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The older I get the less I ‘know’…This is especially true about God. When I was younger, I thought I had it together. God is revealed in creation. God is revealed in His Son. God is revealed in His word and his word describes the many attributes of God. God is love. God is righteous; one could read ‘good’ but unless you mean ultimate good or perfection then that word has insufficient power to describe God. Of course there are the ‘omni-s’-potent, -present and –scient. The latter looking like science and meaning knowledge or knowing. There are many other attributes of God and I won’t try and list them but some are important to identify. God is just, he is merciful and compassionate, he is creative, majestic and he is unchanging. Maybe I should defer to Paul and say he is ‘all in all’.
I was thinking about the unfathomable questions I have. It makes me feel insignificant how little I know, and yet despite the minuteness of my being, God’s word says that I am significant to him…he knows the number of hairs on my head, my every thought and he loves me even though I am like I am.
What bothers me a little is the certainty others express about God. There are those who try and explain the angelic realm, the principalities and powers and the ‘sons of God’ (Job 1:6). There are those who say that because God is sovereign and He is in charge that he causes all things. This, taken a step further, directly places the suffering of innocents, the temptation of good people, the death of children and ‘natural disasters’ all at the foot of God. There is a tension in this that I find difficult to reconcile.
What got me thinking about this was the story of the man born blind. The cause wasn’t his sin, though I’m sure he sinned. Likewise, I’m sure his parents weren’t faultless yet they didn’t cause his blindness. The ‘explanation’ given suggests that his blindness was an opportunity for the works of God to be displayed. This is where I find it difficult. Did the man suffer blindness from birth because Jesus wanted to display his power? Or, was his blindness merely a result of the fallen state of the world and it provided an opportunity for God’s work to be done?
The real difficulty is, do I want to shape God into the god I want him to be or should I accept Him as the God who is and set aside trying to understand things I find unpalatable? You see, if anyone else created a situation of misery for someone for the sole purpose of a demonstration of power or a teaching opportunity we would consider it despotic and self-serving.
I would like to think there are unplumbed depths to this account that elude us. “That this happened…” or “…it is so…” so that the works of God might be displayed in him, may refer to his presence and Jesus’ intervention, with a total disregard for the root cause. That God has allowed the curse of sin to take its natural effect is true for this world and explains, to some degree, the wretched state of man, the suffering of innocents and the groaning of creation. Also, that God directly intervenes in judgement has been recorded in scripture. If the other explanation is true, that the man was blind for that sole purpose, then I would have to defer to the concept of God’s sovereignty. I can’t see the reason for this. But, when it comes to the Light of Life, one thing I know, once I was blind but now I see.
Of course, the former blind man could say ‘one thing I know’. That was before he met Jesus again and was confronted with the ‘Son of Man’; and then he could say ‘I believe in Him’.
Now, I have access to the whole of scriptures and can say that the coherence and consistency of the message, for me, provides a convincing depiction of the ‘good news’—God’s purpose and plan for man. And the Bible, in concert with history, offers evidence that is strong for accepting the veracity of the narrative and the implications for belief in Jesus. Further, belief in Jesus means an eternal perspective to humanity and a moral and fruitful life.
All that being said, this truth has no impact on a life without the intervention of God Himself. His Spirit reveals, informs, empowers and assures. The Spirit instructs us and convicts us. The Spirit is God’s presence in us, the witness to our spirit and the groaning of words we cannot form in our cries to God.
So what do I know? Not much more than the former blind man. Rather, all these things I believe about God and, I think, for good reason. I can say with Paul, “I know in whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep what I have committed to Him, for that day.” (Slightly paraphrased memorised KJV). This is a statement of personal faith. Experiential knowledge is something each of us can relate to but it is very difficult to communicate to others. David would say, “Taste and see that the Lord is good…”
Where does all this leave me with the ‘mystery of godliness’? Well, all that is not spelled out in scripture we can’t help but try and imagine. What is heaven like? What is God like? Apart from the revelation of scripture, the concepts are hazy. I heard a speaker once say that God gave us an imagination. It is a beautiful gift. But…there are some things we shouldn’t imagine (read evil); there are some things we should imagine (read ‘whatever is good, pure, honest…’) and there are some things we can’t imagine—
“…What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”
Yet even these are revealed, in part, by His Spirit. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Cor 13:12