God has never been blindsided. Trouble has never taken him by surprise. Regardless of how bad things may get, God is not on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Even while the world is in a mess, God is not overwhelmed. He has never encountered a problem so great that it rattled his confidence.
The rise of Jeroboam was a shock to many of the inhabitants within the kingdom of Israel. No doubt, most individuals assumed the dynasty of the house of David would continue to rule the Jewish tribes unbroken and undisputed for perpetuity. People of this mindset received a rude awakening.
Occasionally, we too suffer from unforeseen circumstances. Our nice, tidy world is invaded by sickness, financial disruption, or relationship disasters. That's when we should know God isn't nearly as nervous about unfortunate events as we are.
We are often confronted by difficulties beyond our ability to tackle, such is the human condition. In these moments, we need to be reminded that God has not once experienced a challenge he couldn't adequately handle.
God can see beyond the present.
It must have been a bad time for sincere Israelites during the days of Jeroboam. To witness the crumbling of the once mighty kingdom was tragic indeed. It had only recently been a prosperous kingdom under great kings such as David and Solomon. Seeing the beloved nation become divided into two hostile, warring factions must truly have been a devastating experience.
Jeroboam instigated an uprising against young Rehoboam, son of Solomon, soon after the novice king inherited the throne from his father. Ten tribes broke away and became the northern kingdom under the leadership of Jeroboam. Rehoboam retained control of little more than the city of Jerusalem and a bit of territory in its immediate vicinity. This southern kingdom came to be called the nation of Judah.
To make matters worse, Jeroboam had golden calves fashioned and instituted idol worship in convenient locations. He established a substitute religion, persuading citizens to attend festivals of idolatry in both Dan and Bethel. Even though God had chosen Mount Zion as the place for worship, Jeroboam persuaded the newly formed nation of Israel that Jerusalem was too great a distance away for them to travel.
In addition to those sins, he put the priesthood up for sale. No longer did it matter how a priestly candidate lived: the position went to the highest bidder. This resulted in persons of low character and corrupt morals occupying roles of spiritual prominence.
Despite this gross error, God did not go into seclusion. He didn't decide to sever his dealings with humanity. As he often does, God sent a messenger.
God is focused on what's coming.
As wicked Jeroboam was going about his phony religious practices one day, a young prophet arrived. The man of God interrupted the idolatrous king as he was burning incense on the altar dedicated to the golden calf at Bethel. The words he delivered are surprising. Perhaps most unexpected of all is what he did not say.
He did not offer a lengthy rebuke regarding the substitute altar, the substitute priests, or the substitute location for worship. There were no "shame on you" statements or "God is going to get you for this" declarations. Instead his prophecy focused more on the future than on the ugly present.
I Kings 13:2 tells us, "And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee."
God had his eye on a young person in the days still to come. Rather than bemoan the despicable plight of his people, he looked beyond the dreary present to better days on the way.
He chose to speak about a godly king who would arise generations down the line. He mentioned his name as if he already existed. God was already focused on righteous Josiah yet to be born. Josiah represented a great revival in store for the people of God.
There is a vital principle at work here. We often become mired in the disappointing realities of the here and now. It is so easy to forget that God has a clear view of the big picture.
While we are rehashing all the unpleasant details of our troubles and trials, it would do us well to realize that God always has something to look forward to. He has visual access to past, present, and future all at the same instant.
God is already planning the next revival. While we are wringing our hands, God has already thought out the solution. God can see victories in store that we cannot see.
Goliath caused King Saul and his soldiers to tremble, anticipating the possible damage such a warrior could inflict. They were intimidated by the giant's taunts and threats. However, God had the situation under control. He had prepared a shepherd boy well in advance.
Sennacherib, king of the Assyrians, besieged Jerusalem. His bold predictions made Hezekiah weak with fear. But God was not shaken by his boasts. He sent Isaiah to reassure the nervous monarch that the invaders were nothing to worry about. It would only take a rumor of a possible insurrection to draw Sennacherib away. The mighty king was assassinated by his own sons shortly thereafter.
The horses and chariots of Syria surrounding them alarmed the servant of Elisha. But the aged prophet wasn't startled in the least. He simply prayed for his servant's eyes to be opened. God had a much larger army already encircling the enemy.
Our God is never at a loss as to what needs to be done.
God will not be confined to the past.
It should help us to understand that God never remains shackled to the past as we are sometimes. Even when human transgressions have been severe, God refuses to be held hostage by yesterday.
Adam and Eve clearly disobeyed God's instructions. He dealt with each of them and quickly moved on. He informed the serpent that one day the seed of the woman would bruise his head. God was looking forward to the moment when the devil would be given quite a headache. His attention was on future victory rather than recent disappointment.
The prophet Samuel felt a great deal of anguish over the fact that God rejected Saul, the first king of Israel. And the day came that God refused to hear anymore of Samuel's grieving. He asked him, "How long wilt thou mourn for Saul?" (I Samuel 16:1). He then sent him on a mission to find a new king. The Lord already had his eye on David, a man after his own heart.
The destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar did not shock the God of Israel. When Chaldean soldiers set the temple ablaze, it didn't send him to the brink of despair. Thousands of Jewish children were marched to faraway Babylon. But God saw far beyond the Exile.
He foretold through Isaiah of the future rebuilding of the temple. And he named precisely the man who would initiate the project. He himself was the one, the Lord declared, "That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid" (Isaiah 44:28).
And it happened exactly as God predicted.
Many years later, Ezra recorded the decree of the Persian ruler, Cyrus. He said, "Thus saith Crus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah" (Ezra 1:2).
He further began to search for volunteers. He asked, "Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem" (Ezra 1:3).
Beyond the pile of ashes that were heaped up where the city gates at one time stood, beyond the scattered stones strewn about where houses had been occupied, and beyond the burned-out rubble of what had once been a beautifully situated fortress, God saw more than what the natural eye could observe.
This truth should offer us hope. God can see beyond the rubbish of broken dreams. He told one prophet, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end" (Jeremiah 29:11).
You have every reason to keep looking forward. You serve a future-oriented God! Despite what has taken us by surprise, despite the setbacks we have suffered, and despite the deep disappointments we have experienced, God is already planning the next revival!