Tuesday, March 14, 2006

"Sovereign Surprises" - by Dr Ern Baxer - Part 2.

Alright? I am just picking some of these at random. The world is waxing worse and the wickedness and the wickedness is growing and God repents that He has made man. He calls one man aside because he is perfect in his generation and He contracts with this one man to build an Ark. He said that He was going to flood the earth. Now as I understand it, Noah had no idea how He was going to flood the earth. If it was true that the earth had been watered up until that time by a moisture that came up from out of the ground – that there had been no rain, that had not been one of the features then how was it going to happen? Can you imagine Noah building this Ark and not knowing what it’s all about? And then there comes a time when He tells Noah to enter the Ark and what he’s to do. Then the fountains of the deep are broken up and the heavens start to pour rain. Another divine surprise! God broke in and destroyed humanity save one family. It’s a surprise! Divine intervention and again men then gives himself to opposition against God’s purpose and decides to build a tower. God came down, looked at the tower, didn’t like what He saw and one morning the people woke up and couldn’t understand each other. He confounded their tongues! Now there was nothing in the records to indicate He was going to do that. I have no reason to believe that anyone had the slightest hint that He was going to do that. It was a divine surprise. They woke up one morning and they can’t communicate! Their tongues are confused. God has broken in again. Now there was no way that men talking to one another as they built the tower could imagine the possibility of speaking anything but the same tongue. It was just very obvious that they communicated with one another this way – they would communicate with one another this way tomorrow and the day after and the day after, next week, next month and next year. This was a fixation in their society and there was no reason to believe it would ever change. There was no precedent for it. Yet they wake up one morning and its happened and their languages are confused.

Abraham is doing very well in Ur of the Chaldeans – he has a flourishing business. It’s an idolatrous community, it is true, but he is doing quite well until one day out of the blue, the voice of God comes to Him. “Abraham I want you to leave your kindred – I want you to leave where you are living and go to a land that I will show you”. Suddenly God breaks into history – God breaks into a single man’s situation, picks that man out, imposes on him a divine decree and sets him on a journey that is going to affect history for all time. Was it in Abraham’s mind? Never. It was this extra dimension that man does not consider and unfortunately a lot of Christians don’t consider. I dare say this (and I’ve no intention of being unkind to any of us as I recognise our creatureliness) but I will suggest this morning that you and I are much more bound by circumstances than we are by revelation. We determine our tomorrows in terms on what’s going on rather than what God has said.

Moses – his whole life is characterised by intervention. Pharaoh had issued a decree that all the male babies should be thrown into the Nile. Moses is born and kept for 3 months. A beautiful child and the mother just can’t bring herself to destroy that child. At last they make a little Ark – make it waterproof and put the little Moses in it. She put him down by the place where Pharaoh’s daughter comes down and sees the Ark and has it brought to her. As she lifts the blanket, at that very moment an angel reaches down and pinches Moses and Moses starts to cry. Pharaoh’s daughter, being a woman, sees the tears and can’t resist the little fellow. Do you realise that the whole purpose of God hung on a tear that day? I’m sure if she had lifted the blanket and seen a Hebrew boy laughing at her, she’d have probably said, “Throw him into the water”. But when she saw him crying, she couldn’t resist him. God loves His purposes to rest on threads so many times. Well you know he’s taken into the household and trained in the ways of the Egyptians and eventually gets into a problem by killing an Egyptian who’s hurting an Israelite and has to flee and go to Midean. And he’s there in Midean taking care of sheep. He decides he’s going to live there – he’s got a wife by the name of Zaphorah and a fairly nice father in law and he figures this is the way it’s going to be. He’s out tending his sheep one day and as he walks along … bingo! He sees a bush burning. He looks at it and thinks, “Oh that’s interesting, it must have been hit by lightening. Just a minute! It’s not being consumed. I must go over and have a look – that’s unusual”. And he moves over towards it and a Voice speaks. “Moses don’t come any closer. Take off your shoes for you’re on holy ground”.

Now in that bush, Moses is commissioned. Moses is commissioned to deliver the children of Israel. Are you ready for a bush? If God suddenly breaks into your life and you see a phenomenon like that, are you ready for it? Is it in your thoughts at all, this whole process of divine intervention? Or is tomorrow going to be like today? Are we just going to go in a kind of hum-drum existence, or do we have the biblical right to expect that God has historically engaged in a process of divine intervention that gives us hope? Now I think Isaiah understood this when he said, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down. Then would the mountains run down at Thy Presence”. I think the New Testament people after the first persecution got it when they prayed, “Oh Lord Maker of heaven and earth, behold the threatenings of these people and anoint Thy servants that they may speak the word with boldness”. And the place wherein they prayed was shaken. What were they saying? They were saying, “We recognise after we have done all that we should do – when we’ve attended to all our duties properly we still have not resolved the situation, because there is a missing dimension”. Oh that Thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down! You don’t think Isaiah had some basis and precedent to believe that God could intervene? You don’t believe that these early Christians had some basis and precedent that enabled them to pray “Oh Lord maker of heaven and earth, break in on our situation – confirm our gospel, deal with these Gentile powers!”. I can understand Moses reluctance to go on that mission can’t you? Whatever ability Moses had to communicate he apparently had lost it tending sheep in Midean because he said, “I can’t talk – I’ve got an impediment in my speech, God get yourself another boy”. God said, “I’ve got my boy – you’re My boy!”. And he fussed with God and God got angry with him but he made a concession. He said, “Alright you don’t have to do it alone – your brother Aaron will be your prophet. He will speak for you. He will be your mouth. You get the revelation and tell him and he will articulate it”. With some limited knowledge as to what was going to happen as they confronted Pharaoh – can you imagine how Moses lived on the lip of constant expectancy? God kept him there too. Successfully they worked through the confrontation with Pharaoh.

Now they’re out. Hallelujah! It’s all over. It’s never all over. I have had interventions in my life – you’ve had interventions. I mean spectacular crisis kinds. In fact I look back on my life and God has always dealt with me that way. A phone call and suddenly my whole dimension has changed! A letter! A “chance” meeting! Now all I’m trying to get over to you this morning is this; do you have an exciting expectation factor in your situation? Or would you welcome God breaking in on your nice routine? “I appreciate what he’s trying to say but I hope God doesn’t inconvenience me with any of these things”. Oh He’ll inconvenience you. My friend said every time God calls him, He calls him to inconvenience. But it will be redemptive and it will be thrilling. It will be great! Well Moses gets the children of Israel out of Egypt – almost 3 million of them. What now? Oh lots of surprises Moses. How are we going to get over this Red Sea? That’s a great one. Who’d ever been at the Red Sea before? Who was ever in a dilemma like this in the past? Here he stands with the elders barking about bringing him out there to die. Pharaoh’s army is coming up and there’s no escape to the left or to the right and here’s this water in front. “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord!”. Well what does that mean? He’s suddenly going to send a squadron of jet planes? He’s going to create an ocean liner? No. Well what’s He going to do? I don’t know. But within the promise of His salvation, He will come up with something. Now this is what I’m talking about. Every time I come to the last point of a message like last night, I realise that’s the point where I’m going to hit a stone wall. Don’t upset my comfort. I have got everything nice. I got to the church. I teach in the Sunday school. This is nice. But what about the world? What about the mandate? Well – don’t inconvenience me. That’s for special people. No. No it’s not. It’s for us. We are the holy nation!

Well what shall we say about David? A young lad with peach fuzz on his face and his red curls dangling down over his shoulders. His shepherds crook standing by and a harp in his hand, and as he keeps his eye on the sheep he's composing psalms. He's a shepherd! He's a boy! He's got big brothers! There's nothing very exciting expected of him for years. His future's very clear - he's going to look after sheep - it's very obvious. Seven brothers ahead of him - man, he's eighth on the list. So he's out there tending sheep - he's content with his lot. All young brothers tend sheep when they're at the end of the line. Suddenly a messenger comes rushing over the hill. "Master David! Master David!". "Yes, what is it?". "There are things going on in your home town - the prophet has come! He's holding a holy convocation and in that convocation your brothers were called up before the prophet. And the prophet looked at them and from where I was sitting he just looked at them and moved on! Then he went over to your father and whispered to your father, and your father called me over as a trusted servant and said, "Go get David". They want you in there for some reason!". So the Bible says, and this is very interesting that David left his sheep "with his helpers". I'd like to become ecclesiological at that point and talk about shepherd's helpers but I will just leave that.

Now as the young lad comes all starry-eyed into that convocation - he sees his seven brothers and they all look a bit sullen. He sees his father who looks a bit perplexed. And there is the prophet - the man of God. You know the story. God had told Samuel to go down and anoint a king. Samuel said, "I don't want to go down there God. Saul's still alive! If I go down there, Saul will have my head". Well ... God's not above a little planning. He said go down there and hold a series of meetings. (*laughter*). And in the course of the series have a "laying on of hands" service. God wants to help you keep out of as much trouble as possible! (*laughter*). So when David came in, Samuel looked at him and God said, "That's him". So he anointed David. Now that shepherd boy out there tending the sheep couldn't quite get over that and he said years later, "You called me from tending the sheep! - I was just a shepherd, I wasn't anyone really!". That never left David that a shepherd boy was made the most illustrious king that Israel has ever had!

"Ah" you say, "It wouldn't be me". Why are we so blind to the ways of the Lord? History is replete with stories of people who were nobodies but by the intervention of the God became somebodies. I'm not so interested in persons as I am in communities this morning. Because we have adopted the same attitude for our groups as we have for ourselves. "Well it will be tomorrow as it is today". I can imagine the scenario that if this people will admit a factor of excited expectation of divine intervention and pray like the early Christians prayed, "Oh Lord - maker of heaven and earth!". You will notice that the creation motif that runs through the Bible again and again, when they face a difficult situation they say, "Oh Lord maker of heaven and earth" - God if you could stand in the loneliness of infinity and speak into existence all of these marvellous material things that confound our human ability to understand then you're the God we want to plug into!

If you created heaven and earth, then you can do something in Dunstable! You can do something in this community! You can bring the dimension of Your glory! We can't tell you what to do, but Lord we're on tiptoe to see what You might do. Are You going to create a world? Are You going to call an Abraham? Are You going to send a flood maybe? Going to anoint a David? How many hear what I'm saying? See I'm preaching to me this morning. This is a soliquy and you're listening to it.

Tomorrow Ern Baxter moves onto possible the two greatest Divine Interventions - the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

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