Unexpected

This morning, we’re starting a new message series entitled, “Unexpected” where we are going to recall the truly unexpected ways in which God worked in the past and some of the unexpected places and times where He showed up.  These reminders of God’s faithfulness and miraculous power and authority will serve to encourage us in our present and give us hope toward our future.

God almost always begins working with His word.  It’s sort of like us guys created in His image.  We talk about how something needs done, we plan it out, we run it past a few others, then we do it.  That’s right, if we say we’re going to get it done, we’re going to get it done.  We don’t need reminded every month that it still needs taken care of.  🙂 

The very start of all of creation began with God’s word.  He spoke and it all came to be. 

Amos 3:7

Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing

    without revealing his plan

    to his servants the prophets.

Our journey starts with an unexpected prophetic word from God.  When God speaks, our lives are often in for some sudden and unexpected changes. However, when it’s God leading, it’s going to be an awesome adventure that ends well so long as we hold onto Him throughout the journey.

Genesis 12:1-4

1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

2 “I will make you into a great nation,

    and I will bless you;

I will make your name great,

    and you will be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you,

    and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth

    will be blessed through you.”

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.

Now initially, this word of God isn’t entirely unexpected.  Abram’s dad was initially on his way moving his family from the Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan.  When they arrived at Harran, he decided to settle down there.  God was asking  Abram to continue on this journey.  Also, 75 wasn’t that old in this point of history as his dad lived to be 205, his grandad to 119, and his great-grandad to 200 years old.

However, the unexpected part was that God was going to make Abram into a great nation that would bless all the people on earth.  That’s a pretty huge and unexpected promise to make! 

Just as God had chosen one man, Noah, through whom to redeem mankind, God again chose one man, Abram, through whom to ultimately and completely redeem mankind.  This time, instead of killing off everyone else, God chose to set apart Abram and his descendants as His own chosen people.

Also, the previous chapter informs us that Sarai, his wife, was barren and unable to have children.  How could God grow Abram into a great nation?  For Abram to have even a single child was an impossibility!

In any case, Abram obeys the Lord and begins travelling to this unknown land that God was going to show him.  This is how we ought to live as well.  We don’t have to have it all figured out, we don’t even need to know exactly where we are going.  We just need to know the next step that God has called us to make and to start walking in obedience.

God began to richly bless Abram with gold, silver, and livestock as he travelled to the point where he had to separate ways with this nephew Lot because the land couldn’t support the both of them.  He allowed Lot to choose the land that each would move off to.  Abram moved on to, you guessed it, Canaan.

Quite a few years have passed since God first gave His promise to Abram, so He gave Abram a reminder of it.

Genesis 13:14-17

14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

God works in cooperation with us.  He is always faithful to do His part, but it is our choice to either obediently do our part following His will or to instead go off following our own will.  God gives the promise and tells us to walk it out, we choose what our next steps will be.  We must walk in the Spirit and keep in step with Him to live our lives to their fullest!

It’s also an adventure as God sets us free to explore His promises.  It’s His joy to bless His children and it’s His desire for all of us.  He has freely granted us access into the riches of His Kingdom.  There is so much to explore!  There’s nothing boring about the Kingdom of God!  There’s always something new to discover!

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of God’s promises and prophetic words to us.  Paul encouraged Timothy to do exactly this:

1 Timothy 1:18

18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well

Throughout the course of our lives, it’s important to keep God’s promises and prophetic words to us in mind as a compass to guide and direct us.  If not, we’ll end up like Abram’s dad, Terah, who settled down and never reached his destiny. 

It’s so easy for us to get comfortable, live our lives, and forget the purpose and destiny for which God created us for.  Don’t get comfortable in Harran when God has called you to Canaan.  Don’t follow Jesus half-way or half-heartedly and expect Him to drag you the rest of the way.  God calls, equips, and enables; we walk it out.

We also know full well that we have an enemy who will do anything to stop us from becoming all that we were created to be and doing all that we were created to do! 

Abram was alerted that his nephew, Lot, had been taken captive during a battle between several kings.  He took men from his household and fought back and victoriously freed Lot and retrieved all that had been stolen.  Let me be more specific.  318 men overpowered the military of four kingdoms.  If our God is with us, then who can stand against us?

Following that victory, Abram met with a king whom many believe, myself included, to be Jesus based on Hebrews 5-7 and Psalm 110.

Genesis 14:18-20

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,

    Creator of heaven and earth.

20 And praise be to God Most High,

    who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

After all of these things happened, several more years passed and Abram received yet another reminder of God’s promise.  Don’t give up on the promises of God and don’t grow weary in doing good.  At just the right time, God’s word will come to pass in your life so long as you remain passionate in your pursuit of Him and zealous to keep in step with the Spirit!

As we’ll soon see, Abram began to question and misunderstand and perhaps even doubt God’s promise.  Abram’s expectations of how this unexpected promise was going to come to pass began to swerve away from what God actually promised and what God’s actual plans and purposes were.  God was about to bring correction to Abram regarding this.

Genesis 15:1-7

1 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.

    I am your shield,

    your very great reward.”

2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

Our role in our covenant relationship with God is simple to believe what He says.  Now believing isn’t just an intellectual matter.  It starts in our minds, but it has to grow deep roots in our hearts and bear good fruit in our actions.  Believing God happens with all of our mind, all of our heart, all of our soul, and with all of our strength.

Can you imagine being Abram in that moment?  God taking you by the hand and leading you outside of your house.  Then, looking up at the sky that He created together with you.  Then, He says that as numerous as the stars of the sky are, so shall your offspring be.  AND God did all of this while your barren wife lies asleep just feet away?

Abram still had some doubts.

Genesis 15:8-21

8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

9 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

This was a natural event that reflected what was happening spiritually.  What happened to Abram happens with us, too.  God makes a promise, we follow Him in obedience and make the sacrifice, but nothing seems to happen.  We wait and wait and wait and nothing seems to change.

Doubt and insecurities are the birds of prey that try to steal away our sacrifices made in faith in God’s word during that waiting season.  Like Abram, we must drive them away and keep hope alive trusting whole-heartedly in the Lord.  At just the right time, which often feels like the midnight hour to us, He will come and fulfill every single word that He says to us!

Many years passed after this encounter.  In fact, 24 years had now passed from when God first made this promise to Abram.

Genesis 17:1-8

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

Now, not only was this an unexpected promise because of Sarai’s infertility, Abram was also too old to have children.  God brought more than a reminder of His promise, God now renamed Abram so that His very name, His very identity, would be a declaration of this prophetic word!  He was renamed from Abram meaning “exalted father” to Abraham meaning “father of many.”

Now Abraham and Sarah tried to force God’s promise to happen, which created a whole mess that we’re not going into right now.  They waited for decades and less than a year away from the finish line, they tried to do it on their own instead of trusting God. 

The good news however, is that even when we sin, even when we completely blow it, God is able to redeem.  His word stands as firm and faithful as God is.

Genesis 21:1-7

1 Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant (at 90 years of age Gen 17:17) and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

God’s promises are “yes” and “amen!”  You are never too old nor too far gone for God to move mightily through your life! 

They are as certain and true as God, Himself.  They almost always are fulfilled at unexpected times and in unexpected ways, but they will come to pass so long as we keep the faith.  So long as we stand firmly on them, fighting off every doubt, and trusting them despite all of the impossibilities, they will come to pass.  God’s promises come by faith.

Romans 4:16-25

16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things which are not as if though they were.

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

This morning, it’s time for us to dig back up God’s promises found in His word and some of those prophetic words that we’ve forgotten about.  It’s time to start standing on them once again and start calling things which are not as if though they were.  It’s time that against all hope, to believe in God’s word in hope and in doing so strengthening our faith.  Sure, they may be impossible and there may be no way, BUT GOD!

Through Him, all things are possible!  Through Him, we can!  Through Him, we will!  God promised it, now it’s time to start walking out that promise!  It’s time to start trampling on the head of the enemy, chasing away those doubting birds of prey, and to start rejoicing in hope and declaring in faith the promises of God.

It may have been a while, but God isn’t finished yet!  We may have forgotten, but God is about to remind us!  We may have given up, but God never will!  We may laugh, but God is sincerely committed to fulfilling His word in and through our lives!  Today is the day and now is the hour ALWAYS to put our faith in God’s word and our trust in Him alone!