God’s Predictable Creativity?
Fussing with the wonderful reality that God is both predictable and unpredictable; here is an excerpt from Chapter 13 of Living at the Edge of Time?
The Bible has two under-girding themes. On the one hand, God’s character is consistent, unchanging and … predictable! Jesus “is the same yesterday, today and forever”23. And God is pretty emphatic about this: “For I am the Lord, I do not change”24. For this reason, God describes His character with a metaphor like “Rock” that expresses His consistency and predictability25. You may never have heard God’s character described as predictable before but this is why we can trust Him! He is completely reliable, absolutely trustworthy and totally dependable. Who He is today is who He will be tomorrow … which is why we can sleep tonight!
On the other hand, God’s works are spontaneous, creative and … well, unpredictable! The metaphors God chooses to predominantly reveal His ways are all fluid, organic, living pictures: water26, rivers27, breath28, wind29, oil30, fire31, light32, bread33 and even a vine and branches, where the obvious implication is that the Holy Spirit is the life-giving sap that flows from Jesus, the Vine, to us, the branches34.
While God’s character is consistent, unchanging and predictable; His works are creative, spontaneous and unpredictable. And here is a vital truth: one of God’s unchanging characteristics is His creativity!
God is Creator and His very nature is to be creative. For example, He didn’t create one person that looks the same. Incredible! We all have two eyes, two ears, one nose and one mouth. Yet no one is exactly the same! Amazing! God is gloriously creative.
You cannot put God in a box in the same way you cannot put a wind in a box. I realised that if I was going to understand God’s ways and cooperate with Him, I had to understand His spontaneity, His creativity; I had to understand that God’s ways are characterized more by rivers and flows than by grids and boxes.
A little later in the same chapter, I considered the following:
The Bible does not record everything God did in the past as the sum total of what God will ever do. God’s Word is not a prescriptive straitjacket that requires Him to only work in “certain” defined ways into the future. The Bible—God’s breathed, inspired Word59—is the Story of God revealing Himself to mankind and teaches us, as mentioned earlier, that the character of God is consistent, unchanging and predictable but the work of God is creative, spontaneous and unpredictable. And as noted earlier, one of God’s unchangeable characteristics is His creativity. In other words, God is predictably unpredictable!
Think about it; God seldom did a miracle the same way. Consider Jesus’ creative and different healings of the blind. On one occasion He simply touched the blind man and healed him60. On a second occasion; He spat on the ground, made a paste, smeared the mud on the blind man’s eyes and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam before being healed61. Then on a third occasion, He spat directly into the blind man’s eye62 (I still struggle with this one!). Jesus seemed to thoroughly enjoy being creative and unpredictable!
He seemed determined to avoid allowing His followers to think that there was some special formula involved. If He had left it at the “spit-and-paste” incident, there was good chance the disciples may have figured: “So that’s the trick … let me make some mud!” The problem with formulae is this: we start to put our faith in the formula rather than in God Himself!
Not only did God seldom do a miracle the same way, He often rebuked His people for assuming that He would work the same way twice. When the Israelites begged for water, God instructed Moses to strike “the rock in Horeb … and water will come out of it”63. When a similar need arose later, God instructed Moses to instead speak to the rock “and it will yield its water.”
Moses probably figured that it would look a little silly to have a chat with a rock, and decided to strike the rock again. Hey, it worked last time. Who can blame Moses for being pragmatic and sticking to what worked? However, God was not impressed: “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”64
One of the outstanding distinctions between David, a man after God’s heart, and Saul, a man with a wayward heart65, was that David understood God’s creative ways. Where Saul assumed and guessed and took liberties, David learnt to inquire of the Lord. A great example of this is when David and his army squared off against the Philistines, not once but twice within a short period of time, in the Valley of Rephaim66.
On both occasions David enjoyed victory because on both occasions he “inquired of the Lord,” receiving different instructions for each incident. Had David assumed the strategy that secured victory on the first instance was the strategy he should use on the second occasion; his army would’ve been routed!
Consider too the deliberate lessons Jesus taught His disciples in sending them on apostolic mission. When He sent out the seventy, He explained, “I send you out as lambs among wolves” and then He instructed, “Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals”67. Jesus sent them empty-handed, vulnerable and barefoot into enemy territory to teach them dependency on Him alone. However, later Jesus gave them very different instructions.
First, He reminded them of the earlier lesson, asking: “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” When they replied, “Nothing,” Jesus then said: “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one”68. He was teaching them the importance of seeking the Lord’s will in every instance, avoiding the error of presumption.
Without question, one of God’s unchanging characteristics is His creativity.
23 Hebrews 13:8 24 Malachi 3:6 25 Psalm 144:1 26 John 7:37-39 27 Ezekiel 47:1-12 28 Ezekiel 37:1-10 29 John 3:8 30 Psalm 133:1-3 31 Acts 2:3 32 John 1:4 33 John 6:35 34 John 15:1-8
59 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 60 Matthew 9:27-31 61 John 9:1-7 62 Mark 8:22-26 63 Exodus 17:1-6 64 Numbers 20:1-13 65 1 Samuel 15:10-23 66 2 Samuel 5:17-25 67 Luke 10:3, 4 68 Luke 22:35, 36