God of the Unexpected
The birth of Jesus.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.”
– Luke 1:30–31
And she gave birth to her first–born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
– Luke 2:7
After thousands of years of watching and waiting, it finally happened. One night in the city of Nazareth, a young woman named Mary had an unexpected visitor. An angel from God told her she would bear a son, and that she was to name Him Jesus, which means, “The Lord is our deliverance.”
...But Bethlehem was very crowded and there was no bed for Mary. So they found shelter in a stable. And so it came to pass that the Promised Deliverer, the Son of God, came into the world as an infant born in the most humble of settings.
– The HOPE, Chapter 8
Observe & Consider
God often does things very differently than we would do them. In fact, He often does what we would not expect. In Isaiah 55:8 it is written, “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.” The truth of this verse is incredibly illustrated in the coming of God’s promised Deliverer. Consider two things about His coming.
First, rather than expecting man to make a way to God, He came to man! This simple yet profound truth separates the essential message of the Bible from every other religious system in the world. Other religions teach what man must do to make a way to God. However, such teaching: a) fails to recognize the vastness of the chasm between God and man created by sin, b) inflates man’s potential to close that chasm and c) diminishes the holiness of God by implying that such a thing is even possible. The Bible teaches there is nothing man can do to make a way to God, but because God so loved man He came to him instead!
Second, consider how God came to man. He came in a way that is so intimate and humble it is almost unthinkable. He came as an infant born to a young virgin in the most mundane of settings: a common stable. This is not a scenario that the mind of man would invent. It is God’s way.
Many religions view the physical world as intrinsically evil. For these religions, it would be an abomination to believe that a Holy Creator God would put on the flesh of a man and subject Himself to a sin-filled, fallen creation.1 (We’ll consider this matter further in our next lesson.)
Even for those who can embrace the amazing method of God’s arrival, there is still something very odd about the manner in which He came. He came quietly, in obscurity. When a political candidate decides to run for election, he (or she) often hires a public relations firm to “represent” him. The goal is to create momentum for the campaign by creating as much visibility and public interest as possible. The same is true of an entertainer preparing to go on tour, or for a movie that is about to go into distribution. The press releases and the hype begin flying.
God’s promised Deliverer arrived with no fanfare or publicity. In an earthly sense, the audience for this event was small – just some shepherds and few barnyard animals. This is the event by which western civilization measures time (BC and AD),2 and yet it went unnoticed by most of the people of that time and place. In the spirit realm, however, a celestial audience of angels gave a heavenly ovation as the eternal God entered time and space in the flesh of a man! (Luke 2:13).
Ask & Reflect
- Have you ever been asked to arrange for the arrival of a “VIP?” If so, how did your plans for the arrival of that person differ from God’s plan for the arrival of His Son?
- Why do you think that God did not bring the promised Deliverer into the world in such a way that the whole world would have known it?
Decide & Do
Beware of preconceived ideas about how you think God is going to do something or how He might show up in your life. Remember, His ways are not our ways.
Joseph and Mary could not find a bed in an inn because there was no room for them. Bethlehem was very crowded and full of activity that evening, Many people missed the fact that something of eternal significance was happening in their midst. They missed it not because they were doing bad things, but because they were doing their own thing – unaware that God was in their midst.
Like the coming of the Deliverer, God may intend to do something significant in your life, but He may choose to do it in a completely unexpected way. If you are not looking for it, you may not see it. Be ready for God to do the unexpected in your life!
For Further Study
- John Piper, The Word Became Flesh. (A Sermon Given December 24, 1989, © Desiring God, 2006). (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1989/703_The_Word_Became_Flesh/). Retrieved October 25, 2006.
1The Big Religion Chart. (© ReligionFacts Website, 2004–2006). Comparison of 25+ world religions. (http://www.religionfacts.com/big_religion_chart.htm). Retrieved October 26, 2006.
2Marshall Brain, How Time Works. (How Stuff Works Inc., 1998–2006). (http://people.howstuffworks.com/time7.htm), Retrieved October 25, 2006.