God Is Never Surprised--and That's a Good Thing

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler

A woman peeks through a small circle of lights.

You’ve heard the phrase “fall down laughing.” That’s what I did when my older brother and I were fooling around with friends, chasing each other around the outside of the house one afternoon. I was in middle school at the time and he was in high school. I was in hot pursuit when I suddenly reversed course, hoping to catch him as he rounded the side of the house. As soon as I turned the corner, I realized we were running full speed at each other. Before I could shout “gotcha,” Bob fell down. Actually, he collapsed in surprise and I fell over laughing.

Surprises can be delightful—as when we hear from an old friend we’ve lost contact with or received a gift we cherish. But they can also be painful when they take the shape of a sudden betrayal, an unexpected loss, or a surprise attack.

When such things happen, we can draw comfort from the fact that God is never surprised by the things that throw us into turmoil.  One of God’s titles is Yahweh Yireh, which is translated “The Lord will provide.” The English word “provision” (pro-vision) is made up of two Latin words meaning “to see beforehand.” Similarly, yireh is derived from the Hebrew word rā’â, which means “to see.” Since God sees the future, as well as the past and the present, he is uniquely able to provide what we need to deal with the troubles that assail us.

This title for God appears in the book of Genesis, specifically in the story of Abraham and Isaac. You will remember how Abraham was about to sacrifice his son in obedience to God when suddenly an angel appeared and saved Isaac’s life. Catching sight of a ram caught in a thicket, Abraham sacrificed the animal instead. That sacrifice prefigured the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Tellingly, Scripture says that “Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means ‘the LORD will provide’). (Genesis 22:14) God knew exactly what Abraham and Isaac needed and he knows what we need as well.

Once we grasp the truth that God is never taken by surprise, we should no longer fall into the trap of chronic guilt. Guilt that leads to repentance and forgiveness is good but chronic guilt cripples our sense of God’s love.

Think of the worst sin you have ever committed, whether before or after giving your life to Christ. Now think of a time when you felt especially loved by God. The Lord knew in that moment exactly how you would fail but he loved you anyway. He loved you so much that he sent his son to save you. And that’s how much he loves you now.

 
Originally published June 07, 2018.

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