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Deus Ex Machina

The door to days of summer closed at last with a harsh, metallic snick. Time to face the facts. We’ve now stepped into the closing quarter of the calendar year, and harvest, on every front, is upon us. Here in Alberta, it’s impossible to miss the fervor as farmers race to get their precious crops off the land and into the bins before the first snow flies. Dust plumes fill the air, marking the venerable progress of combines in the fields. These are literally ‘Deus Ex Machina', the unlikely, mechanical intervention that will swoop in and gather what seems to be impossible quantities of precious barley, wheat, canola or soy into provincial coffers.

On a parallel level, we’ve arrived at the moment to take stock, assessing whether or not our efforts have yielded according to expectation. Harvest is a tricky juncture – you’ve got to hold your hopes and expectations at bay while you flail the land, the orchard, the business or even the Church for your projected harvest. This is not a sure thing, not a done deal. Last-second course changes and on-the-fly tactics are usually required. It’s court-press vigilance and diligence to the last lap. Take nothing for granted.

There’s no denying it – this has been an extraordinary year. 2019 burst out of the gate with all the subtlety of the bulls running in Pamplona. Colors were glaringly bright, the volume and energy on overdrive and prophetic lights flashing neon green and shouting ‘Go Go Go!’. In all the clamor, you didn’t really have a choice; keep pace, or get run over. When ‘boldness’ is your watchword, there is no room for hesitation. I determinedly set all inhibition aside took the bit between my teeth. The past nine months have been a campaign of bastion-storming, so is it surprising that when you suddenly stand still your head might be whirling a little? Conclusion: some people are born for the fast lane. They love the roller-coaster ride of the unknown. I am not one of them. As I close in on the final tasking for the year, I’m elated to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re finally seeing results.

This feeling is bringing to mind an empathetic moment with the prophet Elijah, and his epic confrontation of the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). Speaking of dramatic times and Deus Ex Machina, this example can hardly be bested. After 3 ½ years of famine and hiding out in caves from Jezebel on the hunt, Elijah takes his stand. It took a lot of guts to put himself out there, on the word of God’s assurance alone against a wall of enemies. Indeed, in the spectacular culmination, fire fell from heaven, confirming God’s presence and sovereignty, but let’s not forget all the labor that went into it! There was altar building; digging, scraping, stone-piling and finally pouring out the last of the water resources before the grand finale. The prophet’s calm prayers garnered a passionate response from the Lord, a massive vindication, but even then, it still wasn’t over! Big black thunderstorms loomed, punctuating the overwhelming victory and sweeping the over-taxed prophet into a run for Jezreel. He even beat the king in his chariot!

In ancient Greek or Roman theatre, it was perfectly legitimate to employ a device such as introducing a god (lowered on a crane, no less) into the action of the drama as deliverer to the situation where the outcome seemed undecided or tragically inevitable. Even today, we coin the phrase to describe works of fiction or entertainment where events take so unlikely a turn to a happy ending that they seem forced upon the flow of the story. Anything artificial that brings order to chaos in a superimposed way is usually described by critics as being ‘Deus Ex Machina’; a dubious maneuver, decidedly sub-standard.

This Elijah event, so long ago, still confirms to us the Almighty’s unfailing watch over all, initiating the action, directing the moves, encouraging the players and finally, stepping in for the awesome culmination. Isaiah describes this very thing with the broadest of vivid strokes.

Moreover the multitude of your foes Shall be like fine dust, And the multitude of the terrible ones Like chaff that passes away; Yes, it shall be in an instant, suddenly. You will be visited by the Lord of hosts With thunder and earthquake and great noise, With storm and tempest And the flame of devouring fire. The multitude of all the nations who fight against Ariel (Israel), Even all who fight against her and her fortress, And distress her, Shall be as a dream of a night vision. Isaiah 29:5-7 NKJV

This time epitomizes the wonderful paradox of tranquility in the midst of madness. As kids, we loved to clamber up on that great churning beast of the combine as Dad circled the field, and the grain poured into the hopper like water. There was large metal section over the churning cylinder, where it was perfect to stretch out and enjoy a front-row seat on the action. There was something unspeakably magical about being under the stars in the cool of the night with the warmth of the deafening metal monster at your back. In the middle of the frenetic race to beat the elements, we nestled, absorbing the action of man, machinery, the land and the night.

But the Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome One. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper. Their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten. Jeremiah 20:11 NKJV

The Lord is not Deus Ex Machina: He’s Deus Ex Organisma; God in you, who enters every situation through those who are born again. He choses to work very organically, bringing the unlikely victory through the humblest of agents. Watch what He does, in you and your circumstances as the chapters of this vivid year come to a dramatic denounment!

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