“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). This verse is such an anchoring reassurance that God will never change. We can trust and rely on that eternal permanence of His attributes in the middle of any storm or crisis we experience in an ever-shifting world.

Yet it strikes me that there is a potential danger in assuming that whilst He is the same, that God will always do things in the same way. I’ve been meditating recently on Eliab, the elder brother of King David.  When Samuel was sent by God to anoint a new king, it must have been with great fear and trembling, for King Saul was still on the throne of Israel. I suspect that Samuel had a nickname in the nation – “Kingmaker”. For without Samuel’s specific anointing, no-one could be king. To anoint a replacement whilst the king was still alive was exceedingly dangerous, especially given Saul’s unpredictability. Yet it is always dangerous to base a precedent on only one instance, even though much of our Law is based on such one-time events.  Samuel fell into the trap of assuming that the characteristics of Saul would set the precedent for all future kings. Saul’s primary claim to kingship was quite extraordinary – he was the tallest man in Israel (1 Sam 9:2). Therefore, when Samuel is sent out to the home of Jesse to anoint a new king, it is not surprising that the first one presented was the firstborn of Jesse, namely Eliab. The reaction of Samuel?

“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord” (1 Sam 16:6)

 What assumption is Samuel making? That Eliab had similar physical characteristics to Saul, and would therefore be “the Lord’s anointed”. However, God immediately challenges this assumption:

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)

Samuel ultimately anoints Jesse’s youngest son, David, who had none of the physical attributes that Samuel was expecting, yet David’s heart was to prove worthy of the anointing.

You only have to glance at nature to realise that God is not interested in formulaic repetition. He delights in creating wonderful contours, wavy lines, and surprises of every kind. If there are 99 ways to do something, God will always create the 100th way, just to surprise you.

So whilst God remains faithful and “the same” in His attributes, never make the assumption that He will not change creatively in His methods. He delights in finding new ways to meet your needs, for only then will you begin to realise that God can make a way in the desert, light in the valley of the shadow of death, joy in the midst of suffering, and answers in the depths of turmoil. You can trust Him, but never assume that He is a predictable God.  As Mr Tumnus said to Lucy in The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe, “He’s not a tame lion…”


Lozenge moments…

  • What have you been assuming about God recently?
  • Is it true?
  • Is it valid?
  • How far are you willing to trust God today?

2 thoughts on “When Assumptions become Precedents…

  1. Really interesting and inspiring Pat. I related this to a situation I am facing at the moment. Helen, my friend and jobshare partner who I have worked with for 27years has handed in her resignation. Whilst it would be easy to say I couldn’t work with anyone else or look for someone just like her I believe this is an opportunity for God to show his creativity in finding someone or something out of the box or as you say surprising to embrace the situation and move the school forward with God at the centre. So thank you for your word. It motivates me xx

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