Ever since buying my first Bible as a Freshman at UW, I've been enamored by its stories. Some are simply astounding – an ark filled with animals; the Red Sea splitting; water that turns into wine. These (and other) amazing stories seem, to some, impossible. (I once made a list of the top 100 "Impossible" Things that God did in the Bible. It's a great list. I need to post it some day).
Some Scripture stories so stun skeptics that they simply dismiss them (that was fun alliteration). I grant skeptics this honor: they're attempting to be logically consistent. But my biggest problem isn't with skeptics who doubt ... it's with saints who dawdle over the veracity of Scripture with "I'm-too-busy"unaffectedness.
As I see it, when we encounter a difficult-to-believe story in the Scriptures, we are faced with two options:
Option 1: The event actually happened and therefore God (though often hidden to our eyes) is more real and amazing than we usually think.
Option 2: The event actually didn't happen that way, but was fabricated or embellished beyond credulity, to make a point. Sort of a "theological ends justify the embellished means" approach to truth-telling.
An Untenable Third Option
Logically, I think the two options above cover the possibilities. Yet I've discovered a tendency among some Bible readers to carve out a fallacious third option. It goes like this: "Yes, I believe the event actually happened, but (yawn) it doesn't much affect me." Essentially, while they give verbal assent to the miraculous story, they mentally eviscerate the implications of believing the story to be true. They hold it at arm's length – to avoid discomfort – while mouthing fealty to the Bible.
Below are 4 stupendous stories in the Bible. I love them. The question for you and me is: will I treat them as Option #1, or #2, or #3? I treat them as Option #1, which therefore implies a very active, observant, paying-attention-to-detail God who is involved in the lives of His own people.
I call them, As-it-Turned-Out-Moments.
As It Turned Out 1
In the Book of Ruth, a young woman (Ruth) leaves her home country (Moab) as a childless widow, to care for her mother-in-law Naomi. They travel back to the area of Bethlehem, where Ruth encounters prejudice (as a non-Jew) and poverty (as an ostracized foreigner).
Yet Ruth is determined to provide sustenance for Naomi and herself. She wakes early, walks to a nearby field, and begins gleaning low-grade barley sheaves left behind by the harvesters. When the field's owner arrives, he asks who she is. Ruth 2:3 says:
"As it turned out, Ruth found herself working in the field belonging to Boaz, from the clan of Elimelech (Elimelech was Naomi's deceased husband).
That's right. As it turned out (by God's hand), Ruth ends up working in a field of a near relative to Naomi! This Boaz will obey God's plan to marry Ruth, provide for her (and Naomi), and raise up a descendent named Obed ... who will be father to Jesse, who will be father to King David, ... down the line to ... Jesus!
The impossible Cinderella story of Ruth. As it turned out.
As It Turned Out 2
In 1 Kings 22, we encounter the surprising death of Ahab, evil King of Israel. He was one bad dude. In battle against Aram, Ahab disguised himself to avoid being an obvious target to the opposition. Ever the manipulator, Ahab thought himself shrewd. But God saw him.
"But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel (Ahab) between the sections of his armor." Hours later, Ahab died.
A random arrow felled the evil king! This shot is more incredible than Luke Skywalker's torpedoing of the Death Star!
God sees and does the "impossible." A random arrow guided by God to avenge an evil King. I say:
"Man's random arrow is God's guided missile."
As it turned out.
As It Turned Out 3
Elisha ministered to God's people after the reign of Ahab. He aided a generous woman, by raising her only son from the dead. Later, he warned her of an impending famine and to flee her homeland to survive.
When the woman returned seven years later, she approached the King's palace to re-secure her land (which she forfeited by her desertion). As it turned out, she walked into the King's court at the very moment the King asked about Elisha's exploits. A servant related the story of how Elisha raised a woman's son from the dead ... and now, here she is!
"This is the woman, my lord the king, and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life." 2 Kings 8:1-6
What timing! God orchestrates chance occurrences like this, for his glory. Even for you and me, when we believe "God Can."
As it turned out.
As It Turned Out 4
In the book of Esther, a new queen (Esther) is crowned. Her older cousin, Mordecai, had adopted and raised her. One day, Mordecai discovered a plot to overthrow King Xerxes, reported it, but was never rewarded for his good deed.
Months/years later, the King couldn't sleep. So in the middle of the night, he called his servant to read aloud from the Record of his reign. The servant read Mordecai's good deed, and the King asked, "What was done for Mordecai?" Nothing.
At that exact moment, Haman (evil prime minister of kingdom, who was plotting to kill Mordecai and the Jews) walked into the King's court. The King asked: "what should be done for the man the king delights to honor?" Haman assumed the King was talking about him, so he said:
"Put a royal robe on him and seat him on a horse the king has ridden ... have one of the king's noble princes escort the man through the streets, proclaiming 'This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!'" Esther 6:1-14
But as it turned out, the King ordered Haman to escort Mordecai! Only God could arrange such a holy plot twist! Later, Haman is hung on the gallows that he'd built for Mordecai.
As it turned out.
As it turned out ...
- As it turned out, Ruth found herself in the field of Boaz.
- As it turned out, King Ahab was felled by a randomly fired arrow.
- As it turned out, a mother entered the King's court at the perfect moment.
- As it turned out, the King was awakened in the middle of the night.
These four stories illustrate what God can do. If the stories are untrue, they're merely fabricated, and we should close our Bible and resume our Crossword puzzle. But if they are true (as I believe them to be), we can never limit what God can do today.
What I don't see in these stories is a third option. The one that assents to the story without believing in a supernatural, living God. Third options are mushy, undisciplined thinking, if they're thinking at all.
So, what practical implications do these four stories have for us today? They remind us that nothing is impossible with God. That He is always watching us. That, "He Can." That He is good. If God did these things, you must conclude that He's able to rescue you when you stand for Him.
So, do things his way. He can be trusted to wake the King in the middle of the night, or to put you in the field of Boaz.
And you'll say, "as it turned out."