Throughout human history, God has always had expectations of people. He has imposed requirements on individuals and groups, whether large or small. Every person has had (and still has) the duty to fulfill the role of a faithful servant to God, whatever the service entails. Not everyone has reacted rightly in fulfilling that role of unworthy servant (cf. Luke 17:10). At times in the past, God approached certain people with highly specialized missions and, even then, reactions varied.
Remember the Lord’s remarkable appearance to Moses in the form of a burning bush? God said, “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exod. 3:10, ESV). Moses’ reacted with reluctance in the extreme, trying every tack that came to mind for getting out from under the obligation. Moses tried to explain to God that he was not the right man for the job (v. 11). Moses denied that anyone would listen to him (Exod. 4:1). Moses thought his lack of eloquence should disqualify him from the role (v. 10). As, one by one, the Lord shot down every excuse he tried to float, Moses finally said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else” (v. 13). Moses was reluctant (to say the least), but God was not taking “no” for an answer. And we remember Moses for what he became after he got past his initial hesitation.
If Moses’ first reaction is less than commendable, there is one even worse. God tasked Jonah with the words, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me” (Jon. 1:2). The next verse says “Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” This was nothing shy of outright rebellion against divine command. Unlike Moses, Jonah did not offer excuses. Rather, with appalling temerity, he ran with all speed in the opposite direction. Yet, such rebellious response was not allowed to stand, and the Lord prepared a great fish to the swallowing of the defiant prophet, after which Jonah carried out the assignment as first given. God could use Jonah to accomplish his will, in spite of the latter’s awful attitude.
When the angel, Gabriel, appeared to Mary with incredible news that she would become mother to “the Son of the Most High,” the young virgin’s response was, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary reacted with resignation, which is defined as “an accepting, unresisting attitude…submission; acquiescence” (dictionary.com). In great contrast to Jonah’s refusal, and much preferred to Moses’ reluctance, Mary’s reaction was nothing short of ideal. God gave her a role to fulfill, and she accepted with the heart of a humble servant.
Today, God does not contact us through a burning bush, or an audible voice, or a conversation with Gabriel. Rather, God calls everyone alike—that is, through the message of the gospel, as recorded in the New Testament (cf. Acts 17:30; 2 Thess. 2:14). Even so, and perhaps not too surprisingly, people’s reactions are still the same! A reading of Acts 17:32-34 reveals that, after Paul’s magnificent sermon in Athens, “some mocked,” thus reacting with rebellion. Others who heard Paul said, “We will hear you again about this,” thus reacting with reluctance. Finally, “some men joined him and believed,” thus reacting with resignation to the truthfulness of the apostle’s message. God has a role for you to fulfill as a faithful Christian. What’s your reaction?