I’ve been going through something of a rough time recently. Know what that means? It means that this was the perfect time for God to step in and reveal Himself to me in another unprecedented and awesome way. And He did! Why? Because that’s the kind of God I serve. That’s my Daddy. When I fall and get covered in bruises, that’s when He’s keenest on being there to pick me up. When I’m not feeling all that wonderful or upbeat or like I can see my way clearly, that’s when He makes sure to be there to comfort me and to remind me He never went anywhere. That’s when He gives fresh revelations that turn your whole perspective around. That’s who God is: He’s a Father. He’s a Comforter. He’s a Lover. The Master of the tender embrace. Sometimes we all need a reminder. And that’s precisely what God delights in — reminding us of who He is and who we are to Him so that our joy may be restored to us, and with extra added on!
This time God reminded me of a simple fact. It was so simple I found myself laughing at myself. How had I gone on so long and never given this simple fact any serious thought? Or better yet, since I’d already known it, how ever did I manage to lose sight of it? It came to me as I started reading over my Bible recently, all the way through from Genesis to Revelation.
And this is the simple idea God got across to me: God loves to embarrass His enemies for the sake of his friends.
No, I’m serious — He LOVES it! I didn’t say He likes it or that He finds it OK, you know. It’s what He does. This goes waaaaay beyond a hobby for Him. It’s who He is! Don’t believe me? I can prove it. I’ve seen it over and over again within these pages these past few days. For starters you can look at Deuteronomy 28:63. It says:
- And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to naught; and ye shall be plucked from off the land wither thou goest to possess it.
The same pleasure He takes in establishing the godly is the same pleasure He takes in punishing the wicked! That’s who God is. He loves putting things right. He loves to serve up justice. Now our God is also a Lover. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked as He says in Ezekiel 18:23. He much prefers that they be saved. But God also isn’t a fool. He loves but He’s not blind. If the wicked will not return to Him no matter what then He will be pleased to punish their folly. He’ll fix their business and rejoice that He has, just as a detective would in knowing he’s put away a hardened criminal for a long time or as a housekeeper would over having finally gotten the incredible mess under control. No self-delusions for Him! He knows when to call it quits and start making the hard decisions. But if they will be turned to Him, bet your bottom dollar He’ll find a way to do it. It’s who He is.
Everything God ever does is automatically on the spectacular side of life. And the best part about it? He does all of those things for the benefit of His friends, His beloved, His children. (Remember: it’s not God who needs miracles — it’s us!) I’m writing this to show just a few of those things in the hope that someone will be encouraged by it and realize that God hasn’t left them, and that He never, ever, leaves anything half-done. Whether it’s the big things or the small things God delights in showing up, and showing up in ways that baffle and embarrass His enemies while making His friends look like bosses. It’s who He is!
Looking back on my reading now I’m realizing I’ve never seen God do anything for His people that did not display incredible wisdom and ability. Even the simple things! And whenever enemies were involved they were put to shame every single time. He loves turning things around. And when He does, expect it to be spectacular!
Let’s pick out a few choice occurrences. We won’t even need to go far before you see plainly that nothing God does can be traced by mere human understanding. Let’s go all the way back to the top. In the Garden of Eden God told Satan, the power behind the serpent, “I’ll put enmity between your seed and the woman’s; you shall bruise His heel but He’ll crush your head!” And it’s been that way ever since. Far beyond just that prophecy, throughout history and even down to today, the people of God have been battered and bruised too many times to count; and yet every time God shows up on their behalf the blow to the enemy is far worse.
Remember Abraham and Sarah? Yes, Sarah was barren. And then here is this “God” person telling them they would have children. Can you imagine the years of embarrassment and reproach Sarah had endured, and Abraham with her? Even among the very people who followed them around as their “servants” and their “household”? Can you hear the whispers and snickers in secret places from some, or see the lamenting and head-shaking from others? Yet one day God surely showed up! And He did it when she was no less than ninety years old! In any age of the world that’s nothing short of a medical miracle! His message in doing this? “If I promise it, it MUST come to pass; and your circumstances will have NO power to stop it!” How about now? Can you see all those people, near and far, suddenly having to shut up about Sarah and stew silently in their bitterness? They had lost — spectacularly! They had been convinced she would always be barren, and thus the subject of their jokes and ridicule. Nature and experience even seemed to be conclusively on their side. …But God!
And in Genesis 14 Abraham (called Abram at the time) did with God’s help, three groups with whom he had formed an alliance previously and 318 home-grown servants what 5 kings and their entire armies couldn’t do — they defeated, pursued and embarrassed the powerful armies of the 4 kings that the aforementioned 5 kings had been utterly defeated by. And all of this to rescue his nephew. He ended up being the hero of those 5 defeated kings.
Or how about Isaac one generation later? Again God shut up all those who had felt bitter against Abraham for not having allowed his son to get a Canaanite wife, and who had felt justified by Rebekah’s barrenness. Twenty long years they laughed. And then suddenly she had twins! And another time, in the middle of a harsh famine, Isaac had the audacity to plant crops — and reaped a hundred fold!
I doubt I need to spend much time on the Israelites in Egypt. Pharaoh held himself to be a god among men. Yet look at how God embarrassed him! Even when his magicians could replicate the first few signs, Aaron’s snake alone defeated and devoured all of theirs; and they couldn’t change the blood back into water. Yet these were the servants of a god! And soon they couldn’t even keep up with Jehovah’s signs anymore. God upped the ante. Pestilence. Locusts. Darkness. And finally death. And in all this where were the god Pharaoh and his relatives, the gods of Egypt? Huddled in a corner in powerless silence, that’s where!
When Israel left Egypt, God purposely led them into the wilderness by the Red Sea, even predicting to Moses that the Egyptians would think they had been entangled in the land and would come to take them back. The result? God parted the Red Sea — right down the middle — and the gods of Egypt were powerless to keep it that way and save their own soldiers. God didn’t just make a way of escape — He shocked the whole world in doing it. Israel was stuck in the wilderness for 40 years after that momentous day and yet when they were finally to enter Canaan the whole region was afraid of them. Why? Because they had all heard of Egypt’s startling destruction ahead of Israel’s arrival. Hundreds of years later in the era of Samuel and just before King Saul, the Philistines still recalled those events with utter dread when Israel (very foolishly) brought the Ark of the Covenant into the camp as a lucky charm against defeat in battle (1 Samuel 4:6-8).
But before even jumping that far ahead, let’s stick to the wilderness a bit longer. Let’s go to Numbers 31. This is one of the most remarkable military campaigns ever recorded anywhere. Twelve thousand Israelites (1000 soldiers from each tribe) went up against the Midianites in a war of revenge ordered by God Himself. The remarkable thing about the situation is that when Israel came back from the battle they brought with them certain trophies. These were in the form of — get this — 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkeys and a whole host of women and children (they had slain all the men in battle). After having been ordered by Moses to kill all the male children and all the women who were not virgins they were left with 32,000 virgin women (to say nothing of the children). Now for the questions: How many soldiers did Israel have to hack their way through to be able to carry home such a bounty? And how many women had they brought back in total to begin with? Because no matter how you spin it, those 32,000 virgins could not have been the majority. And we all know how men get about their mothers, children and wives. So it must have been a fearsome battle and Israel must have been ridiculously outnumbered from the get-go. And yet for all that, in verse 49 we are plainly told that not one of the 12,000 Israelite soldiers had failed to make it back home! That’s got to be one of the most embarrassing moments in military history from the perspective of the losers! God had His revenge, alright!
Or look at Korah and Dathan and Abiram, who rose up against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. God got rid of them in a totally new way at the time — He opened the earth under them like a trap door and sent them to their deaths. And what of Moses? While in Egypt it was said of him, “the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people” (Exodus 11:3). In the wilderness, in His defense of him, God says, “If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known to him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him I will speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold…” (Numbers 12:6-8). God exalted Moses plainly for all to see. He intervened several times to defend Moses’ character from people like Korah and even his own brother and sister in the passage quoted above. God exalts His friends. He delights in doing so. It’s who He is.
The same was true of Israel. When they were about to enter the Promised Land and sent spies into Jericho, Rahab told them plainly, “I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt…” (Judges 2:9-10). And we see this happening over and over again. God exalted Israel in the eyes of the nations around them, both near and far. The job He had done in Egypt was so thorough that, faced with the prospect of an invasion from Israel, all Canaan sank into a horror of depression and fear. And it didn’t matter if they ganged up. In Joshua 10 God gives Israel the victory over 5 kings and their armies who had joined forces in hopes of defeating Israel. Outnumbered again, certainly, but God doesn’t rely on numbers to get Him his victories. And in the course of the battle God not only rained down massive hailstones from Heaven upon them, which killed far more of them than Israel itself had slain (and Israel had slain a great number of them), but He also stopped the sun in its course for about a whole day (verse 13) so Israel could complete their victory! Here are these people waiting for dusk to come so the darkness can aid their escape and there is God making the sun stand still in the sky to prevent just that!
How about Gideon who took a measly 300 men on God’s orders (it had originally been 32,000 but God brought the number all the way down to 300) and routed a joint army that had been described as “like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seaside for multitude” (Judges 7:12). Not only did these 300 send that entire army scurrying, but God caused the army to slaughter themselves in their confusion. That’s a few notches up from Leonidas’ 300! Or how about Samson who single-handedly defeated 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey? Later he removed an entire city gate and carried it up into the hills when they had planned to shut him in and assassinate him and finally, when they could have sworn they finally had him, he toppled an entire building by himself, slaying Philistines by the thousands (and himself in the process).
Few things I’ve read made me laugh like I did when I read 1 Samuel 5 and 6. It was just amazing to see how completely and effortlessly God made fools of the entire Philistine nation, who could have sworn that in capturing His Ark (from off the battlefield, no less) they had somehow proved the superiority of their own gods. It was also scary. The very day they brought the Ark home God started to show His power. They put the Ark in the temple of their great god Dagon, next to his statue, and all went to bed. Next morning they come into the temple to find Dagon lying prostrate before the Ark of the Covenant — God refused to be put on the same level of any god. The poor fools couldn’t take a hint. They scratched their heads, stood Dagon right back up and went to bed again at the end of the day. This time God got serious. They found Dagon lying prostrate again, but in pieces this time. His head was severed, as were his two palms. It must have been an eerie picture. It shook them up so bad that people stopped walking in the area of the temple that this had happened altogether! And then God turned up the heat. Plague in the city. Rats. Death. And for those who had escaped, painful diseases and swellings on their private parts. A very rude awakening indeed! This cycle continued throughout all 5 Philistine cities. One city would feel the sting of God’s wrath and hurriedly send the Ark away to the next, only to have the same result. And this happened for 7 whole months. Where was Dagon and the other Philistine gods? That’s probably what the Philistine people wanted to know too.
Finally they concocted a plan to ship the Ark back into Israel — they couldn’t handle it! Death and disease and plague all over the nation. It was too much. They even sent along trespass offerings with it, their way of saying “OK, LORD! We get it! We’re sorry! But please don’t leave these plagues behind when You go — take them with You or we’re all dead men here!” But just in case it was all a coincidence they devised a test. And God is not one to have anyone mistaking His direct action for coincidence, so He sure did order the test to have the exact results they had prescribed. But that has got to be one of the most scandalous moments in the history of religion. Here are people who thought they had defeated the God of their adversary and brought home His artifact as the ultimate trophy, only to have to send it back home again with even offerings attached when they didn’t even serve Him to begin with!
We could go to Elijah on Mount Carmel facing off against 450 prophets of Baal and 400 other prophets associated with Queen Jezebel — him and God alone.We could look at how they carried on and cut themselves and wailed pathetically for more than half a day, and then how in an instant God sent fire that burned up not only the sacrifice but the water in the trenches and even the stones of the altar, reducing them to nothing. We could go to Elisha’s time when God magnified the footsteps of 4 leprous beggars so that the Syrian army could have sworn they were being beset by thousands of chariots and horsemen and quickly abandoned their siege. Or there’s Isaiah’s time when that one angel destroyed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers overnight. There are too many examples to mention in a single sitting.
Every time God does something for someone He makes a show of it. Thinking about it now, I don’t think there ever was a time that He did something on behalf of someone else that wasn’t spectacular. That’s just who He is — He loves surprising people. He loves doing the unexpected for those who love Him. And while He’s at it He invariably embarrasses their adversaries in the most amazing and even hilarious ways. One can’t help but shake one’s head in awe. And of course this aspect of God’s personality and methodology is summed up in the climax of human history, when Christ fulfilled that prophecy from way back in Genesis 3:15. Truly the Adversary bruised His heel. He was afflicted and tortured and then killed. But in return He bruised Satan’s head! He took a mere flesh wound, as it were, and instead dealt a deathblow to the powers of darkness once and for all. Paul puts it this way in Colossians 2:15: “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” Christ publicly embarrassed the kingdom of darkness by His work on the cross. And the time is coming when the full implications of that will work themselves out and be plain to even the sternest of unbelievers on that last, great day.
So for me and you the lesson is this: don’t fear. Don’t be afraid. Trust God. Expect Him to show up in our situations. And expect it to be nothing short of spectacular! God is waiting to rush in suddenly, like a superhero, and put our enemies to shame! God never shows up and yet fail to be absolutely spectacular. It’s just who He is! He’s the Divine Showman!
“One shall chase a thousand and two shall put ten thousand to flight.” That’s His promise to us. Tell me that’s not utterly embarrassing the enemy and making us look amazing!