God on a String
Jan 2, 2022 1129
When I was a little kid, I used to catch flies and put them on a string. I did, really! This was something my dad taught me. He learned to do it when he was small, growing up in post-civil war Spain. Back then the only toys or fun you had was what you made for yourself.
You basically get some sewing thread and make a tiny noose on the end. Then you have to catch a fly, and the bigger the better. Then you hold the fly by its wings and very carefully slip the loop in the thread over the fly’s head and tighten it just enough: not too tightly! None of this was easy. It was very difficult for little fingers and took a long time.
If it all worked, you had a fly on a string! It would fly around as you held the other end of the thread. If you were lucky, it would fly around for a long time, before its head fell off. I’m sorry. I did try to warn you!
Most people want to have God on a string.
But more seriously, it’s true that most people want to have God on a string too! We find it reflected in the Gospel of Matthew. The context here is that Jesus is pointing out that many people didn’t accept the ministry of John the Baptist because he lived a sober life and didn’t go to parties. But on the other hand, they also rejected him – that’s Jesus – because he went to feasts and drank. So can you see that they were inconsistent?
You see, the issue was that they wanted God’s messengers to live and behave in a certain way that they defined, according to their stereotypes. They wanted God on a string, so they could pull the strings, and he could dance to their tune! That’s exactly what Jesus said to the people:
16 “To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends,
17 ‘We played wedding songs,
and you didn’t dance,
so we played funeral songs,
and you didn’t mourn.’
18 For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.” (Matt 11:2-19).
Be prepared to be perpetually surprised, and even utterly amazed by God.
Jesus here represents the people as playing music and expecting Jesus to dance to their tune. For many centuries they had expected a Saviour to come: the Messiah. But Jesus didn’t come from where they expected the Messiah would come from. He didn’t look how they expected the Messiah should look. He didn’t live the way they expected the Messiah would do. And he didn’t do the things that they expected a Messiah would do.
The Jewish people were looking for an earthly Messiah, who would come from some important family, who would be of majestic appearance, who would obey their laws as they understood them, and who would literally take the throne of David, and drive the Romans out, freeing them from oppression and restoring the nation to greatness. They wanted to be the puppet-masters and pull the strings. But Jesus was none of those things. You can’t have God on a string.
What about you and your life? What are the things you want God to do for you on this earth? What if God has other plans for you? Are you still prepared to trust and follow him, or is your religion based on you having God on a string?
If you believe that God is really God, then be prepared to be perpetually surprised, and not just surprised, but in the end, utterly amazed and delighted.