by Doy Moyer
"Look, you scoffers,
marvel and vanish away,
because I am doing a work in your days,
a work that you will never believe,
even if someone were to explain it to you" (Acts 13:41).
Paul quoted this from Habakkuk 1:5. In Habakkuk’s context, the sins of the people had reached a point where God would bring judgment upon them. Habakkuk asked about it, and God told him that what was about to happen (using the Chaldeans to judge) would be something he wouldn’t believe. How could God use a wicked nation like Babylon to judge his own people? Unbelievable. But that’s exactly what he did.
God does not conform to our expectations. If we cannot live with that, then we can never accept what comes next.
Fast forward to the time of the preaching of the gospel. Paul preaches the death, resurrection, and kingship of Christ. The manner in which God accomplished salvation through Christ was, as in Habakkuk’s day, unbelievable. And it served as a warning to those who rejected the message. If we expect God to act according to the way we think he ought, and then we reject him when he doesn’t conform to our thoughts, then we can only expect that “what is said in the prophets” would happen to us.
God’s ways and thoughts are not ours. If we are not humble enough to accept that, then our own arrogance will get in the way of what comes next.
Paul’s point in I Corinthians 1-2 falls right in line here. The cross was a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. God has accomplished something through Christ that is unbelievable to mere human rationale. We wouldn’t do it this way.
Yet that is part of what makes the gospel message so amazing. It’s not a story concocted in the minds of Jews or Gentiles. I could not have dreamed this up and neither could you. It’s a story they wouldn’t believe. A Jewish peasant from an obscure place in Galilee is crucified as a criminal (the most shameful, humiliating death imaginable), then raised from the dead and proclaimed Savior of the world? For so many, this is “a work that you will never believe, even if someone were to explain it to you.”
It’s only from the mind of God that salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus could be accomplished. Tell the story. Many won’t believe it because it doesn’t fit their rational categories. But when all the dust settles, all the options considered, there is really only one place to land.
God did a work that may be unbelievable on the surface, but it is in demonstration of his love and power. It will have its scoffers as it always has, but scoffers pass on and vanish. The Gospel remains. Who and what will you trust?