In the book of Ezekiel, God tells Ezekiel that he’s not being sent to a people of a foreign tongue. Ezekiel is being sent to his own people. God tells him that if He had sent him to a foreign land, the people would listen to him.
Ezekiel is obedient and, even with a warning, he ends up frustrated.
A few books later, Jonah is sent to Nineveh. He takes a roundabout way of his own creation when he strives run away from God’s calling. Eventually, Jonah arrives in Nineveh. Unlike the people of Israel, the people of Nineveh listen, respond, and repent!
Jonah is (eventually) obedient but even with positive results, he ends up frustrated.
Pardon the expression but if I was God I’d be thinking “D***ed if you do. D***ed if you don’t.”
When something bad happens, we have a tendency to be frustrated with God. When it’s good, we’re either frustrated because it’s not good enough or we simply forget God.
Can He even win!?!
It’s just an expression! Don’t sweat it. God’s not really in competition with anyone. At the end of it all — HE WINS! And while this is a whole blog post waiting to happen, it’s not the reason for this blog post.
Life throws us curve balls — and it’s almost NEVER exactly what we want. It’s always what God knows we need but that doesn’t make it what we want.
The reality is that whatever came our way didn’t meet our expectations! God didn’t meet our expectations and we ended up frustrated.
Ezekiel and Jonah aren’t the only two to get frustrated when expectations weren’t met.
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Matthew 11: 2-6 ESV
In this account, John the Baptist is in prison but He’s questioning if Jesus really is the Messiah he thought He was. Jesus was not at all what the Jewish people expected. They had been preparing for a Messiah who would come and rescue them from the political tyrants and to restore the nation of Israel. Instead, Jesus came as a sacrifice, not to save their nation but to save their souls. John would have had his own expectations of what the Christ would bring and clearly his expectations weren’t met.
Human expectations are rarely God-accurate. When our human expectations aren’t met, it’s easy to forget that they were never from God in the first place. It’s from this place that doubts form and questions of God’s goodness arise.
John, Ezekiel, and Jonah are not alone in their unmet expectations. We join them across the span of time. Unfortunately, John’s account reveals a dangerous outcome of unmet expectations — doubt.
Doubt isn’t new. It’s not limited to John (or us). Elijah, the great prophet had doubts.
Elijah was a God’s Prophet during the reign of Ahab. 1 Kings 16: 30 tells us that Ahab “did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him.” Now enters Elijah, proclaiming that there will be no rain until he (Elijah) says so. Since this was a word from God, the LORD led Elijah away to a safe place so no one would kill him in their drought frustration.
After years of drought, Elijah comes back for a showdown of sorts. The Prophet Elijah calls out the prophets of Baal and Asherah before all of Israel. Baal and Asherah were the most popular idols of the time in Israel. At this showdown, the false prophets build one altar and Elijah builds another. Then, Elijah, being a gentleman, allows the false prophets to call on their gods first. Despite the big show that the false prophets put on, no god lit the fire on their altar. Elijah now steps up, requests twelves jars of water to be poured on his altar. Don’t forget that this is during a drought! Elijah then prays to the true God.
Fire falls from heaven, consumes the sacrifice, and even turns the stones to dust. Elijah orders the false prophets killed and while his order is being carried out, Elijah slips away to pray for rain. The drought is now over but Elijah, with his command to kill the false prophets, makes an enemy in the queen and king, loyal Baal followers. So, Elijah does the human thing – he runs!
If you read 1 Kings 19, you’ll see that Elijah ends up in the desert — venting all his doubts, fears, and concerns to God. He’s worried that the king and queen will find him and kill him.
Elijah had enough faith to call fire down from heaven but he doubted that God could save him from a wicked queen. In fact, Elijah feels so frustrated, he asks God to let him die!
There are times when doubts and fears sink deep into life’s fibers. We don’t want to confront or deal with them and it seems easier to die.
Jesus didn’t get angry with John. God expressed no strong anger toward Ezekiel or Jonah. And He didn’t get mad at Elijah.
After taking Elijah forty days into the desert, God encounters Elijah in one of my favorite passages –1 Kings 19: 9-13
There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
God chooses us even knowing our humanity. He is asking, “What are you doing here?” to us today so that we will bring our doubts, fears, and frustrations of unmet expectations before Him. He longs to hear each of us express exactly how we feel. He doesn’t scream at us in those moments but He seeks to soothe us and to remind us that He has things under control – even if it doesn’t make sense to us.
Let’s focus on expectations just a little bit more before closing today with a clearer look at Matthew 11: 6.
The English Standard Version says it like this, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
The New International Version says, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
And The Message words it like this, “Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed.”
Rarely are things as we expect and it’s easy to be offended when those expectations aren’t met.
However, there’s a silver lining! Here’s the combination of all these translations that I’ll call the Stephanie translation:
For those of you who were really expecting Christianity to look like this – Wonderful! But to the rest of you, great is your reward if you don’t turn away when you have questions and doubts.
Your unmet expectations are human! You’re not alone. However, we can’t abandon the faith when things don’t look like we expect. Instead, we should take our frustrations to the One who wants to hear them. And always remember, there’s a reward for holding strong.