Suddenly. That thing that happens without warning, an abrupt change in a situation.
“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.Malachi 3:1
These words were written by Malachi, a prophet writing 400 years before the birth of Christ. He wrote to a people expecting the Messiah to come; they read the prophecies and looked forward to a deliverer. But in their waiting they had grown apathetic and insincere in their worship of God. The excitement of the promised Messiah grew dull and distant. Yet the prophet reminds them that the one they are seeking would come suddenly! It is a call to be alert!
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying…Luke 2:13
The shepherds did not expect for their night to be interrupted by a host of angels singing to announce the birth of Jesus. This took them by surprise. The proclaimed event had been in the works for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Yet the fulfillment came suddenly. It surprised them.
Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.Acts 2:2
A few days prior to this event, the disciples heard Jesus say they would receive the Holy Spirit and with it, power. That’s all he says. So they go back to Jerusalem. Did they know what they were waiting for or when it would come? I don’t know, but scripture says it came suddenly. Jesus spoke many times about the Holy Spirit coming to them, but it took them by surprise. And they were never the same.
More than once in the book of Acts, something happened suddenly: an angel whisking Philip away from the eunuch, prison doors opening, chains falling away from feet and hands, bright lights blinding. Sometimes an angel appeared, other times there was none.
I find myself facing a conundrum. It seems God best work is in long range planning and while at the same time, appearing quite suddenly. If he continues to work today as he has in the past, we can expect to be surprised. How will I be surprised? Do I have the faith to see it? Have I lost hope that God is at work in the events of today? Do I fail to see his handiwork in all that is happening?
But for today and for this time in history, I believe there is a precedent set that God works in events even when we can’t see it. He moves all the pieces into place and suddenly makes his move. He might even send an angel. And I am okay with that.