All of us had a moment when we surrendered to God our lives and said to Him, “Please use me!” So the question that follows on the heels of it is—“What did you expect to see? What did you think would happen with you?”
And that’s a Biblical question asked by Jesus himself, “… What went you out into the wilderness to see?” (Matthew 11:7) That question related to the crowd of people coming out to the Jordan wilderness to see and hear John the Baptist. The Living Bible paraphrase makes it so plain; it says, “When you went out into the barren wilderness to see John, what did you expect him to be like?” There was John preaching wearing ragged clothing, fasting and eating honey of the desert, refusing to drink any wine, and when some saw him doing that, they said, “He’s crazy.” (read verse 18)
So that, each of us, said Oswald Chambers, must surrender to God without conditions or never putting preconceived guidelines on what that will be like. Jesus asks, “What did you expect him to be like? What did you envision?” Let’s make it personal and straightforwardly honest—“What exactly did you anticipate? How was God going to employ you?” — Maybe using only your church or maybe limited only to people similar to your culture? — People, you thought, only in your own little comfort zone?
In Jesus’ day, some must have had an idea in their minds of what a prophet should be like or look like. The question was asked, “But what went you out to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.” (verse 8) John was rough-hewn, not refined, never a smooth talker. Yet, here was a true prophet of God. He was blunt and abrupt and without compromise, but a man only in his early thirties.
There is an illustration in history. Luther was like John the Baptist, but there was another man at that time named Erasmus, who debated him. He was refined and highly intellectual—a cultured man of whom it was said, “He could shade ‘yes’ until it sounded like ‘no’ and he burnished ‘no’ until it would pass for a ‘yes.’” Luther was the exact opposite! And he shocked many people.
And now God has allowed COVID-19 to happen and for you to be brought into a kind of “wilderness” ministry you could never have envisioned just a few months ago. “It’s not what I expected!” some have said. Did you have ideas—that it would be easy or it would be something you were comfortable with from the start? Something without challenge? Did you expect “soft raiment … in the kings’ house”—not the wilderness of the pandemic! Not in the former Soviet Union but rather in your own quiet neighborhood?
The question again: “What did you expect it would be like?” — What an appropriate question for all of us; in fact, how could it be more timely?
Let’s try to use a bit of humor—I hope it makes you smile! Again, “You went out to see the wilderness prophet standing at the Jordan; what did you expect?”
That he would offer flowers and a copy of the Book of Psalms to the oldest grandmother who was present?
That he would have prepared a nice, free spa on the Jordan to enjoy as a reward after he baptized people?
That he would have a dozen camels ready for free rides for anyone who brought two or more with them to the event?
What do we expect? Well, with God we can expect what we do not expect! Who could have predicted that the evangelist who would preach to more people than any man in Christian history would come from a little dairy farm in the hills of North Carolina? — Who expected that?
And now God is doing it again—He is taking you to “the wilderness” to do something you could not have not anticipated. “What went you out to see?” Jesus said. Now, be honest, isn’t that just like God?
“‘My ways are not your ways …’ says the Lord.”