If Walls Could Talk: Great Expectations

It’s the day before school starts. Your seven year old suddenly has a queasy tummy. “So… what do you expect?” Your 15 year old daughter’s latest boyfriend seems like a potential star on TV’s revival of The Weakest Link. She comes home and tells you he lost his 3rd summer job the other day. You look at her and say, (all) “So… what do you expect?” You’re up for a raise, but the boss seems not-so-keen on you. The answer’s no.  (all) “So… what do you expect?” Hardly anybody ever asks that… for information. It’s more of a comment, or commentary. It almost always comes when things go poorly and a bad end seems predictable from the start. BUT, what if you asked, really asked, and really meant it? What DO we expect? Our Bible wants to know, from Joshua to Jesus. God knows, much depends on how we answer.

Both of today’s lessons are loaded with expectation. They show us: what we expect makes all the difference, here to hereafter. (all) “So… what do you expect?” What do you expect when what lies ahead just seems impossible? ‘When what you have done, or can do seems just-not-enough? ‘When you’ve waited and waited, or prayed and prayed (or both) and it’s just not happenin’? Friends, what do you expect when faith seems like a pipe dream and hope seems like a hollow promise? There are lessons to be learned when we and our faith feel up against the wall. And expectation holds the key.

Now, what if walls could talk? Especially the Bible’s walls. None more famous than the walls of Jericho and the walls of Jerusalem. The Temple’s in particular. What could they tell us about standing against, and standing for expectation? Why not ask them? O, let’s!

Jumpin’ Jericho, what was it ‘really pulled those great walls down?

And what’s all that got to do with us?  One way to say it. It was all a matter of whom expected what. It often is, right on down to us. Coming’ south to north in Palestine, Jericho stands at the land’s natural entrance. Traders, travelers, robbers and invaders have used it for centuries. When old Israel in the wilderness sends her spies to scout out the Promised Land it’s to Jericho they come. Tall thick walls. Smooth glacis you couldn’t climb. Big brave souls on watch. But from Rahab the Harlot, those spies get both protection

and the scoop. The leaders fear for their lives. They’ve heard about the God who wrested Israel from Pharaoh and the ruckus at the Red Sea. They expect defeat. The people expect the soldiers to save them and the soldiers expect the walls to protect them. What they never expect is that faith (Israel’s faith) can overcome them. The walls can tell you. “We just stood there, caught in between.” (Walls, even ours, are often just silent witnesses to the battle of belief with unbelief, with no real power of their own.)

Well, let’s go up to Jericho with Joshua and the rest, and see what walls can show and tell. Those look-out towers spy old Joshua, up before the sun. “‘Rose in the dark,” (we too, as to what the day might bring) He doesn’t go to Starbucks or 7-11 for coffee. ‘Doesn’t read the Times, Jericho, Washington or New York. No Palates or Morning Joe on MSNBC. He prays, 1st thing. ‘Asks what to expect of the Lord. He tells the trumpeters to tune and the marchers to march, once around the city… six days straight. (Maybe it was God, not mom, 1st to teach, “If at 1st you don’t succeed….) On the 7th day, same thing. Up Early. Pray. Play those trumpets. March. 1ce, 2ce, 6x, 7! Oh, shout, too. Shout this! Shout, “For the Lord has [already!] given us the city!” “What?” the walls shout back. “We’re still here!” And the tower watchmen cried out, “Amen!” But Joshua’s been told the walls will fall, and he believes! He expects! He knows in his heart, “FAITH is the assurance (not the vague or sentimental yearning) of things hoped for, the conviction (the unwavering of spirit that invests every effort and commitment) of/to things not [yet] seen.” Don’t miss this. Israel shouts, shouts mind you, not as though they want Jericho, but because they believe it’s already theirs! Just because God has said so. Oh, those walls could tell us. “We didn’t tumble because they threatened to undo us, or played their tricky trumpets. We just couldn’t stand up to the expectation that God has already won, long before the battle seems begun!” So they fell like lumps of lead, crumbled like crackers cupped in the hand of Heaven!

So what, so far as we’re concerned? The lessons, if you please, clear as 1, 2, 3. Lesson 1: When impenetrable walls/unshakable obstacles lie in front of you: get up in your darkness, doubt and distress… and go to God 1st! He is not, “When all else fails, but where all victories begin!” #2. Keep prayin’. Do as directed. Repeat yourself! Even God needs to. Not that God requires your effort to succeed (it’s not on you); it’s that God empowers your faith as God brings God’s wonders-to-behold. #3 Expect miracles, because God has already made them. But expect them in God’s time, not yours. It might take 13 X through the tune before your walls & woes come a tumblin’ down. But just keep shoutin’, 'cause the deed’s already done. Simple truths, but not easy. So… what do you expect?

Witness Simeon, in the days of Jesus-the-infant-King! Get this. An OLD soul & an itty-bitty infant 8 days old. Simeon has been to the Temple, day upon day, year upon year. Right-living and right-believing. (Lots of you are like that!) Devout: not just talkin’ the faith, but eagerly growing in it. (Many here could amen this, too.)  ‘Looking for the consolation (peace/comfort/ saving) God has shown and promised (as to Joshua long ago). How often he’s been disappointed! Hurt. Maybe angered. Felt abandoned. (Does that sound at all like you sometimes? You fill in the times..!) But Simeon’s still here. Still prayin’. If walls could talk, the Temple’s might have cried, “Not you again!” when Simeon prays for what he’ll see before he’s died. So, on one hand, Simeon. On the other, baby Jesus, brought by parents inspired of the Spirit. Why? Because they expect God to do as God has promised. So… what do you expect? And they offer back what God has given. (Like Joshua’s Israel saving for God all the gold and silver.) And Simeon “took him up”. ‘Embraces and offers in one sweeping gesture (like nothing that comes to us of God can be withheld from God). “Now my eyes have seen,” he says. “‘Seen what my faith already and wholeheartedly expected.” “Light for all (in so dark a time), glory to those who know what to expect (Israel)! And a way to test those who keep expecting from those who keep rejecting.” We can only wonder if the Temple’s walls themselves don’t say, “I’ve seen it all now!”  So what, so far as we’re concerned? #1. Keep watchin’ for what God has promised, rather than focus on what the day does not provide? (How many babies does Simeon hold who are not the one? How many would-be Saviors have we embraced who were not, either?)  #2. Never take to heart what you can’t offer to God (as worthy), or withhold what God has given for your heart to hold.

Ahh, if walls could talk, holy walls, these walls, here’s what they’d say: Great Expectations: ours, from God! Rise up and praise him!

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