God does not need us to do things, (he is quite capable of moving mountains all by himself), but he seems to like team work. When we work with God, it is more for our benefit than his.
We can explore this with a messy but fun eating challenge. You will need:
- three volunteers,
- a long-handled spoon,
- a large mat or moppable floor
- and some jelly (jello)
You may find it useful to limit the area with chairs or with people kneeling down and holding hands to form a ring.
Blindfold two volunteers and give one a bowl of jelly and the other a long spoon. Have the spoon-person feed jelly to other, but neither can make any noise or communicate in any way. Your volunteers should wander around aimlessly and not feed very much jelly.
Start again but add the third volunteer to play God. This one is in the ring, can see both people and can talk. If the people listen to what God is saying and trust that he is telling them right, they should be able to join in with God’s work and get the jelly fed.
A little bit of background here. David’s huge kingdom had been split in two, and the southern half (called Judah) was ruled by Ahaz, one of David’s descendants.
The northern half (called Israel) had teamed up with another kingdom and the two of them were threatening to invade Ahaz’s land because he would not join their military alliance. But God had given a message to Ahaz, ‘Don’t worry about those two fag-ends, I’ll look after you’, or words to that effect.
So Ahaz faced a choice: Trust God to sort out his political problems, or fix them himself by making alliance with Assyria, the local super-power.
If all this conniving and wrangling and deal-making sounds familiar, we should not be surprised. People are the same now as they were then, and their politicians faced the same problems as our do now. There’s nothing new under sun. And we, in our daily lives, have similar choices. Do I trust God to sort out this mess, or do I sort it out myself?
Of course, we know what the ‘right’ answer is, but the doing of it might be harder. We need to avoid both extremes: neither sitting back, doing nothing, and waiting for God to zap away the problem, nor digging away at our own sandcastles without looking up to see where God is building his. We need to find the happy medium of working out what God is doing, then joining in; playing our part while trusting God that the outcome is not totally dependent on our own abilities and strength.
God wanted Ahaz to join his plan. He even offered Ahaz a ‘sign’ so that the king would know that he was trustworthy. He really was trying to make it easy for Ahaz to trust him rather than the military might of Assyria. And Ahaz failed. He trotted out some pious-sounding version of ‘nah, don’t bother, I’ll fix this myself’ and signed a non-aggression pact with Assyria. They promptly invaded, and Ahaz was the last real king of David’s line. There were a few puppets of Assyria and Babylon, and then the line was extinguished altogether …
… until an obscure carpenter travelled to his family’s home town of Bethlehem, and a virgin gave birth to a son and named him Immanuel.
How can I look to see what God is doing, and then join in?
Isaiah 7:10-16 New International Version – UK
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.’
But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.’
Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.
New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.