A friend of mine prayed something that has stuck with me. She said God is not surprised. I’ve started using that phrase in my prayers as well because I think it’s an effective reminder of deeper theological truths.
To say that God is sovereign and eternal and omniscient are great things but sometimes it’s hard to get our minds around them. How do those things play out in my everyday existence?
Saying that God is not surprised is an effective way to bring those attributes down from the seminary classroom to our practical, everyday experience. If a person is surprised by something, that means they didn’t expect it to happen; they had no prior knowledge. To be surprised is to be caught off guard.
God is never caught off guard, He is never surprised. We never see in Scripture a picture of God wringing his hands, unsure of what to do. No, God is not reactive in this way, waiting for us to act and then coming up with a different plan. Yes, God responds to us and to our actions, but not in a way that cancels out his omniscience.
In 1 Samuel 13, Saul disobediently takes over the priestly role because Samuel hasn’t shown up. The result is that his kingdom is taken away from him. But pay attention to what Samuel says – “But now your kingdom will not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” 1 Samuel 13:14
The Lord has sought out a man. The Lord has commanded him. What tense are those verbs in? If you forgot your English grammar, do what I did and Google it. You’ll find those verbs are in the present perfect tense. That tense describes an action that began in the past and continues into the present.
God was not surprised by Saul’s disobedience. He wasn’t waiting to see what Saul would do and then rush around in reaction to that to cobble together a plan B.
It’s not my aim in this little post to dive into the depths and intricacies of omniscience, God’s relationship with time, and man’s responsibility versus God’s sovereignty. It’s definitely worth your time to dive into those deeper theological waters, but realize what this means for our everyday existence. It means we have a purposeful God. And his purposes will stand.
Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. Isaiah 46:8-11
Because he isn’t wringing his hands, because he is sitting on the throne, not pacing around the throne room, we can be assured, we can have confidence when we face hard things. Our God is in control. It means that when we’re surprised and disappointed by our children’s actions, God isn’t and those actions don’t have the last word. It means God isn’t surprised or caught off guard by a cancer diagnosis or a riot in the streets. He has purposes. And those purposes are good even in the suffering, the sin and the heartache. God wasn’t thrown off guard by Adam and Eve’s sin. He didn’t come up with a plan B after Joseph’s brothers threw him into the pit. He didn’t say, “Aw shucks, I wish Saul had worked out as king,” in response to Saul’s disobedience. He was in control throughout Jesus’ life and ministry and path to the Cross, accomplishing our salvation.
When I am tempted to panic, God isn’t, and that should change how I pray. Praise you Lord, that you are never surprised or caught off guard. You have good purposes and they will stand.