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God of Surprises

Today’s Reflection

Read 1 Kings 19:1-13

Poor Elijah! Queen Jezebel swears vengeance against him so the prophet hightails it to the wilderness in hopes he might die in peace, the last of God’s prophets.

Two things interrupt his pity party. First, an angel disturbs his suicidal slumber with two meals and word of a journey. The second interruption occurs after Elijah settles into a cave on Mount Horeb after a journey of 40 days. Horeb is another name for Sinai, the mountain where Moses received the commandments.

And the 40 days? Israel’s wilderness sojourn following the Sinai experience lasted 40 years. So with all that Exodus tradition washing over him, Elijah hears a voice that promises an appearance by God.

Naturally, the expectation will be of God’s coming in wind and earthquake and fire. Weren’t those the accompaniments of God’s first Sinai revealing? (See Exodus 19:16-18.) And isn’t God the same yesterday, today, and forever?

Apparently not.

Wind blows, earthquake shakes, fire rages – but no God. Instead, God chooses a new entrance: “a sound of sheer silence” or in the more familiar King James rendering, “a still small voice.” In that surprising self-disclosure, God goes on to disabuse Elijah of his mistaken notion that he alone remains a faithful prophet. God sets Elijah back on his prophetic path.

So what sort of invocation does this narrative provide, particularly in the season of Lent? It announces that the God in whose name we gather is a God who may surprise us and shatter our presumptions about life in general and about God in particular.

We cannot shut God up in neat boxes of theology or liturgy that we trot out for pious show and put away when gospel truths like cross-bearing become inconvenient. …

This story testifies to the God who refuses to be locked in to any one tradition or liturgical style. The God who surprises Elijah on Horeb is the God who retains the freedom to be God in God’s own image. May we open our lives and faith to the God still capable of holy and redemptive surprise.

– John Indermark
Worship in Light of the Cross

From pages 39–40 of Worship in Light of the Cross: Meditations for Lent by John Indermark. Copyright © 2016 by John Indermark. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.

Today’s Question

As you have grown in faith, how has God surprised you? Share your thoughts.

Today’s Scripture

For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!

Psalm 95:7, NRSV

This Week: pray for Sunday school teachers. Submit your prayer to The Upper Room Living Prayer Center or share it in the comment section.

Did You Know?

In need of prayer? The Upper Room Living Prayer Center is a 7-day-a-week intercessory prayer ministry staffed by trained volunteers. Call 1-800-251-2468 or visit The Living Prayer Center website.

This week we remember: Patrick of Ireland (March 17).

Lectionary Readings

(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)

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{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Jill March 15, 2017, 3:48 am

    God has surprised me by healing me in a way that is much more complete than I could have imagined. Straining in a relationship for several years, being way more dependent on a person than one should ever be – He brought me out on the other side…with a deep understanding that He alone deserves the throne of my heart. And while both gently and firmly showing me that He is all that I need. And, I now have the confidence that any relationship that I gain in the future will be appropriately framed in His view. My self-imposed chains are gone…forever. Hallelujah, what a Saviour. (I find myself saying that a lot lately…how very good!)
    So very grateful to get a snow day yesterday. Finally got caught up on all my schoolwork from when I was away. The roads cleared enough for me to get over to see my parents. It continued to snow overnight…maybe another snow day??
    Prayers for those in the northeast who received a much heavier dose of this storm.

  • robert moeller March 15, 2017, 4:53 am

    I’m not so sure God has surprised me. Perhaps learning that God can and does change His/Her mind is my surprise.

    Thankful we made it through the snowstorm with no loss of heat or power.
    Made good progress getting shoveled out, what was started yesterday will be finished today,

    Lots of progress in the basement. It’s coming to an end.

    Prayers for Sunday School teachers and students. Thankful for food, clothing, warmth on a cold snowy day. Prayers for wisdom and peace. Thank You, Lord.

  • Betsy March 15, 2017, 7:10 am

    I continued to be surprised by the people God has put in my path as I journey with him. Friend and strangers who are able to offer encouragement and guidance before I even know I need it many times. I’m so blessed to have the opportunity to serve Him in fresh ways, led by others who love the Lord. Thank you, Father God.
    Grateful that we dodged the big snow; only a dusting here, but very cold. Praying for those affected by the weather in the northeast.

  • Rustt March 15, 2017, 7:14 am

    God continually surprises me. I have almost countless examples ranging from his calling me out of the blue to follow him after I’d spent 40-some years as an atheist – really, to this morning giving me hope to face a work problem that seemed hopeless just a few hours ago.

    An example that still rocks my world when I think about it was another time when I felt dispair over a situation at work where is believed I was trapped with nowhere to go for help in coping with an impossible deliverable. No time, no resources, and the customer demanding an impossible outcome. I prayed -hard – one evening when things seemed very dark. Then I slept. In the morning, Christian friends started coming out of the woodwork to check on me. The first one texted me to say that about 9 pm the evening before (precisely when I had been praying), I was “heavy on his heart.” Then about an hour later, another friend, whom I hadn’t seen or spoken to in months, called me to say, I was “heavy on his heart” (yes, the same exact words) and was I okay? Then, a short while later, a friend from the office showed up at my door with a funny little smile on her face and said “Rusty, I just had to stop be and see you,” (you guessed it) “because I had this feeling you were heavy on my heart.” I didn’t even have to hear it. When she appeared at my door I started laughing because I knew what she was going to say before she said it. (Hence her funny little smile – it was because I was already laughing.)

    God showed me he was with me, that he cared, that my Christian friends cared, and that he was lovingly in control of the situation. And everything worked out with the problem I was facing. I only needed to trust him.

    Lots more examples where that came from, but I’ve used enough column space this morning. 🙂

  • Mary Ng Shwu Ling March 15, 2017, 7:24 am

    God constantly surprises me with His goodness and love, enabling me to experience His power working in my life and also reminding me that nothing is impossible with Him!

    Praise God!

    You are awesome!

  • Carol March 15, 2017, 9:37 am

    I’m always moved by His constant kindness. That He’s always steps ahead of me in what’s going on.

  • Andrea March 15, 2017, 10:25 am

    Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.

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