The Hell of a Predictable Situation vs. the Joy of an Unpredictable One

July 13, 2019

Acts 7:37-43 (NIV)

“This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’ He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.

“But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:

“‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
    forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek
    and the star of your god Rephan,
    the idols you made to worship.
Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.


I remember once in my law school years, we sat mired neck deep in Article 3 of the Uniform Commercial Code. The professor rolled on at ninety miles an hour through seemingly endless permutations of commercial transactions and secured liens and on and on. All these laws worked together, precise in their particularity, with the force of an impenetrable logic. All of a sudden the professor brought his lecture to a screeching halt. After a long pause, he put the legal code on the table in front of him and spoke these words I will forever remember,

“In law as in life, a single page of history is worth more than five thousand pages of logic.”

Something clicked, and in that moment, a clarity came over me concerning the power of precedent. No matter how predictable the law may be, people will always be unpredictable. At the same time, no matter how unpredictable people may be, the one certainty is they will break the law.

At this point the story, I think Stephen essentially says something to this effect, “The best predictor of future performance is the precedent of past performance.” Stephen does not appeal to logic here. He gives them a page out of their history. Stephen appeals to the history he shared with his hearers when he says, “Our ancestors.” He reminds them of what happened in the wilderness when they “rejected [God] and turned in their hearts back to Egypt.” He reminded them of how the golden calf led them all the way to the exile of Babylon. Stephen appeals to them, “CAN WE PLEASE NOT REPEAT THE PAST AGAIN?!” (Although in his mind he knows how this one is going to go.)

So what’s the bottom line here? I know it seems like I am a “binary” kind of guy (i.e. two choices), but it’s hard to argue with Scripture. In life we get two choices: Worship or idolatry. And truth be told, idolatry is worship; just of the wrong god. Worship of the true and living God happens when we vulnerably trust in the certainty of God for the unpredictability of the future. Idolatry happens when we seize control of the present scenario and attempt to manipulate it to the end of the future we think is best. We crave a certain outcome when all we need is the certainty of God, but to have the certainty of God requires we risk the vulnerability of trust. That’s what faith is.

My friend and mentor, Maxie Dunnam, puts it this way: “Most people prefer the hell of a predictable situation than risk the joy of an unpredictable one.”

Think about that today. Ask yourself some harder questions this week, like, “Where is my security rooted? What am I trusting?” Abilities? Wealth? Connections? Jesus? Remember, their history is our history. Without decisive action to break the cycle of the precedent of history, we relegate ourselves to repeat it.

I’ll issue what I call a “challenge by choice” today. Put more money in the offering today at church than you think you can afford. No pressure, no shame if you don’t. Consider it a “golden” opportunity of faith.




Do you tend to be a person who vulnerably trusts that God is controlling your life and future or do you tend toward needing to be in control of your life and future yourself?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

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