has God given them over to their carnal desires and sent them a strong delusion? Are these those of whom Jesus said “go away I never knew you” when they cry out for mercy on Judgement Day?
“For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and many enter through it, but small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to eternal life and only a few find it” Matthew 7-13-14.
Do not be disturbed by what you see around you, even in the lukewarm church, which seeks only to appease men, a church which Jesus will ‘vomit from His mouth’.vii For as was written long ago, certain men have indeed crept in unnoticed, who are marked out for condemnation, ungodly men, who have turned the grace of God into lewdness and deny the ways of the only Lord God,viii and in so doing, what our precious Lord Jesus Christ has done for us. The Lord knows the thoughts of man, He knows your thoughts and sees your struggles.
Dear friends, seek first the Kingdom of Heaven ix to which you belong as citizens x , and the righteousness of God. Don’t worry about ungodly men and their practices, for you know the Lord having saved His people out of the land of Egypt afterward destroyed those who did not believexi. Just keep your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith.xii In the days ahead we will see many things in and outside the church that challenge, sadden and frustrate us. But remain unspotted for judgement belongs to God. Such may require us to be unconventional, by leaving church congregations who are not following the true ways of God. It may even mean losing friends, family and dear ones as we seek first the kingdom: “he who will not lay down his life for Me is not worthy of Me!”xiii What does Christ have in common with Belial?xiv Oil and water do not mix.
In conclusion, ask yourself are you ready to be unconventional. If your God asks you to do something, which flies in the face of perceived norms, would you do it? The word of God is described as being sharper than any double edge sword, cutting and dividing soul and spirit, even joints from marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes, and exposes our innermost desires!xv How will you respond to a calling that is unconventional? Will you step out of your comfortable boat into the storm? If you do, you will face hostility and opposition, so remember the words which were spoken by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how they told you there would be mockers in the last days that would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.xvi
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
i Romans 11:34
ii Judges 6:12
iii Job 2:9
iv Deuteronomy 5:18 v Luke 2:25
vi 2 Thessalonians 1:8-12 vii Revelation 3:16
viii Jude 1:4
ix Matthew 6:33
x Philippians 3:20
xi Jude 1:5
xii Hebrews 12:2
xiii Matthew 10:38
xiv 2 Corinthians 6:15 xv Hebrews 4:12
xvi 2 Peter 3:3