My friend Matthew Clark recently did a house concert in my living room, and as he introduced one of his songs, he noted that in the Old Testament, the promises of God often prompt the imagination of His hearers. God has a way of making promises to His people that are completely beyond their experience. To Abram, who knew nothing but childlessness, God promised a child (Gen. 15:2-4). To the slaves who came out of hardship and want in Egypt, He promised a land flowing with milk and honey (Exod. 3:8). To the Israelites in exile, God promised a home (Jer. 29:10-14).
This tendency of God often cast the prophets into the role of the crazy man, the one everybody half-feared and half-mocked. Of course what they were saying wasn’t true! How could it be? They were talking of cities built and ruled by God where no one would need swords anymore when Jerusalem was under threat from the nations around it (Is. 2). But over and over again the words God spoke through these crazy men came true—Israel won the Promised Land, the exiles returned to Jerusalem, and the Messiah was born of a virgin, with no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him (Is. 53:2-3).
How often now do we doubt the promises of God? How often do we wonder whether He will really be all He promises to be?
How often, when we are struggling with what we know—our financial troubles or our family conflicts or our failing relationships—do we think that there is nothing beyond the experiences that surround us?
And yet God’s promises prompt our imaginations:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1)
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39)
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
I love that Jesus’ words to Martha at the tomb of her brother Lazarus in John 11 finish with a question. Jesus makes a mind-blowing claim—that HE is the resurrection and everyone who lives and believes in Him will never die—and He finishes it with a simple question: “Do you believe this?”
He prompts the imagination with a promise—and then He invites us to step through the looking glass and join Him in the world He’s called us to imagine.
There is no
Life I know
To compare with
You’ll be free
If you truly wish to be.
-“Pure Imagination,” Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory