God has a complex playbook.
He has so many plays in His playbook, He can afford to use some of them only once.
Marching around Jericho and making the walls fall down was one-and-done. He never had to use that one again. The floating ax head for Elisha and pairs of animals wandering in on time for Noah were unique occurrences. So was the virgin birth.
God also has a wide range of plays.
There is the raw power play such as Elijah’s fire that burned up the sacrifice, the water and even the rocks the altar was made of. Sounds like a bit of a nuclear reaction — certainly hotter than a lightning strike.
By contrast there were the subtle trick plays. I love God fabricating the sounds of a fictitious Egyptian army that spooked the Assyrian army into running away in abject panic in the middle of the night.
There are plays that are used multiple times — leprosy was healed and the dead raised in both the Old and New Testaments.
There are multi-use plays that have interesting variations. Moses, Joshua, Elijah and Elisha were all one bridge short of a complete highway. Their play was to part the water and walk on dry land on the bottom of the river. All good and fine, but Jesus ran a variant — why not walk on dry water on top of the sea?
There were plays designed to honor and to dishonor. The widow who had a big debt to pay was honored by the oil multiplying until she could pay the debt and recapitalize her small family.
Of all the dishonoring plays, I love the blind army. Elisha didn’t just blind them, he conned them into following him — the man they came to arrest — and he led them into the heart of the capital city, surrounded by the Israelite army before he restored their sight. Then, to drive home the utter superiority of the Israelite army, Elisha had the Israelites magnanimously feed the Arameans some lunch and send them home well shamed.
Can you imagine being the general in charge and having to explain this failed operation to King Ben Hadad? Imagine the anxiety as the General starts the story.
“Long live Your Majesty. Sir, the operation was rolling along flawlessly. We arrived at Dothan where Your Majesty’s enemy lives and we completely surrounded the village before daylight. No one could escape. Then suddenly we were all blinded at once. Every one of us . . . ”
“Stop right there. You can see right now, correct?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“And the rest of the army can see?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“So every single officer and soldier left here seeing, turned blind, and now can see again? Is that what you are saying?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Frankly, General, your court-martial is already over, but go ahead and tell me the rest of your ridiculous excuse for an abjectly failed mission.”
Can you imagine the anguish in the General as he tells the rest of the story which becomes more ridiculous by the minute?
“Well, Your Majesty, when we were feeling our way around, all blind, someone came up to me and said that our reconnaissance was flawed and the man we were looking for was nearby. Then he took me by the hand and . . . ”
“YOU LET AN ENEMY CIVILIAN TAKE ONE OF MY GENERALS BY THE HAND AND LEAD HIM??????!!!! Have you ever heard of a sword, General? Do you know what they are used for?”
It was a very long, hard day for the General. And he hadn’t even gotten to the patronizing lunch yet. Oy vey!
When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He was working out of the HARD CORE tab in His playbook. He said four times in Exodus 13 that He had brought Israel up out of Egypt with “a mighty hand.” He instituted Passover and the dedication of the firstborn to God as markers for the fact that THE Exodus was a power play, not the result of diplomatic finesse.
I have known all along that the Ten Plagues were a power play, but not until today have I seen them in the context of all of history. Ponder these verses where a father is talking to his children about the dedication of all firstborn to Yahweh.
“‘When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.” Exodus 13:16-17 NIV
Hmmm . . . fast forward to the number 666 which is put in one of the same two places. Suddenly that is reframed. It is not just a cattle brand to differentiate the Antichrist’s “cattle” from the Noble Subjects of the Great King. Rather it is a celebration of the power that the Antichrist used to come to his place of authority.
All of God’s plays are worth being celebrated, but when the devil digs in with maximum defiance and God takes him down with brutal power, He really wants to be worshiped.
In the recording that follows, I will celebrate some of the stories I know. I encourage you to set time aside this weekend to bring out your own treasure chest of power encounters with The Almighty and brand your own forehead and hand with the symbols of His power.
Copyright November 2015 by Arthur Burk
From the video studio.
I got chased out of my office by the remodeling that is going on in the suite to the west of us. It will be noisy there for a month, apparently, until our new neighbors move in.