There are times when God gives us a specific message. It can come in different ways; through the Bible, through gentle and strong impressions in the heart while in prayer, through Christian friends or even through circumstances.
Sometimes what God tells us looks highly improbable. The circumstances around us will make us doubt whether what God has said would happen.
This improbability would sometimes lead us to talk or pray to God in disbelief. The problem here is that we are not ready to trust God’s word just as He said it. We try to measure it by placing it side by side with the highly unlikely circumstance that we find ourselves in.
Yet even a prayer of disbelief brings God’s answer. And His answer to this kind of prayer points us back to Himself–His sovereignty and absolute power.
There are two instances in the Bible which help us learn about this pattern. Both instances occur in reference to His chosen people Israel. One instance occurs at the early stages of the desert wanderings when God was beginning to deal with Israel as a nation.
The second instance occurs towards the time of the end of the kingdom of Judah just before the people are captured and taken into exile. And in both these instances God shows Himself to be in absolute control of situations and circumstances.
Example 1: Moses (Numbers 11)
Moses was faced with many tough situations while leading the people of Israel out of Egypt. The people were rebellious and kept complaining at the sight of every difficulty. God also kept punishing the people from time to time for their endless complaining.
At one time the troublemakers in the camp began to crave other food. At that time God was giving them manna to eat everyday. They were discontented with that. They wished for meat to eat. They also talked about how they had fish and other tasty food in Egypt. They also stated that by eating manna they had now lost their appetite.
Moses heard the people wailing. Everybody had gathered at the entrance to their tents. God became angry. And Moses became troubled. He complained to the Lord about his burden in taking care of the people. God told him to bring to Him seventy of the Israelite leaders so that He can take of the Spirit that was on Moses and put the Spirit on them also. God told Moses that by that those elders would also be able to share in the burden of Moses’ responsibility in caring for the people.
Then God addressed the immediate problem. He told Moses to tell the people to consecrate themselves in preparation for the next day. God wanted Moses to tell the people that He was going to give them meat not for one day or a few days but for a whole month until the people would get fed up with it.
They would finally be disgusted with meat. God wanted to do this because the people had wailed before Him while craving meat. And in this wailing God recognized the fact that they had rejected Him whose presence was among them.
Now Moses faced a second problem. This was not a problem with the people but with God Himself. He could not understand how God was going to provide for six hundred thousand men on foot. He wasn’t to blame because God had not told him HOW He was going to provide food.
So Moses asked God whether it was possible to have enough food for them if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? He also asked whether they would have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?
God’s answer came. Even now God did not explain HOW He was going to provide food. But He asked Moses: “Is the Lord’s arm too short?” God also added that Moses would be able to see whether or not what He had said would come true.
And it happened so that a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. Quail was there around the camp in plenty. People went and gathered it. But God struck the people with a plague even as they were eating the food.
We find here a pattern emerge. We find God telling Moses that He will provide meat for the people. But God did not tell Moses HOW it was going to be done. Moses found it highly improbable that it should happen thus. So naturally he raised questions of disbelief.
And God answered by affirming the fact that His arm was still powerful; though He still did not specify HOW He was going to accomplish His word. So we find here the pattern of God’s Word » Improbability » Disbelief » God’s Answer.
Example 2: Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32, 33)
The scene here is the time when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his army had laid siege to Jerusalem. Zedekiah king of Judah had imprisoned Jeremiah in the courtyard of the guard for prophesying that the king of Babylon would defeat them and carry them as captives to Babylon.
During that time the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah saying that Hanamel son of Shallum his uncle would come to him asking Jeremiah to buy his field at Anathoth. This was because in Israel it was the custom and duty of the nearest relative of a person to buy his property when it was sold.
So it came to pass that Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel came to him asking him to buy the field. When it happened Jeremiah knew that it “was the word of the Lord.” So he bought the field at Anathoth for seventeen shekels of silver. He signed the deed, had it sealed and witnessed, and also weighed out the silver on the scales.
Again according to Israelite customs Jeremiah took the sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase which contained the terms and conditions and gave it to Baruch (who was kind of personal secretary to Jeremiah) in the presence of the witnesses who had signed the deed and all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of the guard where Jeremiah was kept in prison.
When Jeremiah gave the copies of the deed he also gave Baruch the message of the Lord Almighty. He told him that the God of Israel was saying to him to take both the sealed and unsealed copies of the documents (that is the copies of the deed of purchase) and to put them in a clay jar so that it would last for a long time. This was because God was saying that houses, fields and vineyards would again be bought in that land.
After Jeremiah had given Baruch the copies of the deed of purchase and also the message from the Lord, he prayed to the Lord. This was because he had a question burning in his heart for he thought that he was hearing contradicting messages from God. So he told God that he knew the fact that God had created the heavens and the earth by his great power and outstretched hand and that nothing was too hard for God.
He also recounted before God all the ways in which God had led the people of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. He also acknowledged the fact that God had brought all the disaster that had fallen on them because of their disobedience.
He asked God to look and see how the siege ramps were built up to take the city. Jeremiah told God that because of the sword, famine and plague, the city of Jerusalem would definitely be handed over to the Babylonians who were attacking it even at that moment. He told God that what things were happening then were exactly happening as God had already told him.
And in the final statement of his prayer Jeremiah addressed God with his real problem. He asked God how He could say to him to buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed even though the city would be handed over to the Babylonians.
Jeremiah had every reason to question the wisdom of God. He could visibly see the armies of the king of Babylon surrounding the city with siege ramps built up to it. He was told by God earlier that the city would be handed over to the Babylonians.
In the midst of these destructive and discouraging circumstances God was telling him a positive message that fields will again be bought in the land. So Jeremiah was questioning the wisdom of God’s word.
The problem again was that Jeremiah could not understand HOW it was possible for fields to be bought again in the land when the city was about to be destroyed. Jeremiah’s confusion was that both messages came from the Lord Himself. So he couldn’t understand how destruction would be followed by reconstruction.
But to his prayer God’s answer came saying: “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27 NIV). God also said that it was true that all this calamity would definitely happen to Jerusalem and its people because of their disobedience.
But He also added that as surely as He would bring this great disaster on this people so also He will bring them prosperity and restore their fortunes.
We find here a similar pattern emerge. We find God telling Jeremiah that He would restore the fortunes of the people. But Jeremiah couldn’t understand HOW it would be possible when he could see the Babylonian armies on the verge of destroying the city. So Jeremiah found this possibility of restoration highly improbable. So Jeremiah prayed in disbelief at what God had said.
God answered by saying that nothing was too hard for Him. And He told Jeremiah that it would happen as He said when He would make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line in the future. So we find here the pattern of God’s Word » Improbability » Disbelief » God’s Answer.
We live in a world where we are put into many difficult situations. We do not choose to be in such difficulties but we find that we are in the midst of them.
Moses did not choose to be the leader of the Israelites; but God asked him to lead them. The troubles they created were not of Moses’ choosing; but he found that he had to deal with them. Likewise, Jeremiah did not choose to be a prophet of the Lord; but he was chosen even before he was conceived in his mother’s womb.
The troubles that came to the city of Jerusalem were because of the people’s disobedience. Though Jeremiah had done nothing wrong he suffered for proclaiming God’s truth.
Like Moses and Jeremiah, we may find ourselves in difficult situations that are not of our choosing. We might also get a word from the Lord regarding the situation. But like Moses and Jeremiah we might look at the improbability of the situation. The reality of what we are facing now; the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves, may cause us to pray in disbelief at what God said would happen.
Now Moses had prayed the prayer of disbelief even as the word of the Lord came to him. He got God’s answer and then obeyed God’s command to tell the people what God had said. Jeremiah, on the other hand obeyed the word of the Lord and then prayed to God in disbelief. Then he got God’s answer.
Sometimes, as He dealt with Moses, God chooses not to tell us HOW he is going to accomplish what He said would happen. Sometimes God might give us a glimpse into the outworking of His plan like He revealed to Jeremiah (the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time. Ref. 33:1).
Yet whatever way He chooses; to the prayer of disbelief His answer is the same: That He is the Lord of all mankind and nothing is too hard for Him and that His arm is not too short!