In the course I am taking, the professor uses ‘triads’ to help students remember certain principles and truths about God. For me, acronyms help me remember such things.
The first triad is CAP. It signifies what human beings instinctively know about God. C means God is in control of all things. A is that He has authority above all other things, and P points to His presence in our world. These three things are about His transcendence and His immanence. He is above and beyond our human capacity to know and fully understand, yet He is also with us and involved in every part of our lives. Today at church I noticed how these attributes of God are repeated in worship as we sing. Many hymns talk about the power of God, the wonder of His rule, and the blessing of His presence.
However, as I read the above three passages for my devotions, questions came to mind concerning the CAP of God.
The first passage begins with Lot and his daughters. Their mother had died as they left Sodom and the two girls decided their family line would perish unless they slept with their father. They got him drunk and did it. Then “both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.” (Genesis 19:36–38)
My first reaction was how far reaching their sin became with these two children eventually heads of people groups that opposed and fought the Israelites. Sin is seldom an isolated incident. However, after reading the next part, I wondered why God allowed this to happen . . .
In it, Abraham lied to a foreign king saying Sarah was his sister. He was afraid he would be killed by that king. The lie seemed to work, but Sarah was taken into the king’s household . . .
“But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, ‘Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.’ Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, ‘Lord, will you kill an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, “She is my sister”? And she herself said, “He is my brother.” In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.’ Then God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.’” (Genesis 20:3–7)
So why did the God who could keep a foreign king from sinning against Sarah, not keep Lot from sinning with his daughters? Or keep Abraham from telling a lie? The king also wondered why Abraham did this . . .
“Abimelech said to Abraham, ‘What did you see, that you did this thing?’ Abraham said, ‘I did it because I thought, “There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.”” (Genesis 20:10–11)
It fascinates me that Abraham made this assumption – for it is the same assumption many Christians make about those who are without faith. We think that unbelievers know nothing about CAP, even though the Bible says that they do.
Abimelech proved it by his words and actions. He did not know God as Abraham did, but he understood CAP. He just did not have faith and could not pray in faith like Abraham could . . . “Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. For the Lord had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.” (Genesis 20:17–18)
This brings the puzzle back to Job. If God could close the wombs of Abimelech’s wives, why did He allow the pregnancy and birth of two sons of Job by his daughters? How does CAP work anyway?
Then the Bible tells of God’s CAP again: “The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him.” (Genesis 21:1–2) Through His presence, God controlled and authorized the birth of this child; CAP is again part of the story, but it does not end there, nor does the puzzle of it.
The conspiracy of Sarah and Abraham to produce the promised heir prior to God’s visit produced Ishmael and that was a problem in this family. Finally, “God said to Abraham, ‘Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.’” (Genesis 21:12–13)
Again, CAP is apparent for Ishmael. Because of the power of God, he became the father of all the Arab nations. Again, why did God allow that? It would bring heartache to His people even to this day. Surely CAP means, if nothing else, that the control, authority, and presence of God are a mystery.
The mystery deepens once more in the last reading. Herod was having a party and had his step-daughter entertain his guests. He was pleased with her performance and told her she could ask for whatever she wished. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.”
Herod was sorry. He liked John, “but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.” (Matthew 14:8–11)
God is in control and no one can successfully resist His power and authority. He is actively involved in all the affairs of this world. He could have stopped that action and saved John, but He did not. I cannot even guess why not for God is transcendent; He is above my ability to figure out. This is indeed humbling. If I think I can figure things out, God’s CAP tells me otherwise. Yet, even as I write this, I know that He is here with me. He does not have to tell me everything He is doing or why. All I need to know is God is God and remember His CAP.