Devo 23

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:9

Have you ever heard verses like the one above used to explain why we can’t understand hard texts in scripture?  Or how about this one?

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God.” Deuteronomy 29:29

What about the statement that we are too much influenced by the Enlightenment and that we need to read scripture with a Jewish mindset which was more accepting of mystery?

We might call it an acceptance of mystery.  Jesus called it spiritual blindness and rejection of what the prophets clearly foretold.

Just look at how that Deuteronomy text continues.  

BUT the things that are REVEALED belong to us and to our children forever, THAT WE MAY DO ALL THE WORDS OF THIS LAW.”  Moses then reiterates to the Israelites the blessing that would be theirs if they called to mind the commandments and the “statutes that are written in this Book of the Law” and the curse that would be theirs if they did not.  And then he makes this stunning statement in Deuteronomy 30:11-14,

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is NOT IN HEAVEN, that you should say, ‘who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it  to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  NEITHER IS IT BEYOND THE SEA, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hearit and do it?’  But the word is very near you.   It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do It.”  

Is Moses not saying that what the Lord has revealed in His word, He has not made unattainable to the understanding of His people? 

If the first 5 books of the Bible were meant to be understood by God’s people so that they would obey them, why are we so quick to dismiss other portions as too mysterious for human comprehension?

Now just listen to the rest of Isaiah 55:9!  The very next verses read,

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth  and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, SO SHALL MY  WORD BE THAT GOES OUT FROM MY MOUTH;  IT SHALL NOT RETURN TO ME EMPTY,  BUT IT SHALL ACCOMPLISH  THAT WHICH I PURPOSE, AND  SHALL SUCCEED IN THE THING FOR WHICH I SENT IT.

God has sent us much more than a mystery.  He has sent us a manna -filled, purpose-succeeding Divine REVELATION!  Do you know why?

So that we would recognize in that revelation the life-giving glory of His Son, Jesus Christ.

AND SO THAT WE WOULD RENDER HIM THE WORSHIP HE IS DUE!

Oh, dear brothers and sisters, can’t you see that every time you relegate a “hard text” to the category of “unattainable mystery,” you are robbing God of the exaltation that He so deserves?

Just go back to the last post and read the texts for this week.  All of them proclaim the infinite “high-ness” of God’s thoughts and ways. 

In fact the whole Bible is the particular REVELATION OF HIS THOUGHTS AND HIS WAYS to ALL mankind concerning His son, Jesus Christ, by which WE MIGHT BE SAVED!  And where else was the magnitude of His high-ness and other-ness more on display than on the cross?

When Psalm 37:5,6 proclaims that God’s steadfast love extends to the heavens, His faithfulness to the clouds, His righteousness like the mountains, and His judgements like the deep.  Where else was the extent of His love, faithfulness, righteousness, and judgement more clearly seen than on the cross?

And again in Psalm 103:11,12 the Psalmist proclaims that not only is God’s steadfast love “as high as the heavens are above the earth” but also that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.”  How was that removal of transgressions accomplished but through the cross?

Read 1 Corinthians 2.  Yep.  The whole chapter.  I know this violates every rule in the blogosphere but it really is THAT important.  

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”

Did you catch that?  Yes, there is a secret and hidden wisdom of God which was so misunderstood by those willing to write all the hard stuff off as a mystery that they “crucified the Lord of glory!”  And yes, no-one can comprehend the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God… but we have the Spirit who was from God THAT WE MIGHT UNDERSTAND THESE SPIRITUAL TRUTHS AND INTERPRET THEM!

It is this Spirit that enables Paul in Ephesians to address mystery after mystery with confidence and clarity.  In every instance the mystery itself is accompanied by an assurance that it CAN BE UNDERSTOOD!

God lavished His grace “upon us in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will (1:8,9).”  “This mystery was made known to me by revelation…when you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ (3:3,4).”  “It has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs (3:5,6).”  Grace was given to Paul to preach and “bring to light for everyone the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known (3:9,10).”  About the profound mystery of marriage Paul says confidently that it refers to Christ and the church (5:32).  He closes by asking for prayer that he would proclaim boldly the mystery of the gospel (6:19).  

Now, just listen to Paul’s prayer for the church in the same letter:

“[May] the Father of glory give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you (1:17,18).”  

Please, I urge you, when you come to a text you don’t understand, dig deeper, pray harder for enlightenment. In those depths you will only find more reason to worship the crucified and risen Christ.  The one who has been made spiritually alive need not settle for mystery.  For WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST!  Let us use it to see Him more clearly, know Him more deeply, and render Him more fervently the glory due His Name!

Week 23

Memory Verse: Isaiah 55:9

Reading #1: Psalm 36

Questions:  Right after the description of the height of God’s love, faithfulness, righteousness and judgment in verses 5 & 6, what promises of His provision are we given in verses 7-9?

Reading #2: Psalm 57

Questions:  Both Psalm 36 and 57 describe God and His ways as being higher than the heavens and yet both call the reader to “take shelter under the shadow of His wings.”  How do you connect those 2 Divine attributes of loftiness and protection?

Reading #3: Psalm 71

Questions:  Psalm 71 continues the theme of God’s heavenly reaching righteousness and sheltering refuge.  What do these Divine attributes motivate the Psalmist to do in verses 14-18 and 22-24.  According to verse 17, how did the Psalmist acquire such a deep knowledge of the Lord?

Reading #4: Psalm 103

Questions: Verse 11 says that God’s steadfast love for those who fear Him is as high as the heavens are above the earth and in the next verse it says that he has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west.  What pivotal event can you point to that most profoundly displays those 2 statements?

Psalms and Hymns

Psalm 36B “Thy mercy Lord, extends to heaven; Thy faithfulness, the sky.  Thy justice is like mounts of God; Thy judgements depths defy.”

Psalm 57B “O be exalted high, O God! Above the heavens stand, and let Your glory be above all earth, both sea and land.

Praying Under the Same Sky

Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore

Devo 22

“Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.”

Psalm 119:89

I grew up on the gloriously scenic central coast of California where I also met and married my husband Tom, who was a youth pastor in the quant little beach town of Cayucos at the time.  For one rather large youth event he had procured a popular Christian band from Detroit who made it enthusiastically known how excited they were to play in such a beautiful setting.  “How can anyone in California not believe in God?  In Detroit, it’s easy not to believe in God, but here, it’s just too obvious!”  

I understood his point. California indeed contains unparalleled scenic wonders, from the highest peak to the lowest desert, the biggest, and the tallest, and the oldest trees in the world, rolling grasslands, fertile valleys and of course, it’s extensive and  diverse stretch of coastline.  Yes, God’s handiwork is on clear and concentrated display in this great state.  Detroit might not have access to all those wonders, but according to Romans 1:19,20, Detroit is still without excuse.  

Even in the most populated, polluted, nature-starved place on earth, or the most barren, windswept landscape you can imagine.  Even in Detroit, there are still at least 2 obvious, clearly perceived witnesses to not only God’s existence but His invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature.  Every person on earth from the beginning of time to its end has seen the faithful rising and setting of the sun, or even without eyes, has felt its warmth.  

We, all of us, from Detroit to Dubai, live under the same glory declaring, righteousness proclaiming, knowledge revealing sky.  And from the poorest shepherd boy to the wealthiest king, we like the Psalmist, have known the Imageo Dei.  Who of us can look up at that sky and not ask the God whose image in which we are made, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3,4 

Easy not to believe in God?  According to Romans 1:18,19, it’s only as easy as suppressing the truth by unrighteousness, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.”  Yes friend, God has made Himself known (Psalm 9:16).  Now, when was the last time you went outside and looked up at His message to you?