One recurring lesson the Bible teaches me is that things are not always what they appear to be.
Take the stories and prophesies of Daniel, for example – currently the subject of our evening services at Trinity CRC. In chapter 1, Babylon looks really impressive with its military might and academic sophistication: The Jews are no match against the brute strength of the Babylonian army and, as they enter into exile, the Jews discover how the Babylonian education system is the best in the world. Daniel and his fellow captives learn language and literature under the tutelage of their powerful overlords.
But then comes chapter 2, where all it takes is a bad night’s sleep for King Nebuchadnezzar to come unglued. No advancing armies, no pestilence, no civil unrest, no influenza outbreak, no hacked government computers. Dreams are all it takes to reveal how all of Babylon’s power and prestige are but a façade, useless when it truly counts. Nebuchadnezzar and his empire only appear mighty; true power is found in the faith and prayers of Daniel and his three friends. The God of Israel is at work even if the Babylonians (and maybe even the defeated Jews!) don’t see or believe it.
I find similar examples in Noah, who looks foolish building an ark in the middle of the desert; Sarah, who everyone (herself included) thinks is too old to have the promised child; Joseph, who seems to be forgotten in an Egyptian prison; David, whose potential is overlooked by his own family; Mary, whose pregnancy out of wedlock appears too scandalous to be part of God’s plan. But things are not always what they appear to be.
This theme culminates in Jesus: His death on the cross must be the end of Him. “We had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel,” lament two disciples in the aftermath of Good Friday. Obviously Jesus cannot do that if He’s dead. But, as those two disciples are about to discover, death has been defeated in Jesus’ victorious resurrection! Things are not always what they appear to be.
I see this truth in myself. Sometimes I’m tempted to believe that I’m doing pretty good on my own and that God must think it’s a good thing I’m on His side. It’s at that moment things fall apart. How can God use me if I’m confident in myself and begin ignoring Him? But, as Paul writes, it’s when I’m weak that God’s strength works through me. When I surrender to Him and admit that I am nothing without Him, His power can be made perfect in my weakness.
When I’m cruising along, thinking everything’s just grand, I want to remind myself to be careful. And when I feel down and discouraged, when all external evidence suggests that I’ve become inconsequential and that God is losing interest in me, I want to remember that things are not always what they appear to be. In His grace, God is still at work around and in me. May I have eyes to see and ears to hear it anew!
I found the optical illusion above at illusionking.com.