Several months ago, I started wondering how many Bible characters had “but God” experiences. And, I came up with a few. In fact, most of our heroes and people that we learn from have had “but God” experiences. Let me list a few:
Adam and Eve, “but God, you really meant what you said”
Noah – “but God, a boat? How big? All the animals? How will we get them all aboard? How will we feed them? How in the world will this ever work? People will think we are nuts!”
Abram – ‘Leave your home and family – I will make you a great nation.’ Abram was 75 years old when he was given this commandment and promise. These must have been some of the thoughts that flashed through his mind: “A son? Do you know how old we are?” Eventually, Abram and Sarai took things into their own hands, and Ishmael was born. When Abram was age 99, God reaffirmed His promise, and this time He was specific. The baby would be Abram’s and Sarai’s. One year later the baby was born.
I am sure that Jacob had a “…but God…” moment when he realized that he had married Leah and not Rachel.
Joseph surely thought he had not heard the Lord correctly when he was sold into slavery, and then thrown into jail for 13 years. “…But God…” eventually used Joseph not only to save the Egyptians but also his entire family. I doubt if Joe could have seen that coming.
Moses probably had one of those moments when he first heard God’s plan to deliver the Israelites from the Egyptians. “Me, really, do you know that I am wanted for murder, and you want me to go back there? Surely, I have misunderstood.” But when God started moving, I am sure Moses was completely amazed. God not only got the whole nation out of slavery, but they were paid to leave!
Ten spies: “…But God…” These guys chose not to believe what He said. And, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years – until all who chose not to follow God died off. Big price to pay for not trusting…
The list could go on and on. Ruth, a dirt-poor Gentile widow, eventually becomes great gramma to a king; a shepherd becomes king; a prostitute becomes part of the lineage of Jesus; Mary – a virgin mother; Peter, a fisherman, becomes the church’s founder; Saul, the persecutor of Christians to Paul, the apostle.
So, what is the thing that God has spoken to you and asked you to believe and trust?
Today I would like to call your attention to the Old Testament. Please turn to Joshua 6. This chapter tells of the fall of Jericho. I am sure we are all familiar with this story. “Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.’ (This was a direct word, specific to his situation. It was calling something that wasn’t as though it was.) ‘March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing their trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse, and the people will go up, every man straight in.’”
Just thinking about this, it’s not difficult to see that this plan was not necessarily a sound military strategy. In fact, I think it might be safe to assume that Joshua took some guff for this plan. I’m sure that other people had lots of ideas about how things should be done. And, another thing I noticed, the Bible does not say that anyone else heard what God had spoken to Joshua.
Sometimes we, like Joshua, must act on what we heard the Lord say. He may not have spoken the same thing to those around you. His strategy may not make sense to us, but it is really a matter of trust. Do we really believe He can do what He promised? In spite of overwhelming evidence – thick, fortified walls; soldiers protecting the city; condensed forces; and unequipped, inexperienced, untrained and strung out Israelites. Here is what they actually had: a few armed men, trumpets, the Ark, their voices, and the promise of God.
What happened? They did just as the Lord had instructed Joshua. The Israelites followed His direction day by day, and on the seventh day, Joshua 6:20 says, “When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.” It happened just as God had said!
When we obey what the Lord has said to us, He is honored. In this story, the victory was complete! The Israelites totally destroyed the enemy, and Joshua 6:27 says, “So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.” Honestly, I am not sure whose fame spread throughout the land, Joshua or the Lord’s. Probably both!
So, what can we learn from this? Many of the people that we mentioned earlier had similar experiences. God spoke to them or gave them visions. He was very specific in what He said to them. And, if He had the cooperation of the person spoken to, He fulfilled his promises. Sometimes the promise was fulfilled right away, as was the case in the Jericho story. Sometimes it took a while – 13 years (Joseph), 17 years (David), or 25 years (Abraham). Sometimes He told the people exactly how it would happen; other times events leading to the fulfillment were a complete surprise. And, in most cases, the results far surpassed any expectations.
I guess I want to encourage us to “keep on keeping on;” “do not become weary in well doing.” If God has spoken to you, or given you a vision, He has a plan. Trust Him; follow Him a step at a time; it will probably be bigger and better than anything you have thought of yet.