You drive up to the fast-food order box and place your order...a burger and fries quite often. Many of us eat that meal while we are driving, or we take it back to work with us to eat for lunch. And after we are done eating and we go to put our trash back in the bag...there it is. A lone French fry or two. It is like a bonus at the bottom of the bag! Just when you thought lunch was done there is just a bit more. Those fries are a nice little surprise in our day that brings a smile to our faces.
Some of us like surprises...and some of us could live the rest of our lives without another surprise. I had a friend growing up who when her family would go out for ice cream, her dad would ask her mom...what flavor do you want. Her response was always surprise me! In later years she confessed that she was hardly ever disappointed by the choice he made. Have you ever said to someone...surprise me? Would you ever say that to God? At first that sounds plenty scary. But I think God likes to surprise His people. I think God is a master at the unexpected.
Think about some of the things God has done. The plagues in Egypt were a surprise for both the Egyptians and the Israelites. God wanted everyone to know He was the one in charge. Who would ever have expected total darkness in one place and across the street it was light? When the Israelites were trapped between the Red Sea and the oncoming Egyptian army scripture tells us God piled up the water and His people walked through on dry ground. They didn't see that coming. Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding. No one had ever seen that before. On a pitch-dark night in a field outside of Bethlehem, the sky lit up brighter than daylight. An angel of the Lord came to announce the birth of God's Son. It was so unexpected the angel and then the heavenly host had to tell the shepherds not to be afraid. When Gabriel appeared to Mary and shared the news with her about being the mother of God's Son...no one had ever been so surprised. And that trickled down to her family and Joseph, her fiancé and his family.
Sometimes Gods surprises angered people. When Jesus went to his home church and read the lesson for the day, it came from the prophet Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.” Isaiah 61:1-3. And then Jesus told them Isaiah was talking about Him. His fellow townspeople were plenty surprised by that announcement...so much so they wanted to stone Him to death. After all, this was just Joe’s kid.
I would guess Jonah was surprised when he was swallowed by the big fish and equally as surprised when the fish vomited him out onto dry land. The disciples were surprised when they were in a storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee and Jesus spoke into the wind and said be still. And immediately everything was calm. Scripture records them as looking at one another and asking, who is this that even the wind and the waves obey Him? Zacchaeus was surprised that Jesus wanted to come to his house. He was probably surprised too with his own response to Jesus affect in his life.
Saul was surprised by Jesus on the road to Damascus and the two disciples were surprised on the road to Emmaus. Jesus followers were surprised to find Jesus tomb empty and even more surprised when He appeared to them in the upper room when the doors and windows were locked. Peter was surprised at His response to Jesus arrest. But he was also surprised when Jesus reaffirmed him and told him that he...Peter would be part of the foundation of the new church. Peter had a second chance!
We are surprised by the Lord as well. He lavishes love on us, even when we feel unlovable. He gives us yet another chance by forgiving us...even when we keep messing up. It is surprising that Jesus wants to use us to do His work in the world. After all, who are we? When we stray from Him, how surprised are we when He pursues us to bring us back? Just like the one sheep out of the 99. Each day is a new day. He doesn't have to give it to us...but He does. Got did not create and then leave us to our own devices. He walks with us every step of the way. Every day is different and unique. In Isaiah 43 we read, "See, I am doing a new thing!” God delights in surprising us. And what He brings is way better than the extra fries in the bottom of the bag.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W