Irony: ˈī-rə-nē : incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.
I have come to believe that one of the most useful characteristics a person can have for seeing the work of God in this world is an appreciation of irony. Something is “ironic” when what occurs is exactly the opposite of what you would expect, or what one would think is best in that situation. And, of course, the most delicious irony is when in hindsight all things work out the best only when it occurs in that unexpected and ironic way.
Take, for instance, Joseph sold into slavery. Who could have imagined the salvation that God had in store for all Israel through that tragedy. Or, the diamond in the rough, David, the youngest and least experienced of Jesse’s sons. Is it possible that God would come in human form—and that as a poor, backwoods infant? And, of course, the greatest and most powerful irony of all is that true and abundant life comes through the most vicious and horrific deaths in history—the sacrifice of the Son of God.
I have been thinking along these lines in my study of Isaiah 11. Here we find God promising “a shoot from the stump of Jesse,” and “a branch from the Root of Jesse.” Even after the event, I still wonder, that marvelous tree, the Kingdom of David, why did God level it, cut it down, to bring forth the Messiah as a shoot? Couldn’t it have worked another way? Perhaps. But what irony! That God would once again, bring about salvation into this world, not ignoring our sin and suffering, but arising from it.
God had promised to David that his throne would never be empty. That one of David’s descendants would always reign in Jerusalem. Undoubtedly, David was tempted to think that this would mean a continuous line of sons who would rule when their fathers died. God, in his ironic way, however, faithfully and fully satisfied his promise to David, yet in a manner by which the whole world might be blessed. For he brought Jesus into this world, as a true descendant of David, yet as the Savior of the entire creation. We don’t have to be citizens of an earthly kingdom to be servants of the King of kings, part of Christ’s eternal Kingdom. We are servants now, because the Lord of the universe served us his own life in place of ours.
God’s grace is always unique, its always new, always surprising. Developing a sense of irony helps you see God at work, transforming the world as we know it, into the world as He knows it. May he grant to you greater vision into his love and grace. Henry
Henry Knapp is the associate pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Beaver, PA. He lives with his wife Kelly in Beaver, PA. They two children.
First Presbyterian Church is an Evangelical Presbyterian Church located in Beaver, PA. They have four worship services on campus, two that are more traditional and two that are more blended contemporary. They have active ministries for all ages.