THEME: How God Works
This week’s lessons recount Israel’s victory in their second attempt to conquer Ai.
Now, there are great lessons in how Israel went about the capturing of Ai. One is that God uses different methods when He deals with His people. We don’t like that because we like everything to work exactly the same every time. We like God to be a computer, where as long as you push the buttons in the right way, God responds as you expect. And even if it’s God who pushes the buttons, we really think deep in our hearts that He should always push the same buttons in exactly the same order, at least when He’s dealing with us.
And yet He doesn’t do that. We shouldn’t be surprised, of course. God is the infinite God, and He has an infinite variety of means at His disposal as He works with His people. We may not always like it, but that’s the way God operates. God works differently in our lives than He does in the lives of other people. That is to say, our Christian experience is not identical. Now of course in some ways it is. We all have an identical experience of the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Salvation comes in no other way. That’s why you have unity in the body of Christ because we testify to the same work of God in saving us through Jesus Christ. But the way in which the people of God come to that realization and live it out is very different.
Some time ago, I was thinking along these lines, and I came across the observation of a former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church about the two blind men who were healed by Jesus, whose stories are told in Mark 8 and in John 9. And this particular set of observations on those healings made a great deal of the fact that in John, the blind man was healed by Christ spitting on the ground, making clay, and using the clay to anoint the blind man’s eyes. Then he was told to go wash in the Pool of Siloam, and when he had done this he was healed. The other man, in Mark 8, was healed only by the touch of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This preacher imagined those two blind men getting together at some point later on in the Christian life and beginning to compare their stories of how Jesus had healed them of their blindness. The man whose story is told in Mark 8 tells how Jesus reached out and touched him and how he received his sight. And the man whose story is told in John 9 responds by saying,
“Yes, brother, but you left out the bit about the clay.”
“No, I didn’t,” he says. “What do you mean, the bit about the clay?”
“Oh, you know, how Jesus spits in the ground, and makes clay, and then anoints your eyes, and tells you to wash. And that’s the way your blindness is healed.”
The man in Mark 8 then responds, “Well, he didn’t do that with me.”
“Oh, yes, he must have,” says the brother in John, “because that’s the way Jesus heals blindness.”
“Well, He didn’t do that with me,” says the man in Mark.
The man in John 9 answers, “Well, brother, if that isn’t your experience, I doubt whether you really received your sight.”
That’s the way we think. God does something in another Christian’s life that’s different from ours, and we say, “Well, I doubt if that’s really Jesus Christ at work. Maybe it’s the devil, or maybe its self-delusion.” Now, I don’t want to make light of that. The devil is operative. He operates as an angel of light. And we do delude ourselves. That’s why we have to test our experience by Scripture. But the point I’m making is that the God who works, and works through Scripture, does so with wonderful variety in the lives of His people. And when we begin to understand this, it opens our eyes to His grace and gives us ample opportunity to praise Him.
How is the fact that God sometimes works differently in different situations for our good?
Why do you think Jesus healed the two blind men from Mark 8 and John 9 differently?
Can you think of a time when God worked in a way you were not expecting? What did you learn about God and his ways?
In what ways do you see God at work in other people and in other churches? Praise him for what he is achieving in others who may be very different from you.