God Wants to Amaze You
‘The Eagle has landed,’ said Neil Armstrong. President Nixon, watching the events on television, described it as ‘one of the greatest moments of our time’. The Pope greeted the news by exclaiming, ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to men of good will!’ At 3:56 am on 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder from the Eagle and onto the moon’s surface. ‘That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,’ he said, as he became the first man to walk on the moon. Due to the recent invention of television, this remarkable event was the first of such historic significance to be seen so widely and known so immediately. The whole world watched with *awe and amazement*. James Irwin, another astronaut who walked on the moon, said, ‘Jesus walking on the earth is *more important* than man walking on the moon.’ When people saw what Jesus did, their response was awe and amazement: ‘Everyone was *amazed*… They were filled with *awe*’ (Luke 5:26).
Stand in awe and amazement at the choice of God
Do you ever stand in awe and amazement at the sort of people God chooses? Whereas the world tends to be impressed by people of ‘wealth’ (v.16) and ‘power’ (v.17), it is not so with God. ‘God chose the foolish... the weak... the lowly... the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him’ (1 Corinthians 1:27–29). God chooses:
1. The unassuming
‘The meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace’ (Psalm 37:11). Meek does not mean weak, spineless or feeble. It is the word used of Moses (Numbers 12:3, RSV). Jesus described himself as meek (Matthew 11:29, RSV). It means gentle, considerate and unassuming.
It is the opposite of being arrogant and self-seeking. It is the word used of a horse that has been ‘broken’, that is, tamed. It means strength under control. Jesus seems to be quoting this verse when he said, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth’ (Matthew 5:5).
2. The poor and needy
God is concerned for ‘the poor and the needy’ (Psalm 37:14). Those who treat them badly are ‘wicked’ in God’s eyes: ‘Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous’ (vv.16–17).
3. The persecuted
The theme of these verses in Psalm 37 is that the wicked plot against the righteous. As the psalmist contrasts the ‘righteous’ and the ‘wicked’, it is not that they are merely two separate categories of people, but one is proactive in its hostility to the other: ‘Bad guys have it in for the good guys’ (v.12, MSG).
These verses remind us that it is not for us to retaliate if we are persecuted because God has it all under control and he will ensure that justice is done in the end. We do not need to take revenge into our own hands (see Romans 12:17–21).
Lord, I stand in awe and amazement at the people you choose. Help me to see people as you see them – not by the world’s standards but with your eyes.
Look with awe and amazement at the ministry of Jesus
Have you wondered how people must have felt when they saw Jesus perform a miracle? His ministry led to amazement and awe: ‘Everyone was amazed... They were filled with awe’ (v.26). The Amplified version captures this sense of excitement: ‘An overwhelming astonishment and ecstasy seized them all, and they recognised and praised and thanked God; and they were filled with and controlled by reverential fear and kept saying, We have seen wonderful and strange and incredible and unthinkable things today!’ (v.26, AMP).
1. Healing the sick
Even in the ministry of Jesus there seemed to be ebbs and flows in terms of healing. Sometimes, when there was unbelief, Jesus healed fewer people (Matthew 13:58). At other times, as we read here, ‘The power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal those who were ill’ (Luke 5:17).
2. Forgiving sins
We tend to find healings amazing. But we can take the forgiveness of sins rather for granted. Jesus demonstrates here that forgiveness is even more amazing and awesome than healing. He first forgives the man’s sin (v.20) and then shows that he has the authority to do so by healing him (v.24). Forgiveness was the priority.
3. Reading people
Jesus read their minds. He knew what they were thinking in their hearts (v.22). To forgive those who have sinned against others is something only God can do. When Jesus claimed the authority to forgive the sins of those who had sinned against others, in their hearts they accused him of ‘blasphemy’ (v.21a), ‘Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ (v.21b).
In a sense they were right; Jesus was claiming the authority of God to forgive sins. No wonder ‘the people rubbed their eyes, incredulous – and then also gave glory to God. Awestruck, they said, “We’ve never seen anything like that!”’ (v.26, MSG).
4. Choosing outcasts
Jesus’ choice of Levi the tax collector as his follower was amazing. He chose an outcast. But he made the right choice. Levi ‘got up, left everything and followed him’ (v.28). He then gave a great banquet for Jesus at his house and a large crowd came. Levi was clearly an influential leader. People were fascinated by what had happened to him and wanted to meet Jesus.
Jesus’ choice was shocking and startling. Whenever I go into prisons, I see that Jesus is still calling as his followers people who are rejected by society, and I am filled with awe and amazement.
5. Befriending sinners
Once again Jesus amazed people. They asked, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and “sinners”?’ (v.30). Jesus replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’ (vv.31–32).
This is the heart of the good news for all of us. Joyce Meyer writes about this passage; ‘So often we feel we must hide our weaknesses and always pretend we are strong and in need of nothing… [but] we all have weaknesses and inabilities… Jesus came for those who were sick (needy) not those who were healthy (not needy) … Go ahead and be needy. Tell God everything you need. He already knows anyway and is waiting for you to ask for help.’
Lord, thank you that you are the same yesterday, today and forever. I ask that your power would be present to heal the sick. May people be struck with awe and amazement as they see you continuing to do remarkable things.
Meditate in awe and amazement at the wonder of forgiveness
We have a tendency to take forgiveness for granted. The poet Heinrich Heine once said, ‘Dieu me pardonnera. C'est son métier.’ (God will forgive me. It is his job.) In one sense, nothing could be further from the truth. Sin has a very high cost (16:38). Many of the things we read about in the Old Testament strike us as ‘awful’ in the sense that they seem to be appalling.
However, another sense of the word ‘awful’ is ‘filled with awe’. One dictionary definition of ‘awful’ is ‘worthy of or commanding profound respect or reverential fear or wonder… solemnly impressive, sublimely majestic’.
The language in this passage shows the seriousness of sin – its cost and the reaction of God to it: ‘Wrath has come out from the Lord’ (v.46). God is not pleased at, for example, ‘constant grumbling’ (17:5).
Sin required atonement (16:46). There was a need for redemption (18:15–16). Sprinkling of blood was required (v.17). The setting up of the Levitical priesthood was necessary to foreshadow and prepare the way for Jesus, the great high priest, whose blood was sprinkled and who made atonement to redeem us from our sins (Hebrews 4:14; 12:24; 2:17).
Unless you understand the seriousness of sin and the Old Testament background, which shows the difficulty and complication of receiving forgiveness, you will not understand how wonderful, awesome and amazing God’s forgiveness is. Forgiveness is not automatic, but it is made possible by Jesus. As you meditate on what God has done you should be filled with wonder, awe and amazement.
Lord, thank you that through Jesus’ death and resurrection I can know that I am forgiven. Thank you that I live in the age of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for how the events of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit have transformed my life and transformed this world. May the eyes of the whole world be opened to see these remarkable events with *awe* and *amazement*.
It is not always easy to bring our friends to Jesus. It takes perseverance, persistence, prayer and even thinking outside the box (or, in this case, the roof!)
Joyce Meyer, *The Everyday Life Bible*, (Faithwords, 2018) p.1615. Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790. Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org) Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. Scripture quotations marked \[RSV\] are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.