GOD’S WAYS: The biblical God is one who insists He will be seen in nature, and also is one who gives leave to chance (randomness) – he allows free will and injustice. So is He in control? The greatest point of contention between science and religion arises when believers insist God directly controls nature (like a puppeteer) while scientists insist that nature can run “on its own”. Which is right? According to the Bible, that divine control may be enigmatic. Even in those episodes when an omnipotent and active God is clearly in control, progress may not be smooth and direct. The most dramatic example of this is the Exodus. God led the Israelites by a pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire by night. Cloud and fire, around the clock, inform us that God was leading every step of the way. As they marched toward their goal of Mount Sinai, however, God had them change course and turn around and head back along part of the path they had just traversed (Ex 14:2). This placed the Israelites in great danger, as the sea now blocked their escape from army of the pursuing Egyptians. This reversal was not a divine afterthought. Rather it was part of God’s plan with several goals, one of which was to test the people’s trust even though their destruction seemed immanent. The general lesson was that even with God in charge, reversals are part of the biblical system be they in society or in nature. If we could see the entire scheme, we might know their reason, but lacking that we are asked to simply trust God. Now when the Israelites cried to God at the shore of the sea, a strong east wind started and blew all night (Ex 14:21), and dried the seabed. Why a wind, and why take all night to dry the seabed? If the divine plan was to use a wind, why not a spectacular blow, something miraculous drying the seabed in seconds? Then all the world would know that it was a miracle beyond question. But the wind seemed so natural, however, that we had to be told of its divine source (Ex 14:21). This was apparently God’s intent because choices would then have to be made. For the Israelites it was either trust in God or surrender to the Egyptians. For the Egyptians it was either to follow the Israelites or retreat back home. Had the wind been obviously supernatural, the decisions would have been predictable and free will would have been compromised. Instead, however, given a naturally appearing wind, Israel had to decide if this was really God’s work and if they were going to trust Him. Likewise the wind seemed so natural to the Egyptians that they followed the Israelites right onto the dried seabed, even after God had shown them His power through the plagues.
Such a natural world allows us to maintain our free will. Although God is indeed omnipotent, he has allowed us a measure of free will by which we make choices for which we are responsible. Not every extraordinary event in nature is labeled “miracle – made in heaven”. Sometimes we must read between the lines to see God’s hand and decide to simply trust Him for the outcomes.
Pascal said; “It has been God’s will to redeem men and open the way of salvation for those who seek it. Many, however, have shown no interest, so it is right for God to refuse to some, because of their hardness of heart, what he grants to others by a mercy to which they are not entitled. Since so many have ignored his mercy, he wished to deprive them of the good that they did not desire. It was, therefore, not right that he should appear before them in a manner that was obviously divine and absolutely bound to convince all mankind. Instead, wishing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart while remaining hidden from those who shun him with all their heart, God has given signs of himself which are visible to those who seek him and not by those who refuse to seek him. There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.” (Pensees 149-430) He also said “There is enough light to lighten the elect and enough obscurity to humiliate them. There is enough obscurity to blind the reprobate, and enough light to condemn them and deprive them of excuse.” (Pensees 236-578)
Understanding God !!!
Psalm 73 teaches us an important lesson about dealing with the tough and challenging questions about life; its unfairness, suffering, and evil. When we ask God WHY?, He usually does not answer in the terms we want – He does not write us a book, although He could write the best book on the problem of suffering and evil ever written. Instead, He shows us Himself – as in the case of Asaph in vs 13-16 (and also in the case of Job and Habbakkuk). If He were to allow us to question, it would never end, so He resolves everything by showing us Himself. If we let Him have His way, this satisfies us, because it has to; this is what is going to satisfy us forever in heaven – being in God’s presence. Even in human relationships, like a friend in the hospital, what they really want is a visit – your presence – not gifts of stuff. The real answer to suffering then is not an answer at all, it is Jesus Himself. It is not a bunch of words but The Word.
The heart of Christianity is not an opinion about God, such as a philosophy might reach, but rather a personal relationship with Him. What He offers to man’s apprehension in any specific revelation is not so much the “why” of events, but Himself – His presence. We can only receive God as a “presence”, not a specific content. Questions such as the “meaning of life” or the “why” of various life events and conditions which can frustrate us so much give way to a deep intuitive feeling or conviction (which grows as we mature in our relationship with God) of trust. This is the essence of our faith which makes such questions unimportant; I do not know the answers, but then the questions no longer seem very important.
Our finite minds continue to reach out to God for more understanding. At best, however, we are given to understand very little. We are instead told the “the just shall live by FAITH”. We live in a tiny corner of one of billions of galaxies for a duration of about 70 years in a universe which has existed for 15 billion years — what can we hope to really understand?? As Paul says in I Cor 13:12 “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” It requires an eternity to know infinity, and we cannot put the infinite ocean of God’s being into our tiny human bottles of theological speculations and experiences. But the inadequacy of our knowing should not discourage us, for when American Pastor Daniel Paling was asked what he knew about God, he responded “Very little, but what I do know has changed my life”.
Prov 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Prov 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
Prov 16:25 There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death
Is 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Job 38:1-15 “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed? Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place; That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment. And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken. Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth? Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all. Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof, That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof? Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great? Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war? By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth? Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder; To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man; To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth? Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?……………..
40:1-2 Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said, Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.
I Cor 13:12 “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
II Pet 3:8-9 “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Now consider what the Bible has to say about God’s ways concerning Christian values and priorities:
- We Are to Live by Faith Rather Than Knowledge
- WISDOM (see study notes on “Wisdom”); Consider the wisdom of the world vs the wisdom from God; we are to have a trusting and faith relationship with Christ
- FAITH (see study notes on “Faith”); Hab 2:4 (also Heb 10:38, Rom 1:17, Gal 3:11) teach us we are to live by faith – it is the essence of our lives in Christ. Also, Heb 11:1-29 gives us examples of faith; note re 11:6 that faith is necessary for us to please God.
- II Cor 4:4-6; True knowledge through faith
- We Are Called to be Obedient, Not Successful (as defined by the world)
- Power is Made Perfect in Weakness
II Cor 12:9-10 and Matt 20:25-28 (Christ’s example)
- Who Controls Our Minds ?
- Rom 8:5 Either we try to control our own minds or let Christ
- I Cor 2:16 As Christians, we have the “mind of Christ”
- II Cor 4:4-6 Satan has blinded our natural minds; we need help & the knowledge of God
- Finding Ourselves
Matt 10:39 – We can only find true life through Christ; we cannot find it on our own
- He Who Seeks to be First Must be Last
Mk 9:35 – If we are really willing to be last (humble ourselves and not be concerned over our own advancement, security, and prestige) and first serve others, our selfish goals and worries about these concerns evaporate and we can truly trust God and be free
We Are to be Constantly Growing: The Christian’s walk is a process of growth and maturing as described in the following;
Rom 12:2 We are to be transformed (a process)
II Cor 3:18, 5:17 Being transformed – a process
I Cor 1:18 “being saved” – a process with a guaranteed outcome
I Cor 3:2 “Infants” in Christ need to grow – a process
Eph 2:22 We are building God’s new temple; the church
Eph 4:11-16 Growth and maturity are an ongoing process
Phil 1:6 Complete (finalize) our salvation
Phil 2:12 Put our salvation into practice toward perfection
Heb 5:11-14 A maturing process is implied
Jas 1:2-4 Maturity is an ongoing process
I Jn 1:9 Continual cleansing is needed even for the saved
God’s glorification Matt 5:16, 7:16-20, John 14:12-14
Bearing fruit John 15:4-5
Created for good works Eph 2:10
Other Phil 2:13, James 1:22-25, 2:15-17
Titus 2:11-14, I Pet 2:9