28. Expectations Recap 3

Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 28. Expectations Recap 3

We have come to the end of this part of the series that took us through historical characters in the Old Testament and concluded at the beginning of the Gospels with Simeon. From now on we will consider expectations in the more familiar form of ‘hope’ that is now part of our Christian lives as a result of the work of Jesus. But before we do that, we will do what we have done twice before in this series and have a Recap to cover those studies since Recap 2, to highlight and hold on to the key points that have been made in these latter studies.

In the studies prior to this we had seen David chosen by Samuel, David having to wait some time for the fulfilment of that anointing to become king, and David slaying Goliath. Moving on from there we then considered the growing awareness that David had that he was in fact there by the working of God. We saw that we can have expectations formed by a word from God coming but, very often, the ‘vision’ has to die as we wait for the Lord to bring it about. Once He starts bringing it into fulfilment, we then have the challenge of believing that is what is happening and cooperating with Him in that.  We realise that our earlier expectations were real but now they become more concrete, we might say.

Following David, we then considered his son, Solomon who, as his father was clearly in his last days, first worked at removing remaining ‘belligerents’ from the previous reign and then, when confronted by the Lord in a dream, recognised the difficulty of the task before him and his need of the Lord’s wisdom, which had then been granted him. Solomon’s expectations of the future before him as the king following in his father’s footsteps were quite realistic. He knew it would be difficult and he recognised his need. We asked the question whether we too recognise the need for the Lord’s wisdom in our lives as we look forward to the things before us.

As we watched the dividing of the kingdom after Solomon died, we considered that variety of expectations that people have of God and suggested that it was inadequate expectations of God that were behind all that happened in both the northern and southern kingdoms. The north stumbled over idol worship and never recovered from it. We saw the number of times the Lord spoke into the situation but His determination was to divide the kingdom after Solomon’s disobedience, and pondered on reasons why it should be. The primary reason seems to be to double the chances of future kings getting it right. The opportunities of Israel – north or south – to get it right with God, were thus doubled. The tragedy is that both kingdoms failed to get it right. It was, therefore, also a double opportunity for sin to be revealed through these two kingdoms and perhaps as we compare them as we read about them, their failures are accentuated in the comparison. We also noted that an observation of history reveals that what we see in Israel is repeated again and again in the nations of the world. Sin is clearly the motivating force behind multiple wars at national or international level and family divisions at individual level.

Jumping to the end of the existence of the southern kingdom, the north having passed away long before, we saw Jeremiah speaking to the nation in the years running up to the exile and pondered on the folly of the nation that (unlike the rest of the world) had amazing records of their dealings with God through well over three centuries, and marvelled that they obviously disregarded or forgot these. These was a people who had received prophetic words galore and who knew what was expected of them after they had entered into the covenant with God at Sinai.  Although words of hope were brought through Jeremiah, the main thrust of his ministry had been a call to repent. He laid out clear cut expectations of what would happen if they failed to heed him, but nevertheless their lived in deception with the expectation that it would be ‘all right’. It wasn’t.

Staying with Jeremiah we observed the circumstances that rolled out in the final destruction of Jerusalem and its temple and the life of freedom that was granted to Jeremiah by the Babylonians. We saw how a remnant gathered after the Babylonians had left, leaving behind a governor, and we saw how some of that remnant killed the governor and then made everyone decamp to Egypt despite Jeremiah bringing a clear warning against doing that. It is a story that tells us that even if we are God’s servants, the ways of this fallen world may carry us into circumstances we wished we didn’t have. But the biggest lesson, as we watch Jeremiah continue to prophesy in Egypt, is the call to faithfulness regardless what we expect of the days to come. As a subtext to that story, is the awareness that in this fallen world, changing hearts does not come easily and often it seems, it is only the pressures of trials and tribulations that will truly change a heart towards God.

Following the years of the exile, we recognised that humanly speaking Israel’s expectations of the future had diminished to zero unless they heard and believed Jeremiah’s ‘seventy years’ prophecy. It was possible to maintain good expectations for the future only if they held on to God’s recent word to them. We are not called to have faith built on the obvious, because more often than not, the Lord does not reveal how He will bring about that which appears impossible to us at the moment. Israel could not have foreseen the coming of Cyrus and God’s ability to move on him and get him to send Israel back to their land to rebuild the temple. Similarly for us, we have to recognise that we may have expectations from the Lord in the form of personal prophecy, but more often than not we will not have a clue how that can come about, but it will. You cannot foresee a miracle! That is the shortcoming if expectations!

The years passed and then a man named Nehemiah heard the state of Jerusalem. Yes, the temple had been rebuilt but basically the city was still a demolition site. His heart was moved in anguish and the end result is Nehemiah back in Jerusalem rebuilding the walls of the city.  The expectations of the majority did not include the rebuilding of the city. It was down to one man to have such a hope and, we believe with God’s support, he brought it about. The expectations of just one person can change history; such is the significance of the individual – you or me? The Lord looks for those who will stand in the gap, who will intercede, or who will step up to serve, people who say we do not just have to accept the status quo if it runs contrary to God’s heart.

And so we eventually arrived at the New Testament and bedded these historical reflections of expectations of men or women of the Old Testament, and we did it with, again, just one man, Simeon, a man who was righteous and devout, a man of the Spirit, a man open to the leading of the Spirit and a man that God used to encourage His two servants, Mary and Joseph. Again, and we must emphasise it, it was just one man in Israel who was alert to the purposes of God being unfolded before him. He challenges us to be people who, similarly, will have our eyes and our hearts open to be alert for the moving of God.

Each of this last set of studies since the last Recap, have been about individuals:

  • David, who began to realise that the expectations he had as a result Samuel’s anointing, were now starting to be fulfilled.
  • Solomon, who realised that with the task of leading the nation before him, he needed the wisdom of God to match the expectations that he had of that role.
  • The two kings who caused the kingdom to be divided, whose expectations of God were too low, so that they failed to heed the opportunity to be godly kings.
  • Jeremiah, the faithful prophet of God in all the years running up to the destruction of Jerusalem, who recognised that his expectations for the future of the nation depended entirely on how the kings would respond to God’s word. One way – repentance – would result in future hope and continuation. The other way – rejection – would result in destruction and restoration only seventy years in the future.
  • Jeremiah, again the faithful prophet, but prophesying to the remnant escaping to Egypt. His expectations were not to do with his end but with his ability to keep on being the mouthpiece of God, wherever he was. His expectations were all about faithfulness.
  • Cyrus, who came to understand he could be God’s means of His people returning to their land and rebuilding the temple, an expectation probably no one else had had before that!
  • Nehemiah, one man whose expectations flowed against the general tide of acceptance of the status quo, a man whose heart moved him into dangerous territory to fulfil a hope that surely was based on the heart of God.
  • Simeon, another man on his own, who set his heart towards God and caught the heart of God as He brought His Son to the temple, so that His servants could be encouraged. Simeon’s expectations were based on the heart of God and thus caught the move of God.

This is the message of this last set of studies: individuals are important in the kingdom of God and the expectations we have of God are all-important: that we are called by God with a purpose, to achieve that purpose we need His wisdom, His power and His leading, that is at the heart of godliness, called to be witnesses to Him, to remain faithful regardless of what anyone else may be doing, open to Him to do what only He can do – a miracle to open a door or fulfil a vision, called to have hearts that can be moved by Him, called to be Spirit-people who can be led by Him, people who are called to achieve the impossible  because we are simply vessels of God. May we learn these things.


9. Recap Expectations

Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 9. Recap Expectations

The Need for a Recap: I am aware that in the day to day affairs of life, picking up a theme again every morning, is not always easy – too many life distractions come in the way, and so perhaps it will be wise to pause up at this point and do a quick ‘recap’ of where we have been so far in this series, and hopefully that will sharpen the emphasis.

How Expectations Arise: There are times when the Lord comes with something new, some revelation of which we were not aware previously. There are times when life confronts us with new opportunities. In both instances we look forward to the future – the next day, weeks, months, years and wonder about what might be; we have expectations.

Expectations arise when God speaks, e.g. Abram (Gen 12:1,2), yet we learn that the fulfillment of such expectations based on His word, may be delayed. The natural tendency may be to hear such words and thing, ‘surely not, that’s too big’, for such words cut across the deadness or stagnation of what may have been for some time. But we eventually learn, that yes, it was God!

Expectations also arise in the natural course of events of life, e.g. Isaac (Gen 25:21), things we expect to happen so, for example, a married couple may expect children, but again that expectation can be frustrated or delayed. The life of faith is often living with expectations delayed. Through such times we learn to trust, and we learn to pray.

Divinely inspired expectations remind us that it is His will, not mine that is based on wisdom and knowledge and the desire for our best. Sometimes we see that people do not turn out as expected, e.g. Jacob and Esau (Gen 25:23), and family life in a fallen world can be messy, yet God sees and knows and plans accordingly. So it might be that our initial expectations prove wrong when something better is revealed. The lesson is to hold our family lightly, loving all equally, praying for god’s blessing on each.

Our low expectations of people can be reversed when God intervenes, e.g. Jacob (Gen 32:24). We can observe someone who appears low on our social expectations scale, one we have little hopes for, but God may have other ideas for He sees potential and so when He intervenes everything changes – new expectations! Never write off your children!

When new expectations come in the form of a fresh word from the Lord, e.g. Joseph (Gen 37:5-7) we learn that hearing without understanding can be deceiving and create wrong expectations. We learn that process is all important and change (in me) is almost invariably essential to get us from today to the day of fulfillment.

Expectations, coming through God’s word, set up a new picture of the future – as impossible as it may seem at the moment – and even from what we just noted with Joseph, we come to realize we need to do things to align our lives more fully with God’s purposes, e.g. Abraham and his servant getting a wife for Isaac (Gen 24:1-4). When we are able to see the long-term, ‘big picture’, it helps us focus our present lives in order to bring about the anticipated expectations His word spoke about.

Very often we don’t realize our destiny until much later on and the expectations of life that we have before we met Christ, have to die along the way to enable Him to bring to us and through us the much better and much greater expectations of His perfect will for us, e.g. Moses (Acts 7:23,29,30). Indeed, allowing the vision to die appears a common denominator in many lives, if not all of God’s children.

The biggest lessons in respect of these expectations are:

  1. God knows better than me what the best future for me is, and
  2. As much as I may know that with my mind, it will take years of life molding for me to accept it as a reality and then learn that,
  3. Without Him I can do nothing and even what He calls me to do, I can only do as He leads and empowers (again, heart as well as head!)

And So: Well, that is where we have been so far. There are many more lessons to come in the following studies, some of them quite uncomfortable, uncomfortable that is if the above things are purely head knowledge and not heart knowledge. The Christian life is a process as well as a wonderful relationship with a wonderful, loving God (who we are still frequently unsure about) and it is a process of taking in knowledge and allowing Him to build understanding on that, that goes deep within us.

Partnership: One of the challenges of the Christian life is that the Lord invites us into a partnership of change with Him. He never changes – because He is perfect, complete, cannot be improved upon – but we need to change if we are to be able to receive all the good things He has for us. The incredible thing is that He seems to give us amazing leeway in this relationship to keep doing, getting it wrong, trying again, getting it not quite so wrong, and then realizing we can never get it right without Him. Slowly, oh so slowly, we come to realize it is all about learning to see Him love us. We know it at superficial level, then we fail and fall, and He picks us up again and we realize He still loves us, and the truth sinks in a bit more fully.

Them and Us: These examples of these early men of God are examples of men with embryonic relationships with the Lord, embryonic faith, and the more I go through life (fifty years with Him) the more I realize that so much of the time our own lives are just like theirs. We have so much more knowledge than they had, but we’re still learning what it really means to be loved by God.

I hope these comments of this recap will have helped sharpen where we have been and where we are going, and perhaps, just maybe, something more of the wonder of His love for us.